The Kids Are (Not) All Right

 As I watch the #OccupyWallStreet movement gain steam, I remembered a great little read by Jessica Stillman “The Entry Level Rebel” on BNET. The question: Will Gen Y – living through the Great Recession – be forever changed? A depressing yes, according to the research. It’s estimated that the Gen Y workforce – defined as those born between 1984 and 2002 – will make an estimated $100,000 less in their lifetime, because they’re starting their career in a downturned economy with lower salaries. Add on top of that, these depressing facts.

  • 37 percent of 18 to 29 year olds have been underemployed or out of work since the Recession began
  • 60 percent have cashed out their 401-Ks
  • 58 percent pay their monthly bill on time
  • Millennials are graduating from college with an average student debt of $23,000

Psychologically, they’re becoming a vastly different breed than the Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, who both lived through some of the most prosperous years in US history. This generation is becoming risk-adverse, more similar to their great-grandmothers of the Depression, than their parents or grandparents. They already were the most hemmed-in, monitored generation – with helicopter moms, organized sports and neighborhood watches – but the trauma of economic turmoil is likely to magnify their fear of failure.

As a mom of a 17-year-old, I hate to hear all of this. And specializing in internal communications, I think companies will have to work with their younger members to encourage them to take steps outside their comfort zones. Innovation occurs through trial and error – and too often, we all forget the “error” part of the equation. If you want a great example of how important this is, take a look at Honda’s Power of Dreams Campaign – Failure: The Secret to Success series of videos, where engineers, race car drivers and others talk about how it was only by pushing the limits ( and often failing) that they were able to ultimately able to succeed. (My favorite: The engineer who desperately pushed for an orange car.)

We need to make sure our culture is flexible and safe enough to provide similar lessons to our young adults. Because, risk-adverse or not, they are our future.

  The Honda “Power of Dreams” campaign. ‘Failure: The Secret of Success’

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About digital gal
consultant for a national health care company, president of my own digital media company, mother of three, two dogs, one guinea pig, one parrot and recently, one snake.

One Response to The Kids Are (Not) All Right

  1. BelleFive says:

    OUCH. With four kids ranging from 17 to 24, and another who’s only 11, this paints a grim picture that, unfortunately, rings very true. For this generation of parents who had huge dreams for and with our kids, it’s a bitter tablet to legitimately fear that our kids will be appreciably worse off than we were. If you’d told me this 20 years ago, I’d never have believed it.

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