Recession has Generation Y singing a new workplace tune

The Miami HeraldAugust 16, 2010 

It was only five years ago that Miami accounting firm director Richard Berkowitz thought he had a problem during tax season relating to his younger workers. "When I told them it was mandatory they come in on the weekend, they looked at me like I was out of my mind."

Today, his younger workers are much easier to manage. The recession has brought a shocking reality to Generation Y professionals who stumped baby boomers when they first entered the workforce with their desire for work/life balance over the corner office.

Stunned by a barrage of pink slips instead of promotions, Generation Y — people between ages 18 and 30 — has swallowed a piece of humble pie. Those who still have jobs are adopting new workplace attitudes and making themselves more valuable.

They still want a chance at career development but they are no longer demanding that it happen on the fast track.

"This is the generation that dreamed they wanted to be CEO of a public company but didn't have an idea what to do to get there," Berkowitz says. "What's happened is that realization set in. They've discovered you have to be on the ground and working hard to accomplish great things."

In some ways, this coddled, tech-savvy generation, also known as the Millennials, is best positioned to prosper post-recession: They never really trusted Corporate America. They know how to scour the Internet for opportunities. They grew up innately adapting to change and embracing fast-paced innovation. As a group with high self-confidence, they are approaching their plight with optimism.

"They are seeing this as a re-evaluation period," says Tamara Bell, editor-in-chief and president of Y Gen Out Loud, a news platform for political and public policy conversations. "They will tell you, we can do this. We can make change necessary to get the engine going. They see it as an opportunity to change what they were doing and learn something new instead of being in complete panic mode."

By all measures, the newest members of the workforce are bearing the full effect of the worst economic slump since the Great Depression. The recession brutalized their income, savings and career-ladder potential.

About 37 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds have been underemployed or out of work during the recession, the highest share among the age group in more than three decades, according to a Pew Research Center study released in February. Even more, the unemployment rate for Gen Y remains much higher than the national rate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While the overall national unemployment rate was 9.5 percent in June, the latest figures available for making that comparison, for Gen Y it was 15.3 percent.

Because of these stark numbers, many of them realize that they can't make the demands for raises, promotions, time off, training and the hottest technologies during a recession that they've previously made on their employers.

To read the complete article, visit www.miamiherald.com.

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