The ‘Trophy Kids’ Go to Work

Posted on November 1, 2008 

The ‘Trophy Kids’ Go to Work

With Wall Street in turmoil and a financial system in crisis mode, companies are facing another major challenge: figuring out how to manage a new crop of young people in the work force — the millennial generation. Born between 1980 and 2001, the millennials were coddled by their parents and nurtured with a strong sense of entitlement. In this adaptation from “The Trophy Kids Grow Up: How the Millennial Generation Is Shaking Up the Workplace,” Ron Alsop, a contributor to The Wall Street Journal, describes the workplace attitudes of the millennials and employers’ efforts to manage these demanding rookies.

When Gretchen Neels, a Boston-based consultant, was coaching a group of college students for job interviews, she asked them how they believe employers view them. She gave them a clue, telling them that the word she was looking for begins with the letter “e.” One young man shouted out, “excellent.” Other students chimed in with “enthusiastic” and “energetic.” Not even close. The correct answer, she said, is “entitled.” “Huh?” the students responded, surprised and even hurt to think that managers are offended by their highfalutin opinions of themselves.

If there is one overriding perception of the millennial generation, it’s that these young people have great — and sometimes outlandish — expectations. Employers realize the millennials are their future work force, but they are concerned about this generation’s desire to shape their jobs to fit their lives rather than adapt their lives to the workplace.

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