Saturday, April 11, 2009

14. The Trophy Kids Grow Up by Ron Alsop

Never say 'permanent setback' I guess. I gobbled this one up last night. My mom handed it to me, "Oh I got this book, you might be interested..."

It's about the generation Alsop calls the millenials, born between 1980 and 2001. MY generation. And it was pure characteristic narcissism that spurred me to read it, and so quickly. Besides, I'm curious what THEY'RE saying about us!

Alsop neatly sums up our generation, our parents, and how the workplace will, or already is, adapting to us. He of course points out that he can't pigeonhole every one of us, we're all individual, but certain traits that tend to illustrate us are as follows; entitled, civic minded, technologically advanced, team oriented, narcissistic, impatient, value work-life balance, and multi-tasking. He includes a chapter devoted to each of these traits, and their impact, as well as two chapters devoted to the helicopter parent phenomenon.

I think Alsop has us well figured out, for the most part. I don't fit many of the traits of our generation, but I would say I see many of these traits in my peers, and a few in myself as well. For example, Alsop explains that millenials like clear directions at work and are often at a loss without guidelines. I definitely get frustrated when my bosses don't explain clearly what I'm supposed to do, and without getting too much into that, maybe it is because of the plethora of rubrics and outlines at school (although I always got around those dumb pre-planned theses).

I would like to think that none of his criticism of our communication skills apply to me. The stories he told of incorrectly spelled thank you notes and in-office emails with poor grammar chilled my bones. Also, as much as I revel in jeans and T-shirts at home, I like dressing nicely for work. Tailored pants or skirt suits make me feel professional, and powerful. Apparently, we're turning out to be regular office slobs.

Alsop includes a list of the four generations in the current workplace and their generational traits; Traditionalists (1925-1945), Baby Boomers (1946-1964), Gen Xers (1965-1979), and of course us Millenials (1980-2001); in his introductory chapter.

Funnily enough, I think I'm straight Gen X; self-reliant, adaptable, cynical, distrusts authority, resourceful, entrepreneurial, and technology savvy. I'm everything but the last one. I would say I know plenty of people my age who are adaptable, self-reliant, and entrepreneurial, but Alsop claims we rely too much on our parents.

Trophy Kids just came out in 2008 though, and missed the worst of the recession. I think our generation's characteristics will change a lot based on that. This book has a good picture of where we were headed, but now I think the story will be tweaked. Millenials will lose a lot of that entitlement when they're just trying to make a living. I know I don't expect to get too many job offers, I'll snap up whatever I can get and put up with a lot to keep food on my table. Yes, I am one of the lucky ones who has the option to fall back on my parents, but I would be ashamed to do so. However, when Alsop says we'll bounce around and won't have company loyalty like the old folks did, that's probably an accurate assessment.

Much of the book is anecdotal, and based squarely in corporate America. It's not the whole picture, but hey, we like seeing any part of ourselves in the mirror.

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