Work Hard Today So Tomorrow You Can Play

A few weeks back I wrote a response to GL Hoffman’s 8 Reasons Why Baby-Boomers Act The Way They Do entitled Understanding Gen-Y in 5 Easy Steps. In it I theorized that one of the main reasons young workers today seem so bent on shooting up the corporate ladder after only a few years is because they place a big emphasis on family and quality of life. Citing high divorce rates among their parents as well as ballooning student debt and rising living costs, I also explained that making money is a critical piece of the “having my cake and eating too” plan of most millennials. With marriage and family being pushed back into our thirties, millennials see their twenties as a time to a) have fun but also more importantly b) build the career foundation to support their goals later in life.

A recent profile of divorce in Newsweek entitled The Divorce Generation Grows Up, produced the following quote:

“But while it may be a common occurrence, divorce remains a profound experience for those who’ve lived through it. Researchers have churned out all sorts of depressing statistics about the impact of divorce. Each year, about 1 million children watch their parents split, triple the number in the ’50s. These children are twice as likely as their peers to get divorced themselves and more likely to have mental-health problems, studies show. While divorce rates have been dropping—off from their 1981 peak to just 3.6 per 1,000 people in 2006—marriage has also declined sharply, falling to 7.3 per 1,000 people in 2006 from 10.6 in 1970. Sociologists decry a growing “marriage gap” in which the well educated and better paid are staying married, while the poor are still getting divorced (people with college degrees are half as likely to be divorced or separated as their less-educated peers). And the younger you marry, the more likely you are to get divorced.”

With divorce rates peaking in 1981, just as the first set of millennials was born, the impact of these “broken” families is beginning to appear. Because so many young people have experienced divorce, they seem to be taking safeguards in their own lives against it. On the whole as a generation, they are marrying later, marrying less often and gravitating toward working hard now to make more time for family later.

It’s really no wonder that young people are delaying marriage. With increasing costs of both college as well as post-college living, many young people have to work for a while to get out of debt before they even think about being able to afford a home and family.

A feature in U.S. News shares this point of view:

“Unlike their parents, post-college “kids” face a whole list of monthly costs that simply didn’t exist a generation ago. Take technology. Cellphones, digital media, Internet service—all are ubiquitous, costly, and a strain on already tapped finances. At the same time, shifting social trends in everything from fashion to marriage are driving up the cost of just making it to 30.”

“Twenty-somethings today are struggling more financially than ever before. They grew up in a time when the economy was great, and they’re having their adulthood in a time when the economy sucks. It’s really hard,” says Christine Hassler, a life coach and author of the The Twenty Something Manifesto.

Amidst all the griping and media hype about millennials being pushy, entitled and incompetent, the reality is that young people are just that—young. They grew up in a different time with different standards, ideals, etc. They have different ideas about how work should be and what life should be. Let them create their own identity. What is the harm?

Did most boomers start out on the bottom rung, fetching coffee or answering phones for $1/hour? Sure. Do they really want the same fate for their children? Especially after plunking down $80,000 on a college education so that little Bobby could recite Langston Hughes as he stirs his boss’ coffee? I hope not.
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12 responses »

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  2. Another piece of the puzzle is a microwave mentality of instant gratification. We want everything instantly…without working for it or saving for it. Dave Ramsey, a financial guru, has a saying, “Live like no one else, so some day you can LIVE like no one else”. His message is living dept free, saving $$, delaying gratification and building wealth. He says most self made millionaires became millionaires by saving money and not going into debt for anything.

  3. really well said. I’m a gen-x’er from a divorced family and all the points made about wanting to focus on work now so I can concentrate more properly on family later is right on.

    I do feel though that working so close to a lot of “millennials”, the one thing I notice about a lot of them are that in their pursuit of fast promotions, they fail to truly understand the art of paying dues and properly develop mentally and in respectful manners. Much more sense of entitlement.

    totally rambling.

  4. Gen Y are moving into management and leadership positions. It is time for you to start thinking about coaching baby boomers!

    I put up an ode to baby boomers on this blog

    The blog ends with some questions for baby boomers about our relationship with Gen Yers.

    It is a Rainer Maria Rilke poem. Enjoy.

  5. I do understand when Gen-Y is referred to as feeling entitled after getting ‘off the farm’ and going to college. Many student feel that when they graduate they should be going into jobs starting near six figures because that is where their parents are at, they didn’t necessarily see what it took for their parents to get their because their parents wanted them to be trained managers not laborers. I did an internship with one student whose father worked as a project engineer and upon graduation he received a job offer to start as a design engineer making half of what his father did (still far more then most other students were getting job offers for) and he didn’t take it because it wasn’t good enough for him. Many students don’t understand that value of having work experience, good work ethics, and paying their dues. I was irate when I received a promotion because I was one of the only interns who ever showed up to work on time and didn’t leave early. I got a promotion because I met the bare minimum of what was required of me? That is what phenomenal work for our generation is considered now days? (I actually arrived 15 minutes early every day, took 45 minute lunches so I was ready to work when I hit the one hour mark, and frequently left after my shift was done) Many Gen-Yers don’t realize that in order to really thrive at work at succeed they need to be willing to do the crappy jobs and put in the extra hours without getting overtime (if they are on salary). They believe that their parents generation had to do that because they (a) didn’t necessarily have a college education or (b) it wasn’t as good. They aren’t willing to ‘pay their dues’ because they feel they are above it because that is how they were raised. We are sent to college so that we can fast track to the management positions. In college you learn how to manage, you learn how to lead others, you learn (hopefully) how to be professional, but you never learn the importance of paying your dues and being grateful for having a job.

    I had a coworker who quickly rose to the upper ranks of our department, but every time he would make a mess he would leave it because it was below him to sweep floors. Another coworker who has been in the department since it was created twenty some years ago told him, “you’ll never getting paid enough to not sweep a floor”. I wish everyone understood that.

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