Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The New Lost Generation?

I've noted before articles that I've seen that seem to predict an impending leadership takeover by Millennials. They are, as these articles say, more numerous, more entrepreneurial, and (evidently), just plain better than us crusty old Xers.

Imagine my surprise when someone called my attention to the cover story in a recent issue of Business Week, where they're beginning to worry that this economic downturn and the joblessness crisis that has accompanied it is turning those heir apparents into apparently nots.

For people just starting their careers, the damage may be deep and long-lasting, potentially creating a kind of "lost generation." Studies suggest that an extended period of youthful joblessness can significantly depress lifetime income as people get stuck in jobs that are beneath their capabilities, or come to be seen by employers as damaged goods.

But it's not just bad for them. It's bad for us, too.

Equally important, employers are likely to suffer from the scarring of a generation. The freshness and vitality young people bring to the workplace is missing. Tomorrow's would-be star employees are on the sidelines, deprived of experience and losing motivation.

It's an interesting twist in the generational leadership narrative. Perhaps the Millennials are not so unstoppable after all. But then I have to remember, for every Millennial who is kept off the bottom rung of the ladder by the bad economy, there is likely a Boomer who is isn't leaving the top rung for the same reason. And the Xers? Stuck in the middle again.


Anonymous said...

Speaking as a Gen-Xer who graduated during the Bush 41 recession and held two minimum wage jobs to pay the bills before starting grad school (when I switched to one minimum wage job and student loans), they'll get over it - we did. And they'll either claw their way onto the ladder eventually or they'll build their own ladders, to extend the metaphor.

Eric Lanke said...

I tend to agree, Elizabeth. In case I wasn't clear in the post, I thought the Business Week article was a little alarmist. To extend your metaphor, I suspect the Millennials will do more ladder building than ladder climbing.

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