Does Our Generation Have an Undeserved Sense of Entitlement?

Preface:   My mission with the blog is to try to get more young people to consider entrepreneurship as a career choice, because I know it is possible and my partners and I are living proof of it.  I definitely definitely am not advocating that a sense of entitlement is a good thing for anyone of any age.  From all of the nasty emails I’ve received related to this post I completely realize I did a horrible job of getting that point across.   At the time I wrote this post I was pretty fired up.  That said, I’ve decided to leave it up because I think it’s the right thing to do.  For the most part, I still feel the same way…I just wish I said it differently.  My main point is/was – I don’t understand why companies don’t treat everyone’s thoughts, ideas, and talents as equal regardless of age.  Personally, I didn’t have the opportunity to compete in my job because of my age/experience, but by running my own company I’m able to do so.  If I stuck around and “paid my dues” I wouldn’t be running my dream company today. You’re entitled to feel differently, but please respect my opinion to feel this way.

Lately I’ve been reading quite a bit about our generations’ “undeserved sense of entitlement.” Quite frankly it pisses me off and I want to set the record straight. First was an article in Inc Magazine where a manager asked how to manage “young workers who have an inflated sense of entitlement”, followed by a story on Employee Evolution about managers who want employees to conform to their standards of security (wife, house, kids, etc) to trap them into “needing” their job. Both show a blatant misunderstanding of our generation.

More so than the average post, this one is solely based upon how I’ve seen the world through my eyes. For a 25 year old, I have considerable professional experience, particularly in the role of the “young professional” from my two internships and one co-op in college, and my one year in the working world as an engineer. That said, I’m pretty sure what I’m about to say applies to every industry, not just web development and engineering. I’m convinced that people are looking at this 180 degrees the wrong way. From my experiences, it is the older generation of management that has an undeserved sense of entitlement.

Experience in life and in business is invaluable. But so is a complete understanding of the latest technology. I’m sorry to point out the obvious, but our generation runs circles around previous ones and makes up for the lack of experience tenfold. An engineering student from a top school knows the ins and outs of every latest and greatest piece of software available. All of the places I worked it was OUR generation that was teaching the older generation more efficient uses of THEIR technology. I’m sure the same applies to just about any industry – everything can be improved with technology in one form or another, and that’s where we have the upper hand.

Subsequently, our most skilled ProENGINEER (3D Modeling software) and Minitab (statistical modeling software) professionals were the students who just arrived fresh from college. The students just spent years learning from some of the best professors in the world, pushing each other to learn the limits of the software for challenging exams. When they arrived at our company, they suddenly realized that they were leaps and bounds ahead of the veteran engineers. Therefore they were able to produce far more structurally sound designs in far less time.

Here’s what it boils down to for me – I don’t give a flying f*ck about your previous experience if it isn’t relevant to the current and future business economy. The majority of business knowledge from the 70’s, 80’s, and even 90’s is largely useless in today’s economy and the economy of tomorrow. Therefore, the majority of your prior experiences are largely inapplicable to today’s business world. And if that’s the case, you have to ask yourself – who has the skillset to compete in the future economy? Who has the ability to quickly learn and process massive amounts of information, and make quick decisions using the best tools available? Who is the most comfortable with change? The answers to all of those questions are, in my opinion, my generation…and it’s not even close.

Maybe those who manage recent college grads should worry less about molding us into the next “them”, and focus more on harnessing the skills of their young talent to help grow their company for the future.

12 comments on Does Our Generation Have an Undeserved Sense of Entitlement?

  1. Scott says:

    Adam,

    I feel your pain, I’m just not entirely sure how to put it into words properly. This thing really bothers me – having no degree I’ve learnt everything myself. I’ve never once claimed to be entitled to anything, and people that think this (e.g. an interview I saw with some Y generation author) really get on my nerves.

    However, if you’re getting out there and actually doing something you should be judged on that. People should realise that if you’re young and your doing what someone with twice your experience usually does then imagine what would happen if they pushed you a bit more? Imagine the growth and potential.

    I know I’d rather be working with someone passionate and hard working anyday over someone with “experience”.

    Your post is a bit technology focused, I wouldn’t discount peoples prior experiences when it comes to business. Whilst technology changes, many business problems don’t, e.g. how to handle a board, stakeholders, money etc.

    Always good to see your posts.

    Cheers,
    Scott

  2. Adam McFarland says:

    Thanks Scott. I can agree that I probably don’t give experience enough credit, but like you said I think everyone should be judged on the work they do. There are 19 and 20 year olds out there starting the next Facebook or MySpace that have far less experience than I do. You know what – if they have more success than I do, I’ll tip my hat to them for their work.

    I just wonder how many talented people get wasted away in the corporate world who (for one reason or another) decide that starting their own business isn’t feasible. If you are talented you should be put in a position to use that talent, regardless of age, gender, race, etc.

  3. Aaron says:

    I think our generation does have a sense of entitlement. That’s why you see so much lack of respect for society in general. The I don’t owe you anything, You don’t know me and buy everything on credit without any hardwork attitudes.

    That translates into business as well. I think that there are too many “entrepreneurs” who think it’s easy and expect to make money right away.

    Some may make fast money, but for most being an entrepreneur is just as hard or harder than working a 9-5 for a corp.

  4. Adam McFarland says:

    Aaron,

    Thanks for the comment. I can certainly see your point, and I’m sure that’s how many people feel. However, my experiences (which of course are limited) don’t point to that at all.

    Myself and the majority of young professionals and entrepreneurs I know aren’t that way. I’m not advocating being cocky and disrespectful, I’m advocating that everyone gets an equal chance based on skill regardless of age.

    To your point “Some may make fast money, but for most being an entrepreneur is just as hard or harder than working a 9-5 for a corp” – I don’t know anyone who has made “fast” money. Every entrepreneur I know has had to work harder than they would in a 9-5 to succeed. You can almost always make as much or more money in a 9-5 as you can running your own business. That’s not why I/we do it. I run my own company because I feel like that gives me the best opportunity to change the world and make it a better place. In the corporate world, I struggled to find work that I truly found meaningful. As a business owner, if I don’t like the ethical dilemmas of a project I don’t take it on. And I try to spend most of my time on projects I think can truly impact society.

    Call me crazy, but I don’t think the lifestyle of being 25 and single should in any way shape or form impact the way people evaluate me. Business, especially on the web, has a way of being very non discriminant. My customers and clients work with me because I’m good at what I do and I can fill a need in their life. Most don’t know or care that my company is run by four 25 year old guys. The better I am at what I do, the more success I will have. From my experience, corporate settings are very much the opposite and you aren’t always evaluated solely based upon what you bring to the table.

  5. Aaron says:

    I agree with your statement of not being judged by age or experience but by performance. I myself am an entrepreneur in a field dominated by older and “more experienced” people and I’m outperforming most.

    But the title of your post was “does our generation have a sense of entitlement”. Not do entrepreneurs. I geared my answer towards your initial question and title of the post.

  6. Adam McFarland says:

    Very true 🙂 I should have titled it “do young entrepreneurs/professionals have a sense of entitlement”.

  7. Michael says:

    Interesting post, but I think you’re full of it. You’re dead wrong if you think my 25 years of experience in business counts for nothing and I’m quite certain you’ll feel differently 20 years from now.

    I’m in a technology oriented business and we do not see recent grads come in and run circles around experienced pros. It just doesn’t happen.

    Your generation does have an overdeveloped sense of entitlement and you are prime example.

    Good luck with that.

  8. Adam McFarland says:

    Thanks for the comment Michael. The post was from a while back, and I can’t say I 100% feel the same way now as I did then.

    However, since you attacked me personally, I’ll respond back with my personal example: I’m 25, I left my engineering career after 1 yr at 22. Our company has been quadrupling in revenue ytd for every month in ’08 thusfar, destroying competitors in our industry (in particular Detailed Image). Our oldest owner is 27, I am the youngest at 25. One of the main reasons we are successful is because we DON’T listen to what the older generation has told us about business. We make up our own rules, push the boundaries, and consequently our competition doesn’t know what to do with us.

    In my limited corporate experience (internships, co-ops, and my year out of college), that creativity and ability to push the limits was stifled by my older peers. Maybe I’d feel different if I worked at different companies with different people. There are obviously very talented people of all ages.

    My overall point – and I’m sorry if you missed it – is that people should be judged by their abilities and quality of work, not their age.

  9. Adam McFarland says:

    For the record, Michael and I have had a great email exchange and I apologized for my position offending him. For better or worse, blogging shows how you feel in the moment and you don’t always say it the way you should. I had a handful of experiences where my creativity was stifled by management solely because I was “just a young kid out of college”. It motivated me. I saw management running our company into the ground. So my worldview became “they suck at business, my partners and I kick ass at it”. While that might be true, it’s probably not a generational thing as much as it is good workers vs bad workers. Unfortunately, most of the people my age I hang around are extremely high performers for their age, so when I compare them to the below-average adult that I worked with from the older generations it’s pretty easy to see why I think my generation isn’t getting a fair rap.

  10. V says:

    Today’s office is fertile ground for generational clashes and misunderstood mindsets.

    With people under 30 (known as Generation Y) working alongside middle-aged managers and coworkers, the established older set often finds it difficult to motivate or understand their younger colleagues who are sometimes too pre-occupied texting on their phones rather than engaging in co-herent conversation. Those who’ve had success report that tactics such as short project phases with tight deadlines and frequent praise along the way to a goal work well to fuel Gen Y. In other words; they want a ‘trophy’ for merely showing up and doing as little as possible.

    Also, it helps to make sure their work computers are no slower than the ones they have at home. The products of an affluent society, modern parenting and a “kinder, gentler” elementary school system, Gen Y children have an expectation of immediacy, an overall air of entitlement that even pervades their career paths. Most I have seen expect the high 5 figures in salary shortly after being hired. Also, some after being hired, add on to this the fact that they’ll be needing next week off for some to-do with friends. Well, you won’t be working here.

    Many middle-aged managers can’t comprehend Gen Y’s “deserve-it-now” mind set that’s vastly different from the “prove-yourself” work ethic that baby boomers and all earlier generations used to rise through the ranks; of which I grew up with being 42 years of age. Other managers who grasp Gen Y’s conditioning adapt their work culture to more fully engage these younger workers. Yet, even among these managers, I’ve heard lots of concern about the future in the hands of those being coddled. You can just imagine what they’re dealing with.

    My biggest concern with the aptly named, Gen Y is that most of their skills are only that of a so-called ‘technology basis’. Very few are looking into careers that will see them as the builders of the offices and homes that will be required to ‘house’ those that want only a computer and a desk to sit that computer on.

    In essence, what I am saying is that there are few who wish to get their hands dirty anymore and think that there will be someone else there to do that. Such won’t be the case if everyone adopts that mindset and opts for the ‘paper only’ solution.

    Full and well rounded skill sets are what makes an economy and society bound ahead of other countries. It keeps them viable and marketable.

    It will be a sad day and a rude awakening when the only things that can be serviced by anyone are the things that get plugged into an AC outlet while the roof leaks, the car won’t start, the infrastructure erodes and no one will know how to deal with it. Scalable models on auotcad are great, but what to do without labour? It is already happening as government and the mainstream media is currently calling ours, the “service and debt based economy”.

    Hard work. It’s still needed and still required. People (even Gen Y) have to think and remember where ‘things’ come from. And must think beyond Best Buy or the Apple store. The latest and greatest cell phone, video game console or computer won’t save us especially in a dying North American economy that is seeing the U.S. dollar being devalued, rapidly. Just think of where those aforementioned products are made.

    Cheers.

    N.B. nice to see that there aren’t any personal attacks at one another in this comments section. Makes me think that you are a minority of good behaviour compared to the socially inept I encounter both online and in daily life – ‘out there’.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Remarkable arrogance. You won’t get far with an attitude like that.

  12. Adam McFarland says:

    Anonymous – you’re certainly entitled to your opinion. As I said previously in the comments, this was one post at one point in time when I was really fired up. It certainly could have been said better.

    That said, two years in, our company has taken off and grown at an enormous pace because we were willing to not listen to what others told us we should/shouldn’t be doing. We give our customers a better overall experience than the old-school incumbents in our industry because we place an emphasis on solid customer service, more user friendly technology, and an efficient back-end that enables us to offer prices that others cannot. 100%+ growth in this economy isn’t too bad.

    Whether you agree or disagree with how we do things, it has worked. I am living my dream right now. I have a great company with great partners and wonderful balance in my life, in part because we’ve taken advantage of a tech skillset that the older generation doesn’t have (from what I’ve seen).

    I’d also implore you to take a look at the entire body of work that is this blog and not just one post from one moment in time.

    In that light, I’m closing comments on this post now. I think everything that’s been said has been said. To see a “you’re a jackass” comment in my inbox every few months really does nothing for me or for this blog. I realize a lot of people have landed here from various places across the web and haven’t read other posts on this blog. I am lucky enough to be in my twenties and running a pretty successful business, so everything I write is meant to encourage more young professionals to consider entrepreneurship as a career. Please read the about page and a few other posts, and if you still feel the need to talk to me, I’m always available via email at adam [at] adam-mcfarland [dot] net.

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