Don’t Knock My Cohort and I Won’t Knock Yours
by Nancy Rathbun Scott

I came across the “Brazen Careerist,” Penelope Trunk’s advice-blog for the twenty-something workforce. No doubt Trunk has made a business out of being outrageous, so I’m not sure she believes a word of what she wrote in “How To Recognize Bad Advice About Work.” In a sentence, you could sum up her entire article this way: Don’t seek advice from anybody over 30.

At the risk of not recognizing this whole thing as a joke, I feel pressed to comment on some of the tripe [see italics] that came up.

Baby boomers make a big deal out of “career changes” but GenY simply “gets a new job.” I guess Gen Y is supposed to feign indifference to the elation, fear, trepidation, angst, uncertainty, and fervor that accompanies a new boss, new colleagues, and new responsibilities. If so, I hope Gen Y also “gets a new shrink.”

Baby boomers didn’t make career changes before now. Apparently, everybody over 30 has started and stayed in the same job forever. Those who did choose – or were forced to – find a new gig, did so recklessly and/or ranted endlessly. GenY, on the other hand, takes every new job in stride. Hey, I can’t speak for anybody else, but, personally, I’ve sold cosmetics, cleaned houses, answered phones, taught English to Japanese doctors in Japan, typed multi-digit registration data on herds of Angus cattle, temp-ed, trotted coffee for my boss, committed direct mail before anybody called it that, pasted up art boards, and done “desktop publishing” – and that was all before I turned 35. I guess I was as cool as GenY, because I didn’t call any of my job switcheroos a “career change,” either.

GenY doesn’t need to Twitter or go on LinkedIn because -- having been online since they were 10 -- they’ve never lost their “connections,” True -- and maybe they still have their baby teeth stashed in a plastic bag somewhere, too. Look, what’s the point here -- that GenY, born on a laptop, hasn’t passed enough years to lose touch with anybody? I mean, really: Get over it. GenY isn’t that “special,” though it’s no wonder they might think so. Gen X and Baby Boomer parents, principals, teachers, and a string of other “authority” figures boosted the GenY “self esteem” by telling these kids how darn special they were. It was a lie. They’re just people, some fabulous, some mediocre. It’s time for all of us to get over it.

Networking—especially in pursuit of a job -- is a dirty word to GenY, who finds job hunting as natural as breathing. Quite the contrary for the GenYs I know and work with. These dynamos mine their contacts for all they’re worth (and they’re very good at it). So are Baby boomers, GenXers, and every other cohort in recorded history. Some philosophers like Confucius and Machiavelli even wrote books about networking. Long live networking!

Gen Ys will not have a midlife crisis because, before age 30, GenY will already have figured out who they are and what they should be doing. Please guys, don’t count on it. The midlife crises I’ve met are about getting old and getting dead. I could be wrong, but I think GenY will face these perennial milestones, too.

Gen Ys are enjoying tweetups, something the other cohorts couldn’t possibly understand. Wrong again, Yakimoto. My cohort invented the online-to-offline practice back in 1995. No biggie.

So what’s a GenY to do? Walk the walk like the rest of us did. Listen when you can stand to, screw up lots, evaluate as you go, and most of all
-- in all things -- look for the commonalities, not the differences.