The road is dark
And it’s a thin thin line
But I want you to know I’ll walk it for you any time
…I’m tougher than the rest
–From Springsteen and Tougher Than The Rest
Despite numerous experts in various fields of study claiming great affection exists between Baby Boomers and Generation Y I have never once believed it. Moreover, I have never believed the convenient rumor – that Gen Y would leap frog Generation X in the workplace, and I have never once believed that Boomers (by and large) would mentor Gen Y anymore than they mentored Gen X. Call it intuition or 20 years in the workforce or classic Gen X cynicsm. Either way, I’m pretty sure I’m right about this one.
Diego’s comment (see yesterday’s post) illustrates this perfectly, along with a column in Fortune by Patricia Sellers, Who Cares About a Career? Not Gen Y. Sellers writes:
“While we Baby Boomers typically place high value on pay, benefits, stability and prestige, Gen Y cares most about fun, innovation, social responsibility, and time off…Wow. What’s a manager to do to keep a Millenial on board? I — one of those classic Baby Boomers who has been at one company, Time Inc. (TWX), for 26 years — can’t stop thinking that not only corporate loyalty but commitment to building a career may be a thing of the past.”
Wasn’t it people like Sellers who first called Generation X a bunch slackers? Much later, Jeff Gordinier, author of X Saves the World, would distinguish Xers as the unrecognized workhorse of America – doing most of the work and getting very little of the credit.
I do not believe for one second that Millennials (Gen Y) don’t care about their careers. Honestly, what careers? Most of them are still hoping to find a decent paying J-O-B despite expensive college educations. A career is a much loftier pursuit.
Earlier this week The New York Times published an editorial calling the American Dream elusive for this generation. If that doesn’t snap every Gen Xer to attention I don’t know what will. Why? Because if the American dream eludes Gen Y, what does this mean for the children belonging to Generation X otherwise known as Generation Z?
I don’t know about you, but I’m hanging on to the American dream by my little bitty pinky. My husband’s holding up the other end with his. In 10,000 ways we are blessed. For starters, I don’t wear a burka. The government doesn’t tell my husband how to cut his hair. We live in the most amazing nation in the world and in a state where the cost of living is so awesome if you’re educated and have a good job you are considered super rich and super elite by the majority of people in the world.
Still, we’ve created a standard of living that seems harder and harder to maintain. I’m not talking ski vacations or charming road trips to Yellowstone. We feel the strain of rising utility bills; new tires for the car; school clothes for three kids, and good lord, the roof is leaking and when did 10 rolls or toilet paper go up to $8? I remember when I never paid attention to prices and clipping coupons was something bored and obsessive people did. Has anyone seen the Sunday paper?
The Sweet Whey of Capitalism
As Robert and I run this race, we glance back at the six little feet following us. Our little Gen Zs full of hope and promise. So far we’re keeping a decent pace ahead of the monsters hungry for our dreams. But sometimes, it seems like it would be easier to just redefine the dream. Some of the monsters would go away and then there’d be less to elude us. Besides, our consumption borders on obscene. Don’t you think? Our consumption is obscene.
I have lived on the sweet whey of capitalism for 40 years, choosing the best for myself, straining away the suitable liquid for everyone else. I called this benevolence, but have I ever really done anything more than a grand gesture for anyone?
Where was I going with all this? Oh, yes, Gen Y. I don’t think Millennials are disinterested in their careers. I think anybody who tries to extinguish the light of optimism that still burns bright in most of them ought to be moved to a herculon cubicle on the graveyard shift and forced to use WordPerfect.
Duties, Admonitions, Prayers
On a positive note, I think Gen Xers have a real opportunity to mentor Gen Y. In fact, I think it’s our patriotic duty (don’t laugh) if not a godly admonition (don’t judge). We want this country to keep on being great don’t we? If so, then Xers should tell Gen Y all their hard-earned secrets about life and career and family and God. This is my conviction: give as much as you can away. I won’t dismiss their zeal or beat ambition out of them. If I do, then one day, they might be inclined to beat it out of my little Gen Zs.
And that would make me cry harder than any dream I failed to achieve as an Xer. So, I pray to pray the more difficult prayer (swallow hard): Are you there God? It’s me, Generation X petitioning on behalf of Generation Y.