Generation Y is the future. They are multi-tasking, technology savvy, disrupting rock stars who are going to rule the planet – just ask them, they’ll tell you.
Now, I have spent an enormous amount of time with Gen Y. I raised three of them. I’ve coached, taught and supervised hundreds more – in professional and blue-collar settings. I’ve interviewed dozens and review their resumes and/or cover letters almost daily. And now that I’m back in school, I’ve been witnessing their abilities to research, analyze data and communicate at the graduate level. So I think I have a pretty good sample to make some observations – and while my generalized points below may be hard to swallow for Gen Y readers, I hope they provoke some self-analysis.
Generation Y can’t write. Seriously, they can’t. I am frankly dumbfounded at the inability of a college graduate to put together a cohesive string of ideas with a subject, predicate and proper punctuation that my 9th grade English teacher wouldn’t toss out the window (as he was known to do with poorly written assignments). Maybe it’s because I grew up in an era where my teachers bled on my papers as if they bought their red ink at Costco; or perhaps because my professional degrees were products of a journalism school where writing with precision was non-negotiable. But how on Earth can these self-appointed Gen Y geniuses be okay with sending me a resume with mistakes in the first sentence, or submitting a graduate-level assignment rife with syntax and/or logic errors, not to mention atrocious spelling and grammar? Regardless the reason, I’m not handing out participation trophies to Gen Y applicants who send me a screwed up resume. I’m just throwing it away. And my peers are too.
Generation Y can’t think for themselves. Okay, while we can blame a lot of this on the fault of technology – we should have called them “Generation Google” instead – there is a discernible lack of the ability to research, process and reason. Maybe we’ve been spoon-feeding them too long. Maybe they’ve been too good at leveraging technology for answers. A funny, true story: My graduate professor asked students to write a brief “reaction paper” to supplement our assigned reading. The paper was meant to provide short discussion points as to the student’s opinion regarding the assigned reading. A young student was asked to read her paper to stimulate the class discussion. She did so. Her paper provided a brilliant regurgitation of the chapter – but lacked any opinion whatsoever. The professor said, “That was an excellent summary, but tell me, what do you think about what you read?” The young woman, flustered, finally blurted out, “Well, I don’t know… How am I supposed to know what I think?” While it’s an isolated and specific example, those of you nodding your heads in agreement get the point.
“How am I supposed to know what I think?”
Generation Y have an over-inflated opinion of themselves. It’s incredibly, laughably true. I have never come across a cohort of people so full of their own unproven abilities in my life (except for West Point graduates). In a recent discussion forum, I was inundated by Gen Y students extolling their own virtues – yet many of them had little or no practical experience in the “real” world they claimed they were about to rock… Okay, to be fair, everybody’s got to start somewhere. I certainly had my moments of empty bragging when I started my professional career. But after having my lunch eaten for me a few times, reality and humility set in. Apparently I wasn’t all that and a bag of chips – and I accepted it.
Recently, I was told by every member of my discussion group (of which, I am the only one who gets regular AARP solicitations) how they were the future and they were taking over and how my generation just better get used to the fact that they can’t dress professionally to save their lives, have tattoos and piercings all over the damn place and have their mom or dad come to the office to help them bargain for a raise. My response was to acknowledge the obvious: Yes. My generation will eventually die, so Gen Y will win by default or forfeit at some point. But until then, we’re still doing the hiring and firing and since you’ve got to find some way to pay for those tattoos and piercings you might want to ease off the chest-thumping a bit.
And who knows? If we work hard enough at it, we’ll develop AI to the point where we won’t have to hire Gen Y after all…