Generation X

Scared straight: How Gen Y has benefited from the recession

December 2, 2010: 11:18 AM ET

To say the recession represented a rude awakening for Gen Y would be an understatement. Hiring freezes and massive layoffs forced the younger set to consider that perhaps having a good job was not a given but a privilege.

By Alexandra Levit, contributor

When I graduated from college in 1998, I knew exactly what I had to do. As a Generation X-er (born 1964-79), I had been raised in the school of self-reliance, and I thought it was nothing short of my god-given duty to move from Chicago to New York City by myself, get an apartment and a job, and promptly start life on my own.

In my first job at a global PR agency, I didn't question my entry-level role.

Processing my boss' expenses? Check.

Setting up meetings? Check.

Escorting clients to the airport? Check.

All of these things were part of paying my dues and working my way up.

When I began to write and speak on careers and the workplace, I found that my advice resonated with my Gen X peers, who had equally strong work ethics and a realistic comprehension of where they were currently and where they were going in the corporate hierarchy.

After a few years went by, however, I started feeling old. My twenty-something audience was getting younger, and I found that I didn't understand these young professionals at all.

This new crop, all members of Generation Y (born 1979-94) had been raised by doting Baby Boomer parents thinking they were the most special and worthwhile individuals on the planet. They wanted to leave college one month and be running a company the next.

They worked on their own time and with their own styles. They brazenly demanded that managers be personally accountable for their career growth and, overall, developed a reputation for being self-centered, overconfident, and entitled. More

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