Saturday, March 14, 2009

Seeing Change in Our Young People

March 13, 2009- If you’re like me and follow the trials and tribulations of our Millennials, you know what I mean when I refer to a small segment now called the “entitled generation.” Maybe you can’t pinpoint their birth years, but you know all about them. They grew up where everyone received a trophy for signing up for t-ball, let alone showing up. They can tell you exactly how many marbles it took to fill up their classroom’s marble jar. And they’ve spent more time in time-out than the Celtics accumulated all last season.

True, most people in this age group have followed in the foot steps of Generation X and the Boomers by working hard and earning their keep, but we still hear generalizations about those who believe they deserve what they get unconditionally.

You recognize them, too, because somewhere in your organization there’s one working for you. They come to you fresh out of school with no experience, expecting the compensation and positioning of senior management. They demand a bonus and expect it to be of the same value as the person in the cubicle next to them, regardless of merit. And they are the ones with the bullhorn at every company meeting. Some call it confidence, others call it entitled.

I don’t have to tell you. Times have changed.

This week, the new administration in the White House let it be known that the federal government is raising its expectations for young people. While there are plans for more support and added resources for our students, there is also an expectation for accountability, for merit, and for earning what you receive.

I was recently asked by Lisa Black of the Chicago Tribune to comment on how these changing times are impacting our young people. In our network for example, we’ve seen dramatic changes in how students are approaching college admission; based on 1)the increased number of colleges on their colleges lists and 2)the shift of interest in more affordable public schools compared to the more costly private schools. They’re becoming smarter and more informed. They’re exploring more options and being better prepared. They’re not waiting for things to be handed to them anymore and they’re being more pragmatic about their situations. Our young people are rising to the occasion.

So, perhaps the “entitled” label has come and gone. Maybe realizing that things can change with the blink of an eye has helped young people redefine their priorities, set new expectations, and succeed as one of the most distinctive generations of our time. I just hope our colleges and employer environments can change quickly enough to meet their needs.

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