we know how people have changed largely through
Tavistock-kind of manipulations, from changes in basic value to intentional "culture creation"
We know that modern children are totally different than their parents were, and their parents' parents are different than their parents were.
but, why is that, what is different between generations and where is this leading to.
here is some food for the thought:
Generation X is a term used to describe generations in many countries around the world. The exact demographic boundaries of Generation X are not well defined, depending on who is using the term, where and when. According to generation researchers Neil Howe and William Strauss, Generation X includes anyone born from 1960 to 1985 in North America. The term is used in demography, the social sciences, and marketing, though it is most often used in popular culture. The generation's influence over pop culture began in the 1980s and may have peaked in the 1990s.
One of the defining factors of Generation X is the transitions resulting from the decline of colonial imperialism to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War.
The term was first used in a 1964 study of British youth by Jane Deverson. Deverson was asked by the editor of the magazine Woman's Own to conduct a series of interviews with teenagers of the time. The study revealed a generation of teenagers who "sleep together before they are married, don't believe in God, dislike the Queen, and don't respect parents," which was deemed unsuitable for the magazine because it was a new phenomenon. Deverson, in an attempt to save her research, worked with Hollywood correspondent Charles Hamblett to create a book about the study. Hamblett decided to name it Generation X.
In 1976, the phrase was picked up as the name of a punk rock band featuring Billy Idol, which released three albums before disbanding in 1981. However, the term Generation X was used to describe the early British punks more generally with their nihilism, rejection of earlier generation's values, and the feeling that they were a lost generation that meant nothing to society, and vice versa.
The term, Generation X, was later popularized by Canadian novelist Douglas Coupland in Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, which describes the angst of those born between roughly 1960 and 1965, who felt no connection to the cultural icons of the baby boom generation. In Coupland's usage, the X referred to the namelessness of a generation that was coming into an awareness of its existence as a separate group but feeling overshadowed by the Boomer generation of which it was ostensibly a part.
In the US, at times the term "baby busters" is used interchangeably with "Generation X," typically to denote those born starting in 1965, with various dates offered for its ending year. In this sense, 1976 is the appropriate cut-off year as the "echo boomer" cohort (recognized by the Census Bureau and other demographers) started in 1977 as birth rates began to rise. However, the term has not become as popular or frequently used as "Generation X," which is regarded by some as pejorative.
In the book Generations, William Strauss and Neil Howe called this generation the "13th Generation" because it's the 13th to know the flag of the United States (counting back to the peers of Benjamin Franklin). Strauss and Howe defined the birth years of the 13th Generation as 1961 to 1981 based on examining peaks and troughs in cultural trends rather than simply looking at birth rates. Howe and Strauss speak of six influences that they believe have shaped Generation 13. These influences are as follows:
* Increase in divorce
* Increase in mothers in the work place
* The Zero population movement
* "Devil-child films"
Generation X in the United States
Generation X is generally marked by its lack of optimism for the future, nihilism, cynicism, skepticism, alienation and mistrust in traditional values. Following the publication of Coupland's book (and the subsequent popularity of grunge music) the term stretched to include more people, being appropriated as the generation that succeeded the Baby Boomers, and used by the media and the general public to denote people who were in their twenties. During the early 1990s, the media portrayed Generation X as a group of flannel-wearing, alienated, overeducated, underachieving slackers with body piercings, who drank franchise-store coffee and had to work at McJobs, concepts that had some truth to them but were in many cases stereotypes.
Gen-X thinking has significant overtones of cynicism against things held dear to the previous generation, mainly the Baby Boomers. Another cultural hallmark of Generation X was grunge music, which grew out of the frustrations and disenchantment of X teenagers and young adults. The fashion of grunge music that was exemplified by the band Nirvana. The grunge of the 1990s was influenced by 1970s punk and heavy metal of the 1970s and 1980s.
Cover of the July 16, 1990 issue of Time magazine, as part of the feature article discussing the twentysomething generation of the 1990s
Cover of the July 16, 1990 issue of Time magazine, as part of the feature article discussing the twentysomething generation of the 1990s
The attitudes of Gen X towards religion is complex. Many Gen Xers are indifferent toward religion. Some may take a hostile stance toward the religion of their parents. Many Xers do in fact believe in God or at least "a higher power" and are accepting the plurality of world religions.
Generation X grew up during the end of the Cold War and the Ronald Reagan eras but as they transitioned into adulthood watched the Soviet Union collapse and the United States of America become the only superpower.
The employment of Gen X is volatile. The Gen Xers grew up in a rapidly deindustrializing Western World, experienced the economic recession of the early 1990s and 2000s, saw the traditional permanent job contracts disappearing and becoming unsecure short-term contracts, experienced offshoring and outsourcing and often experienced years of unemployment or at typical jobs, such as McJobs in their youth. It left many of them overeducated and underemployed. This has left a deep sense of insecurity in Gen Xers, whose usual attitude to work is Take the money and run. They no longer take any employment for granted, as their Baby Boomer parents did, nor do they consider unemployment a stigmatizing catastrophe.
The perception of Generation X during the early 1990s was summarized in a featured article in Time Magazine:
“ . . .They possess only a hazy sense of their own identity but a monumental preoccupation with all the problems the preceding generation will leave for them to fix . . .This is the twentysomething generation, those 48 million young Americans ages 18 through 29 who fall between the famous baby boomers and the boomlet of children the baby boomers are producing. Since today's young adults were born during a period when the U.S. birthrate decreased to half the level of its postwar peak, in the wake of the great baby boom, they are sometimes called the baby busters. By whatever name, so far they are an unsung generation, hardly recognized as a social force or even noticed much at all...By and large, the 18-to-29 group scornfully rejects the habits and values of the baby boomers, viewing that group as self-centered, fickle and impractical.While the baby boomers had a placid childhood in the 1950s, which helped inspire them to start their revolution, today's twentysomething generation grew up in a time of drugs, divorce and economic strain. . .They feel paralyzed by the social problems they see as their inheritance: racial strife, homelessness, AIDS, fractured families and federal deficits. ”
In economics, a study was recently produced (by Pew Charitable Trusts, the American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institute, the Heritage Foundation and the Urban Institute) that challenges the notion that each generation will be better off than the one that preceded it. The study, “Economic Mobility: Is the American Dream Alive and Well?” focuses on the income of males 30-39 in 2004 (those born April, 1964 – March, 1974) and is based on Census/BLS CPS March supplement data.
The study, which made national headline news on May 25, 2007, emphasizes that in real dollars, that cohort made less (by 12%) than their fathers at the same age in 1974, thus reversing a historic trend. The study also suggests that father/son family household income has slowed (and not keeping pace with inflation) since 1974, though progressively higher each year due to more women entering the workplace.
In the USA, this generation's parents are comprised of the Silent Generation (born 1925-1942) and, to a lesser extent, the Baby Boomers. The subsequent generation, Generation Y, have been born of not only older Generation X parents, Generation Jones members, or Generation X parents having children at a young age, but strikingly also by younger Baby Boomers having children in second and third marriages (resulting in 10-18+ year gaps between the children). Generation Y was born between the early 1980s and the late 1990s.
In Western countries, Generation X consists of far fewer people than the baby boom generation and has had correspondingly less impact on popular culture, but it came into its own during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Hostility between Baby Boomers and Generation X increased in the 1980s and 1990s as Gen Xers accused Baby Boomers of hypocrisy and a "greed is good" mentality and Baby Boomers accused Gen Xers of being slackers.
In continental Europe, the generation is often known as Generation E, or simply known as the Nineties Generation, along the lines of such other European generation names as "Generation of 1968" and "Generation of 1914." In France, the term Génération Bof is in use, with "bof" being a French word for "whatever," considered by some French people to be the defining Gen-X saying. In Iran, they are called the Burnt Generation. In some Latin American countries the name "Crisis Generation" is sometimes used due to the recurring financial crisis in the region during those years. In the Communist bloc, these Gen-Xers are often known to show a deeper dislike of the Communist system than their parents because they grew up in an era of political and economic stagnation, and were among the first to embrace the ideals of Glasnost and Perestroika, which is why they tend to be called the Glasnost-Perestroika Generation. In Finland, the X-sukupolvi is sometimes derogatorily called pullamössösukupolvi (bun mash generation) by the Baby Boomers, saying "those whiners have never experienced any difficulties in their lives" (the depression of the early 1990s hit the Xers hardest--it hit just when they were about to join the work force), while the Xers call the Boomers kolesterolisukupolvi (cholesterol generation) due to their often unhealthy dietary habits. Japan has a generation with characteristics similar to those of Generation X, shin jin rui.
Developing countries, too, have a Generation X, but it differs from that in the West, due to poor education and little disposable income. The version of Generation X that the developing nations experience essentially came out of the end of World War II and the subsequent decline of colonial occupation, the changes demanded on social hierarchy that it accompanied among the second generation born since the Second World War, and the duality of democratic transition amid increasing information blockade and ever-increasing numbers of people seeking urban life over an agrarian economy.
The alleged version of Generation X in the developing world is the following:
* its need to redefine social norms to newer socio-economic systems
* the sheer pace at which they need to adapt to new social influences along with the need to integrate them into their native, cultural context
* the constant aspiration for a more egalitarian society in cultures that were long colonized and have an even longer history of hierarchical social structure.
The aspects that bind Generation X across economic levels and cultures are the defining points of the 1970s: the Bretton Woods system and its subsequent failure, the impact of the first oral contraceptive pills on social-interactional dynamics, and the oil shock of 1973.
Other common international influences defining Generation X across the world include: increasingly flexible and varied gender roles for women contrasted with even more rigid gender roles for men, the unprecedented socio-economic impact of an ever increasing number of women entering the non-agrarian economic workforce, and the sweeping cultural-religious impact of the Iranian revolution towards the end of the 1970s in 1979.
Using socio-utility and economic compassion, so-called gen-xers world wide will bring a new understanding to formal neo-feudalist tactics to control geo-economy. Of any generation since, this example population trusts only themselves, and as such, will rein in their effort to rid the world of those who whould rather swindle than compromise a traditionally and delicately debilitating American anti-progressive ethos worldwide.
The international experience of a cultural transition like Generation X, although in various forms, revealed the inter-dependence of economies since World War II in 1945, and showed the huge impact of American economic policies on the world.
Generation X - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
International factors defining Generation X
is a term that designates a cohort of people born immediately after "Generation X." It is one of several terms (including The Millennials and The Internet Generation) used to describe the same group. There is much dispute as to the exact range of birth years that constitutes "Generation Y" and whether this term is specific to North America, the Anglophone world, or people worldwide. The only consensus, by way of its relation to the term "Generation X," is that those born in Generation Y must follow Generation X. Many publications in academic, demographic, business, and governmental sources have used their own specific parameters for whom constitute Generation Y. There is no specific accepted definition thus far. The use of the term "Generation Y" is also controversial and synonyms are often used in discourse or in published works that refer to this group.
As the term "Generation X" was coined primarily to describe the post Baby Boomer generation in the United States and Canada, some people use "Generation Y" only to refer to Americans, Canadians, and other Anglophone people who were born after Generation X. Dates that define a person belonging to Generation X have also been disputed. Others have suggested that such regional restrictions of use are unnecessary in the ever globalizing world.
Generations are not defined by formal process, but rather by demographers, the media, popular culture, market researchers, and by members of the generation themselves. For instance, while the periodical American Demographics typically uses 1976 to demarcate the start of Generation Y, the demographers Howe and Strauss have consistently used "the High School class of 2000", or those born in 1982 as their demarcation. While many possible years are used as the endpoint of Generation Y, the term is almost never applied to current infants, who are part of a possibly as yet unnamed generation. Due to the flexible nature of such demographic terms, two people of the same birth year can identify as either Generation X, Y, or something that follows Y, such as the New Silent Generation and neither is wrong.
Because the term Generation Y suggests "following Generation X", and because the term Generation X was originally coined as a pejorative term, use of the term Generation Y is controversial. Numerous terms (see below) have been coined as alternatives to Generation Y, or to describe subjects of the cohort. "Millennials" is a very commonly used alternative by the popular press in the United States.
If the years 1978-2000 are used, as is common in market research, then the size of Generation Y in the United States is approximately 76 million.
Controversy: attempts to name and demarcate
The term Generation Y first appeared in an August 1993 AD Age editorial to describe those children born between 1984 -1994. The scope of the term has changed greatly since then, to include, in many cases, anyone born as early as 1976 and late as 2001. There is still no precise definition of years.
Use of the term Generation Y (often shortened to Gen Y or Ygen) to describe any cohort of individuals is controversial for a variety of reasons. "Generation Y" alludes to a succession from "Generation X", a term which was originally coined as a pejorative label. The use of Gen Y as a term not only implies that the generation is merely an extension or continuation of Generation X, and not a distinct generation in its own right, but also makes a comment on the character of that generation, as in "Generation Why?" which is pejorative in its own way. (However, some members of Gen Y find the "Y"/"Why" connection appealing and wear the label proudly. Most of them are not aware of the pejorative origins of the term "Generation X"). Generation Y has also been thought to be the "spark" of the future to come or maybe just the tail end of the baby boomers time frame.
Numerous alternative terms have arisen that may sometimes be regarded as sub-groups of Generation Y. These include The Net Generation, Reagan Babies, Millennials, Hip Hop Generation, Echo Boomers, iGeneration, Second Baby Boom, the D.A.R.E. Generation, Google Generation, MySpace Generation, MyPod Generation (from the fusion of "MySpace" and "iPod"), Generation Next, Grand Theft Auto Generation, Nintendo Generation, the Halo Generation, Me Generation and the Cynical Generation. Because they are the youngest generation bearing witness to the September 11 attacks, other synonymous, American-specific labels that can be heard include Generation 9/11, and The Next (or Second) Greatest Generation. A Dutch newspaper also referred to this generation as the Einstein Generation, referring to the ability of the general member of this generation to perform many activities at the same time. Examples of this are chatting with friends via internet, while also doing their homework and watching TV at the same time.
While Generation Y alludes to that cohort's successional relationship to Generation X, the term Echo Boomers is used to allude to the generation's close tie to the primary childbearing years of Baby Boomers; the term Second Baby Boom is also used in this way and to denote the population expansion that Generation Y represents. The terms Millennials and Internet generation are attempts to give the Gen Y cohort more independent names that are tied with key events and cultural trends that are strongly associated with the generation. No single term is the "correct" term to describe members of this generation.
Howe and Strauss: "The Millennials"
Following the publication of their book, Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069, much credit has been given to the names used for various American cohorts by authors William Strauss and Neil Howe. Howe and Strauss use the term "Millennials" as opposed to "Generation Y," arguing that members of Gen Y actually coined the term Millennials themselves and have statistically expressed a wish not to be associated closely with Gen X. They followed up their large study of the history of American demographics with a new book specifically on Gen Y, titled Millennials Rising (2000) ISBN 0-375-70719-0.
In Generations, Howe and Strauss use the years 1982-2000 as the birth years of Generation Y, using the 18 childhood years of the high school graduating class of 2000 as their marking points. They reasoned that the high school class of 2000 received notable public attention and political initiatives during their youth that provided a contrast between Americans born before this class and those born after.
It is also reasoned that the 1977 date used for GenY is because US births began to rise again, after falling all through the 1960s and 1970s. But the average fertility per woman remained low. The rise was just due to the first wave of Boomers having kids. The increase in desire to have kids does not appear until the mid 1980s when Boomers began to control the child's world to shape Millennials. (Strauss and Howe Lifecourse Associates 2003) This increasing desire for kids in the 1980s is the real reason how Millennials began in the 1980s rather than the late 1970s.
Another interesting factor supporting the term GenY would be when late wave Xers (born1977-1982), were just entering school, adults were beginning to reinvent societal shields that once protected children and this late wave serve as precursors of the wanted-baby Millennials. (Strauss and Howe 13th Gen Abort Retry Ignore Fail 1993). These last wave Xers have contributed to the recent fall in youth crime and risk and pioneered trends of greater economic optimism, higher educational ambitions. (Strauss and Howe Millennials Rising 2000). Also important in differing these last-wave kids from the X is their dislike of GenX angst and the stereotypes associated with being X. This points support for the GenY term and how they identify more with Millennials.
In attempting to define and characterize generations, demographers often rely on the experience of formative national events as one tool to demarcate various generations. Generations are shaped by their childhood experiences, and then defined by their early-adulthood actions, when each generation can consciously adopt or reject the attitudes or actions of prior generations. Notably, the experience of the Great Depression and World War II are a major way of defining the formative years of the so-called "G.I. Generation," also known at times as the "Greatest Generation." In turn, the experiences of the Moon Landing, assassination of JFK, and the 1960s social revolution are key events that demarcate the formative years of the "Baby Boomer" generation.
Several such events have been used as ways of defining Generation Y.
* The Challenger explosion on January 28, 1986 is one major event that separates Generation X and Generation Y, as most members of Generation Y were either not yet born or too young to remember this major national event.
* The fall of the Soviet Union and the First Gulf War are both midway events for members of Generation Y, occurring in 1991, as many members were old enough to remember these events as children, but many had not yet been born.
* The widespread use of personal computers and the Internet is an event shared by the majority of Gen Y. Taking off during the period 1995-2001, most members of this generation spent at least part of their youth with a home computer and internet access, and members of this Generation use the Internet as a tool for socialization more so than previous generations.
* The Columbine High School Massacre
* The date of the September 11 attacks is an often proposed end-point for the generation. Those that were not yet born in 2001 and those that were otherwise too young to remember and/or understand the events of that day (about 1997 up) would thus be grouped into Generation Z or what Cryderman defines as the iGeneration as they would have no memory whatsoever of the 20th Century and any predigital technologies still around in the Nineties. Meanwhile, people who were still in school (or had recently graduated) would be called Generation Y. Such propositions, of course, remain disputed.
* Afghanistan and the Iraq War, as well as the "War on Terror" may become the conflicts that define Gen Y, akin to World War II for the GI Generation and the Vietnam War for the Baby Boomers.
* Hurricane Katrina, Indian Ocean Tsunami, and other disasters that occurred in a very close span of each other.
* The Virginia Tech Massacre
Relationship with other living generations
Generation Y are primarily children of the Baby boomers and Generation Jones, though some are children of what Howe and Strauss refer to as the Silent Generation or are children of older Gen X adults. Because of this, there is a perceived tendency to share social views with the Boomers and culture with Gen X, who serve chiefly as their 'older cousins' or even older siblings. New market research, however, contradicts this. Commenting on the Nightly Business Report in February 2007, William Strauss, co-founder of Life Course Associates, made the following assessment: "The generation of today's young adults under 25 and teenagers most resemble are the dying GI generation, the people who are the foot soldiers in World War II and the Rosie the Riveters. That was the generation that was known for its civic purpose and teamwork and upbeat attitudes and institutional trust. The fact that they are dying means that we have this perceived need in our society for something to replace that. And what is interesting...is that this is how today's young millennials can rebel, like being like that generation and stepping into that void. And so rather than being echo boomers, they're anti-boomers. They see the problems of the world as being associated with the downside that they perceive in their own older parents, and so they want to fix that. And the things that the boomers have been associated with, like individualism, things that Xers have been associated with, like taking things to the edge, these young kids are pushing back from."
A notable demographic shift should begin to occur in 2011 when the oldest Baby Boomers (b. 1946) hit the United States' legal retirement age of 65. As Boomers retire, more members of Generation X will be expected to take roles in middle and upper management and the large membership of Generation Y should take up positions in the lower half of the workforce, a process which could have possibly begun since some definitions have members of Gen Y in their late 20s.
Many Millennial members are labeled as being "rebellious" or "rude," but this is often an incorrect label on a generation-unique trait. Millenials often do not recognize authority in the same way as Boomers or Xers do. Instead of "rebelling," they react based on what or how they feel when they are approached or spoken to by authoritative figures. Members of the Millennial generation are additionally more inclined to firmly believe in the "an eye for an eye" principle. Generations preceding the Millenials are more subservient to authority.
Opinions on Gay rights and gender roles are also being adjusted and redefined as each generation emerges into adulthood. Generation Y is known for having among the most wide-ranging opinions on such issues, possibly because they haven't yet encountered a personal situation where their actions/reactions cause them to consciously choose sides. Most American youth are largely tolerant of sexual minorities; the frequent depiction of sexual minorities in pop culture may have largely desensitized them to a previously taboo topic. However, Generation Y tends to be more spiritual and religious than their parents, and discourse on social issues exists between the more liberal and more conservative members of Generation Y. With Generations X and Y in their child-bearing years, situations related to these topics will become more observable, hence generationally coherent opinions may become more clear: to adopt or attempt to change then the policies of their Silent and Boomer parents.
Europe and Asia
In many rich countries, the 1980s and 1990s were a period of rapidly falling birthrates. In Southern Europe and Japan, and less markedly in Northern and Eastern Europe, Generation Y is dramatically smaller than any of its predecessors
The 2004 Presidential election was the first election in which Generation Y was able to vote in significant numbers. Of the votes cast by those aged 18-29, John Kerry got 54%, George W. Bush got 46%.
Trends/problems among members
As with previous generations, many problems began to surface as Millennials come of age.
* Underage drinking and illicit drug use is prevalent among high school and college age members of Millennials. In urban areas, rave culture was known for its influence on Ecstasy usage. Marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, and inhalants seem to be most favored. Drug usage prevails even in spite of (and, in some cases, because of) most Gen Y members undergoing programs such as D.A.R.E. during childhood. However, statistically, today's teens are less likely to smoke, drink, do illegal drugs, get pregnant, commit a crime, or drop out of school than their parents in the 1970s.
* The illegal use of legal prescription medications is an emerging trend of Millennials, including the appearance of "Pharming parties" where youths trade, share, and try each other's prescription medications.
* Millennials are also commonly referred to by their own peers as the Apathetic Generation. This term is used by both peers who are activists against such apathy & the apathetic nonactivists themselves. Adding to their sphere of awareness, there is an Americanized notion wherein daily television and internet news reports seem to make it clear that the world has so much wrong with it that each individual couldn't possibly take on every problem; while at the same time being aware that if they neglect the presence of world injustice, it will actually have no direct effect on them. Leading sometimes to either an observed melancholia or the tragically myopic standpoint that one does not have to care about the injustices we are not directly effect by. This standpoint is a general and consistent criticism of Generation Y, often describing them as "inconsiderate" or "unaffected". See Generation C for opposing viewpoints.
* Childhood obesity is another health problem that has plagued Millennials, and X to a lesser extent before them. In response, many local school boards have started to remove junk food from school cafeterias in an effort to reverse this trend. Notably, Generation X is the first generation to have junk food readily available in schools, with junk or overly processed foods being commonplace for Generation Y. In Victoria, Australia, there are laws that restrict the purchase of junk food at canteens in government schools to eight times a year. Planning of communities has added to this problem, as many of Millennials' parents have a commonality of moving to sprawling suburban areas with poor mass transportation and few places to walk. 
* Members of this generation are facing higher costs for higher education than previous generations.
* As members of the Millennials in the United States begin to enter colleges and universities in large numbers, some of their Baby Boomer parents are becoming helicopter parents. Many college advisors and administrators worry that this could have a negative effect on the Millennials' social progress, ego, and developing maturity.
* Many Millennials show a trend of interest in retro-oriented culture and the potential to revive it. Most commonly is that of music trends, which show a rise in popularity of classic rock-styled bands such as Wolfmother and Buckcherry in urban cultures. Much of the rise in popularity is thought to be of Generation X's influence; i.e. youth being exposed as children to bands of the past generations such as The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Pink Floyd and Van Halen.
This generation was the first generation to use or witness the following technology from an early age
Generation Y - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
when I recently tried to hire some of people who belong to generation Y -- got a bit of suprise.
this generation expects the corporation to cater to their needs.
here is a great article describing who those new generation "why" people are, what they are like, what they expect and what they can do:
Attracting the twentysomething worker
The baby-boomers' kids are marching into the workplace, and look out: This crop of twentysomethings really is different. Fortune's Nadira Hira presents a field guide to Generation Y.
By Nadira A. Hira, Fortune writer-reporter
May 15 2007: 3:10 PM EDT
(Fortune Magazine) -- Nearly every businessperson over 30 has done it: sat in his office after a staff meeting and - reflecting upon the 25-year-old colleague with two tattoos, a piercing, no watch and a shameless propensity for chatting up the boss - wondered, What is with that guy?!
We all know the type: He's a sartorial Ryan Seacrest, a developmental Ferris Bueller, a professional Carlton Banks. (Not up on twentysomethings' media icons? That's the "American Idol" host, the truant Matthew Broderick movie hero, and the overeager Will Smith sidekick in "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.")
At once a hipster and a climber, he is all nonchalance and expectation. He is new, he is annoying, and he and his female counterparts are invading corporate offices across America.
Generation Y: Its members are different in many respects, from their upbringing to their politics. But it might be their effect on the workplace that makes them truly noteworthy - more so than other generations of twentysomethings that writers have been collectively profiling since time immemorial.
They're ambitious, they're demanding and they question everything, so if there isn't a good reason for that long commute or late night, don't expect them to do it. When it comes to loyalty, the companies they work for are last on their list - behind their families, their friends, their communities, their co-workers and, of course, themselves.
But there are a whole lot of them. And as the baby-boomers begin to retire, triggering a ballyhooed worker shortage, businesses are realizing that they may have no choice but to accommodate these curious Gen Y creatures. Especially because if they don't, the creatures will simply go home to their parents, who in all likelihood will welcome them back.
Some 64 million skilled workers will be able to retire by the end of this decade, according to the Conference Board, and companies will need to go the extra mile to replace them, even if it means putting up with some outsized expectations. There is a precedent for this: In April 1969, Fortune wrote, "Because the demand for their services so greatly exceeds the supply, young graduates are in a strong position to dictate terms to their prospective employers. Young employees are demanding that they be given productive tasks to do from the first day of work, and that the people they work for notice and react to their performance."
Those were the early baby-boomers, and - with their '60s sensibility and navel-gazing - they left their mark on just about every institution they passed through. Now come their children, to confound them. The kids - self-absorbed, gregarious, multitasking, loud, optimistic, pierced - are exactly what the boomers raised them to be, and now they're being themselves all over the business world.
It's going to be great.
"This is the most high-maintenance workforce in the history of the world," says Bruce Tulgan, the founder of leading generational-research firm RainmakerThinking. "The good news is they're also going to be the most high-performing workforce in the history of the world. They walk in with more information in their heads, more information at their fingertips - and, sure, they have high expectations, but they have the highest expectations first and foremost for themselves."
So just who is this fair bird?
The creature in the wild: Joshua Butler, audit associate, KPMG
With his broad networker's smile, stiff white collar, and polished onyx cuff links, Joshua Butler has the accouterments of an accountant. Even so, he looks a little out of place in a KPMG conference room. At 22, he's 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, with a body made for gladiator movies. A native of suburban Washington, D.C., Butler chose accounting after graduating from Howard University because he wanted "transferable skills."
At KPMG he's getting them - and more: The firm has let him arrange his schedule to train for a bodybuilding competition, and he's on its tennis team. Even before that, KPMG got his attention when it agreed to move him to New York, his chosen city. "It made me say, 'You know what? This firm has shown a commitment to me. Let me in turn show some commitment to the firm.'" He pauses, a twinkle in his eye. "So this is a merger, if you will - Josh and KPMG."
Boomers, know this: You are outnumbered. There are 78.5 million of you, according to Census Bureau figures, and 79.8 million members of Gen Y (for our purposes, those born between 1977 and 1995). And the new generation shares more than just an age bracket.
While it may be crass to "define" such a group, any Times Square tourist could probably do so with one finger - pointed at the MTV Networks building. Gen Y sometimes seems to share one overstimulated brain, and it's often tuned to something featuring Lindsay Lohan. Add to that the speed with which Yers can find Lindsay Lohan - day or night, video or audio - in these technology-rich times, and it's suddenly not so strange that Gen Y has developed such a distinct profile.
And what a profile it is. As the rest of the nation agonizes over obesity, Gen Yers always seem to be at the gym. More than a third of 18- to 25-year-olds surveyed by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press have a tattoo, and 30 percent have a piercing somewhere besides their earlobe. But those are considered stylish, not rebellious.
And speaking of fashion, this isn't a group you'll catch in flannel. They're all about quiet kitsch - a funky T-shirt under a blazer, artsy jewelry, silly socks - small statements that won't cause trouble. The most important decorations, though, are electronic - iPods, BlackBerrys, laptops - and they're like extra limbs. Nothing is more hilarious than catching a Gen Yer in public without one of those essentials. Let's just say most wouldn't have lasted long on Walden Pond.
When it comes to Gen Y's intangible characteristics, the lexicon is less than flattering. Try "needy," "entitled." Despite a consensus that they're not slackers, there is a suspicion that they've avoided that moniker only by creating enough commotion to distract from the fact that they're really not that into "work."
Never mind that they often need an entire team - and a couple of cheerleaders - to do anything. For some of them the concept "work ethic" needs rethinking. "I had a conversation with the CFO of a big company in New York," says Tamara Erickson, co-author of the 2006 book "Workforce Crisis," "and he said, 'I can't find anyone to hire who's willing to work 60 hours a week. Can you talk to them?' And I said, 'Why don't I start by talking to you? What they're really telling you is that they're sorry it takes you so long to get your work done.'"
That isn't the only rethinking Gen Yers have done. Their widespread consumption of uniform media has had some positive effects. Girls watch sports and play videogames, and no one thinks twice about it. And boys can admit to loving "The Real World" with impunity.
Race is even less of an issue for Gen Yers, not just because they're generally accustomed to diversity, but because on any given night they can watch successful mainstream shows featuring everyone from the Oscar-winning rap group Three 6 Mafia to wrestler Hulk Hogan. It all makes for a universe where anything - such as, say, being a bodybuilding accountant - seems possible.
Of course, Gen Yers have been told since they were toddlers that they can be anything they can imagine. It's an idea they clung to as they grew up and as their outlook was shaken by the Columbine shootings and 9/11. More than the nuclear threat of their parents' day, those attacks were immediate, potentially personal, and completely unpredictable. And each new clip of Al Gore spreading inconvenient truths or of polar bears drowning from lack of ice told Gen Yers they were not promised a healthy, happy tomorrow. So they're determined to live their best lives now.
The creature in the wild: Sheryl Walker, assurance associate, PricewaterhouseCoopers
Growing up, Sheryl Walker says, she could do no wrong. The youngest child of Jamaican immigrants in New Jersey, she majored in accounting because she knew it would make her parents happy: "They're big on saying their children are 'a doctor,' 'a lawyer' -'a something.'"
And now that the 24-year-old is "a something," she continues to make them happy. By living at home. "I don't have any plans to leave," she says, laughing. "My father told me if I did, he would be very upset. And I at least pay a bill, out of courtesy." The electric bill, that is. Considering the cost of living in the New York area, that's quite a bargain. "I think parents want to feel needed," she says, "and it's like, because I'm so independent, they get excited when I ask for a favor."
From the moment Gen Yers were born, long before technology or world events affected their lives, they were dealing with a phenomenon previously unknown to man: the baby-boomer parent. Raised by "traditionalists" after World War II, the boomers, once they had children of their own, did exactly the opposite of what their parents had done, cooing and coddling like crazy.
Couple all that affection with the affluence of the '80s and '90s, throw in working parents' guilt, and boomers' children not only got what they wanted but also became the center of their parents' lives. Self-esteem was in, spanking was out, and coaching - be it for a soccer team or a kindergarten interview - was everywhere.
Affirmation continued as they grew, and when they spoke up, their opinions were not only entertained but celebrated. Overscheduled grade-schoolers became overcommitted teens, with the emphasis on achieving. The goal was to get into a great college, which would lead to a great career and a great life.
But there was a hitch. Upon graduation, it turned out that a lot of Gen Yers hadn't learned much about struggle or sacrifice. As the first of them began to graduate from college in the late 1990s, the average educational debt soared to over $19,000 for new grads, and many Yers went to the only place they knew they'd be safe: home.
Lots haven't left. A survey of college graduates from 2000 to 2006 by Experience Inc. found that 58 percent of those polled had moved home after school and that 32 percent stayed more than a year. Even among those who've managed to stay away, Pew found that 73 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds have received financial assistance from their parents in the past year, and 64 percent have even gotten help with errands.
It's what Jeffrey Jensen Arnett calls "emerging adulthood" in his 2004 book of the same name. "People think very differently about their 20s now," the Clark University research professor says. "It's so volatile and so unfettered and so very unstructured. Nothing has ever existed like it before." For example, in 1960 the median age at marriage was 20 for women and 23 for men. Today it's 26 for women and 28 for men. In sociological terms that's a revolution.
And though Gen Yers will eventually have to grow up - like all of us, they'll lose their parents, face layoffs and suffer insane bosses - they are stretching the transition to adulthood well into their 20s. "If we don't like a job, we quit," says Jason Ryan Dorsey, the 28-year-old author of 2007's "My Reality Check Bounced!," "because the worst thing that can happen is that we move back home. There's no stigma, and many of us grew up with both parents working, so our moms would love nothing more than to cook our favorite meatloaf." It's a position borne out by the numbers; 73 percent of Pew's respondents said they see their parents at least once a week, and half do so daily, a fact that, however sweet, sort of makes you want to download "Rebel Without a Cause."
With this level of parental involvement, it's a miracle that Gen Yers can do anything on their own. "It's difficult to start making decisions when you haven't been making decisions your whole life," says Mitchell Marks, an organizational psychologist and president of consulting firm Joining Forces. He points to one of his recent projects at a software development company. His client, which had one health-care plan, was acquired by a bigger firm that offered five more.
"The twentysomething software developers were up in arms about having to choose," Marks says. "That was their No. 1 issue - not 'Will I lose my job?' or 'Will there be a culture clash?' but this -because they were just so put off that they were put in what they viewed as a very stressful situation." One can't help but wonder how stressed they'd be with no health insurance at all.
But even for the Gen Yers who try in earnest to succeed, Marks says, the way they've been raised can still be detrimental: "They've been made to feel so special, and that is totally counter to the whole concept of corporations."
The creature in the wild: Katie Connolly, associate attorney, Halleland Lewis Nilan & Johnson
Unlike most new attorneys, Katie Connolly took a pay cut for her second job. Why? The 28-year-old graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School liked that it wasn't the attorneys but the staff at Halleland, a 53-attorney firm in Minneapolis, who had windows (since they were more often at their desks) and that everyone dressed casually. Her decision paid off. At her old firm she spent all her time researching at her desk; at Halleland she has already tried her first case.
"Lots of firms say, 'Oh, we're 150 years old,'" she says, "and they do things like they did 150 years ago. That's not attractive to me. I want to do good work, not just slog through for years till I get my Persian rug and my 50-gallon fish tank."
What, then, is a Fortune 500 company to do?
Gen Yers still respond most of all to money. There's no fooling them about it; they're so connected that it's not unusual for them to know what every major company in a given field is offering. And they don't want to be given short shrift - hence the frightening tales of 22-year-olds making six-figure salary requests for their first jobs. One could chalk that up to their materialism and party-people mentality, but author Erickson has a different take. "They have to get some money flowing because they have a lot of debt to pay," she says.
To get noticed by Gen Yers, a company also has to have what they call a "vision." They aren't impressed by mission statements, but they are looking for attributes that indicate shared values: affinity groups, flat hierarchies, divestment from the more notorious dictatorial regimes.
At Halleland, which was founded in 1996 by defectors from a larger firm, offices are all the same size, new associates are encouraged to pass work up the chain and senior partners send out e-mails congratulating junior staffers on career milestones. In 11 years Halleland has lost just five associates to other outfits.
It hasn't hurt that the firm emphasizes work-life balance. While Gen Yers will work a 60-hour week if they have to - and might even do so happily if they're paid enough to make the most of their precious downtime - they don't want that to be a way of life.
Some firms where long hours are the norm have found ways to compensate. At Skadden Arps, new employees are reimbursed up to $3,000 for home-office equipment and $1,000 every year after. And the firm's gyms are a big hit with Gen Yers. "You'd be amazed, when people come by to interview or check out the firm, what a warm response the fitness center gets," says Wallace Schwartz, who leads the firm's New York office.
Watching public accounting firms scout for talent is especially instructive, since they have had to staff up after Sarbanes-Oxley. At Ernst & Young, recruiters hand out flash drives instead of brochures, send text messages to schedule meetings with candidates, and give interns videocameras to create vlogs for the firm's Web site. They also launched the first corporate-sponsored recruiting page on Facebook to meet Gen Yers on their own turf.
"That was a difficult sell," says Dan Black, who heads E&Y's college recruiting for the U.S. and Canada, "to be in a medium where you don't have control and people can post some not-so-nice things and you're going to leave it up there, which we do." It was so far ahead of its time that even the kids got thrown off. At one point Black wanted to quote some vivid comments a junior staffer had posted on the page. He left him a voicemail asking for a call back. The next thing Black knew, the posts had all vanished. "He thought he was in trouble!" Black says, howling. "So they're learning how to work with us too."
But as any worthy suitor knows, in the end the key to courtship lies at home - in wooing Mom and Dad. For Merrill Lynch (Charts, Fortune 500), getting young people to commit wasn't much trouble before. "In the past, if we gave you an offer, you accepted," says Liz Wamai, who heads diversity for Merrill's institutional business.
"It was Merrill Lynch. Now it's sell, sell, sell." The company holds a parents' day for interns' families to tour the trading floor. But it's involving parents in recruiting that's been a real shift. Subha Barry, global head of diversity, recalls running into a colleague having lunch with a potential summer recruit and someone she didn't know. It turned out to be the boy's mother.
"If somebody would have said to me, 'You're interviewing for a job somewhere, and you're going to bring your mother to the closing, decision-making lunch,' I would've said, 'You've got to be crazy,'" she says, wagging a finger. "But I tell you, his mother was sold. And that boy will end up at Merrill next summer. I can guarantee that."
The creature in the wild: Johnny Cooper, assistant designer, J.C. Penney
Johnny Cooper has always wanted to be a fashion designer. At first that usually means picking out pins by day and waiting tables by night. So when an offer of real work came from J.C. Penney in Plano, Texas, he took it in a heartbeat. "What 23-year-old can say that they affect a quarter-billion-dollar business on a daily basis?" he asks.
Yes, he actually has affected it, helping to revamp the company's line of men's swimwear. Cooper also organized a major fundraiser for the company after proposing it in an e-mail to the president. "He responded," Cooper says, chuckling. "It took him a week, and it was a one-liner. But it was the most exciting thing to me."
Succeeding quickly does have its challenges: "I sometimes feel like if I'm given so much responsibility and excelling, why can't I have more and more? I have to say, 'Slow down, Johnny. Sure, you want to be design director, but you've only been here two years.'"
No one joins a company hoping to do the same job forever. But these days even your neighborhood bartender or barista aspires to own the place someday. What's more, the ties that have bound members of this age group to jobs in the past - spouse, kids, mortgage - are today often little more than glimmers in their parents' eyes. So if getting Gen Yers to join a company is a challenge, getting them to stay is even harder.
The key is the same one their parents have used their whole lives - loving, encouraging and rewarding them. What that amounts to in corporate terms is a support network, work that challenges more than it bores, and feedback. "The loyalty of twentysomethings is really based on the relationships they have with those directly above them," says Dorsey, the "Reality Check" author. "There's a perception among management that those relationships shouldn't be too personal, but that's how we know they care about us."
Dorsey - who in true Gen Y style dropped out of college to write an earlier book, "Graduate to Your Perfect Job," without having either graduated or gotten a job - recommends starting small. Business cards are an easy way to make young employees feel valued. Letting them shadow older employees helps, as does inviting them to a management meeting now and then. And marking milestones is major, says Dorsey. No birthday should go uncelebrated, and the first day on the job should be unforgettable.
Dorsey recalls the time the president of an engineering firm called a new employee's mother and asked her to be there when her daughter started work Monday morning. "When her mom walked through the crowd, she was like, 'Oh, my God,' and her mom says to everyone, 'I took her to kindergarten, and now I'm here for her first day of work,'" Dorsey says. "The president took them on a tour of the company and explained to both of them why what new employees were doing was so important to the company. And the mom turns to her daughter and says, 'You are not allowed to quit this job. Real companies are not like this.'"
Skeptics would say Mom had a point. But the idea is simply to make big companies feel small, and even major corporations can do much of that work through mentoring. This no longer means creating a spreadsheet, matching people by gender, race or a shared love of baseball, and hoping for the best. At KPMG, says Jesal Asher, a director in the advisory practice, every junior staffer is expected to have a mentor, every manager a protégé, and those in the middle often have both. There's a Web site to facilitate the formal process, and social activities - happy hours, softball games, group lunches - are organized to encourage informal networking.
With the resources that companies like KPMG have, though, ice-cream socials are just the beginning. This summer KPMG will send 100 new hires to Madrid to train alongside new hires from other countries. The firm also gives employees time off to do community service. Steps like those have helped bring turnover down from 25 percent in 2002 to 18 percent last year, says KPMG's head of campus recruiting, Manny Fernandez.
"Gen Yers are able to do and learn so much more than I could at that stage," he says, "and they're not looking to have a career like I have, with just one company. So we've got to build tools that are not just about retention but about having people develop skills faster, so that they can take on larger opportunities."
While development is a long-term goal, it begins in the short term with harnessing Gen Yers' energy. "They're so vocal that you can almost take an associate to a meeting with the CEO," says Asher, "because something that comes out of her mouth is going to be actually outside the box, something that none of us have ever thought about."
And twentysomethings can thrive when given real responsibility. Mark Meussner, a former Ford manager, remembers one instance when, faced with a serious manufacturing problem and two young engineers begging for the chance to solve it, he took a chance on them. He gave them one more-experienced person as a counselor, and they made what he estimates was a $25 million impact by solving a problem that had proved intractable for a decade. The success spawned a slate of company-sponsored initiatives led by more-junior staffers. Says Meussner: "We need to use 100 percent of an employee - not just their backs and minds, but their innovation, enthusiasm, energy and fresh perspective."
It's 12:45 A.M., this story is due next week, and I'm hard at work. By that I mean I am sitting at a desk. In my house. Wearing yellow ducky slippers, track pants, and the royal-blue Tommy Hilfiger pullover that has been my thinking cap since I started writing papers in high school. Pondering my bookshelf - some Faulkner, Irving, Naipaul, Kerouac, Franzen and, of course, Dr. Seuss and A.A. Milne - for inspiration.
With "The Cosby Show" playing in the background, Google chats going with two friends, and text messages coming from my boyfriend, who's on assignment in Africa. When things really get going, I'll put on "Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers," which has kept me company through every major story of my writing career. In short, I'm ridiculous.
I know this will be alarming to read, particularly for my mother, who cares so much about my image that she began blow-drying my hair when I was 4. But it had to be written, because I've come to realize that the most significant characteristic of the Gen Y bird is that we are unapologetic. From how we look, to how spoiled we are, to what we want - even demand - of work, we do think we are special. And what ultimately makes us different is our willingness to talk about it, without much shame and with the expectation that somebody - our parents, our friends, our managers - will help us figure it all out.
That's why, in retrospect, when I started at Fortune in 2004, I asked then-editorial director John Huey what he thought the magazine needed and how I might contribute to that end. "I don't think you need to worry about that," he said, fixing me with an ever-so-slightly amused gaze. It seemed like a perfectly valid question at the time, but with all the hindsight that three years can offer, thinking about it makes me giddy - with embarrassment, but also a fair amount of awe. Who did I think I was? At 23, I had already had three jobs - one at a startup magazine that folded, a contract gig at the prestigious MTV News and a stint recruiting for Time Inc., which is why I was sitting with Huey in the first place. And Huey was just an office away from becoming top editor of the world's largest publishing empire. Unwise of me, to say the least.
But that's the beauty of Gen Y. Despite the initial smirk, Huey did go on to talk to me about the magazine, his own career, and what he expected of and hoped for me. And that 20-minute conversation set a tone of learning, self-evaluation and growth that I'm glad of now, especially as I've struggled to turn years of Gen Y news, research and hearsay - ranging from the worshipful to the condescending - into some sort of cohesive narrative.
It speaks to a confidence that's been building since our parents clapped at our first steps, right through the moment when - as so many new college graduates are doing now - we walked across the stage at universities throughout the country, straight into America's finest corporate foyers. If that makes us a bit cocky at times, it's forgivable, because I'm willing to bet that in coming years, all that questioning will lead us to some important answers. And in the meantime - sorry, Mom - I'll be out getting a tattoo.