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Business - Written by on Sunday, November 9, 2008 11:55 - 8 Comments

The Net Gen meets a recession

“The swooning economy has also poured a cold shower on many Generation Yers, who grew up coddled, courted and figuring they’d have an easy career ride.”

There’s no doubt that the short-term job market prospects for anyone looking for a career change have been disrupted by the last six months of economic upheaval. We’ve gone from touting the war for talent to focusing on the impacts of delayed retirement and decimated pension funds on the workplace.

As a recent McKinsey report notes, “Eighty-five percent of the boomers we surveyed said that it was at least somewhat likely that they would continue to work beyond the traditional retirement age. Nearly 40 percent said that it was extremely likely, and of those, two-thirds emphasized financial reasons.”

Their decisions to either stay in, or re-enter, the workforce may push less-experienced grads and Net Geners further down the HR queue and mark a temporary end to the concept of the much-sought-after Net Gener. Economic growth from 2000 forward had kept job markets buoyant and left new grads feeling as if they were in the drivers seat. A deep recession however may smash that perceived leverage. As one commentator noted, “So it’s the Yers, mostly in their 20s, doted on and over-protected by parents, and aggressively courted by employers, who, will be most psychologically affected by this softening of opportunities. Like boomers, they thought they were special.”

But like Boomers, they’ll eventually get their turn. In the long-term, demographic trends will remain unchanged and lead to an ongoing competition for talent and skills across North America, East Asia and Europe. (Moreover, of those surveyed by McKinsey who had retired early, over half had done so for health reasons making a return to the workforce in the short-term unlikely.)

If anything now might be the time to be looking for a new job – forward thinking, strategic employers will see a glut of good young talent on the market as an opportunity to stock up for the long-term… not a bad place for a Net Gener to find a home.


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Nov 10, 2008 9:54

I worry about this generation getting the short end of the stick. They will inherit the bill of social obligations written for their parents, have a front row seat to the greatest economic downtown since the depression, be asked to fix an unstainable environmental situation, enter a saturated workforce, and be hit by global competion – the likes of which we’ve never seen before. I hope they will leave the world better off for their children, and learn from the mistakes of the boomers. Gen Y, the world is counting on you – but you can do it!

Wikinomics » Blog Archive » Collaboration in Recessionary Times
Nov 11, 2008 15:23

[...] be available for contract work and targeted initiatives. In fact, this may even be a good time to stock up on promising young talent. The pro-collaboration folks suggest that collaboration can lead to new growth opportunities that [...]

Naumi Haque
Nov 12, 2008 9:21

Actually, it’s probably the Gen-Xers that are going to get screwed over. The 30-45 demogrpahic are all lining up for those lucrative senior management positions that will only open up once the Boomers retire.

The Net Geners will probably be okay. As you mentioned, there may be some stockpiling of young talent, so they could land entry-level jobs despite the economy. Failing that, the next generation of young workers can always weather the storm in their parents’ basements playing Xbox 360, working odd jobs to cover their student debts, and planning their business start-ups for a time when investment capital once again becomes available ;)

Wikinomics » Blog Archive » Net Gen Management — keep them in the loop
Dec 11, 2008 12:07

[...] also gets back to a post that Dan Herman wrote — how will the Net Gen react to an economic downturn? Will workplace attitudes change? Will [...]

Wikinomics » Blog Archive » Who’s next?
Dec 22, 2008 11:11

[...] 22nd, 2008, 11:11am Last month I wrote about the impact of recession on youth, and in particular, the impact of a severe recession on [...]

Grown Up Digital » Who’s next?
Dec 23, 2008 15:57

[...] month I wrote on Wikinomics.com about the impact of recession on youth, and in particular, the impact of a severe [...]

Cole M
Apr 16, 2009 12:52


As a recent graduate and a Net Gener I have been feeling much of what you expressed in your post. I have been looking for entry-level business positions across North America and Europe, but with so much competition and so few positions it has been difficult, to say the least. Jobs I have interviewed for have been cancelled or filled by grossly over-qualified individuals with a family to support – something that I have no control over, but it still results in a feeling of discouragement.

Naumi’s comment on this post basically sums up what I have done to fill my six months of unemployment. I have kept my mind sharp by reading and producing articles that are relevant to my career goals, creating business plans for potential start-ups, volunteering my skills to a local organization andrelieving stress on the golf course and with my Xbox. Once every seven to ten days I will spend the entire day scouring job opportunities, preparing cover letters and hoping for interviews. I always knew that the number of applicants would be high, but when I was one of the 186 applicants exposed by Twitter (http://valleywag.gawker.com/5155309/twitter-exposes-186-job-applicants) it really sunk in.

I should also add that I have received a great education, having both BBA and BSc degrees as well as sixteen months of relevant co-op experience for the fields I am pursuing – it is difficult not to get discouraged when there was so much promise a year ago.

Youth discontent:Who’s next? « Dan Herman Research & Consulting
Jan 18, 2010 19:50

[...] month I wrote about the impact of recession on youth, and in particular, the impact of a severe recession on [...]

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