Are Gen Y-ers Greedy or Just Different?

By Reuters  |  Posted 01-31-2008

They may be a whiz with the computer and brimming with confidence, but would you give "Generation Y" a job if you had to suffer their pushy parents and fairweather notions of loyalty?

Technologically skilled, convinced they are highly employable but sometimes genuinely useless, the new British university-educated graduates are maddening employers -- but a recession could burst their bubble.

Britain's universities are turning out more graduates than ever before, and a report on Thursday from the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGA) said employers found the generation born since 1982 ambitious, demanding, confident -- or overconfident -- tech-savvy and ethically conscious.

But they also said some were simply "self-centered", "fickle" and "greedy".

"They are coming up to recruitment stands at events and saying "what can you offer me?"," LGA chief executive Carl Gilleard told Reuters. "Better would be to say "do you have time so I can tell you what I can offer... Generation Y is me, me, me."

But perhaps unlike the more cynical, disaffected "Generation X" of the 1960s and 70s, they are less focused on salary and more on work-life balance, environment and ethics, he said.

With a job for life being something of the past, they are also seen as less loyal to individual employers.

The 217 employers surveyed -- including government organizations, major banks and companies -- said despite many applicants they had trouble finding suitable candidates.

The survey showed 22 percent bemoaning a lack of British candidates with the right qualifications, with the number of unfilled vacancies at a 10-year high and mounting numbers looking overseas.

While adept at using mobile phones and computers, recruiters complain some British recruits lack other basic skills.

"I have to go to London tomorrow," one graduate trainee at a British transport firm was quoted as saying on the phone to his mother. "But they haven't even told me how to get there."

Companies found that despite 30 or 40 applicants per position, graduates acted more surprised and distressed to be turned down than they used to be.

Parents have also become pushier at contacting universities if they feel their offspring are not being properly served and companies fear they will do the same at their workplaces.

"I think we as parents are certainly partly to blame," Gilleard said. "In America, there are now big global companies who have to have policies on how to deal with parents... Some parents are coming back and saying their children are worth more -- they are effectively acting as agents for their children."

But all that could change if a global economic downturn hits demand, he warned.

"In the early 1990s, graduates were really laying down the law saying they wanted a company car and phone," he said. "Then overnight the market turned and they had to become much more adaptable. Whether that would happen with Generation Y and if they could cope is yet to be seen."