Dear Baby Boomers: A Message From Gen Y : Under30CEO Dear Baby Boomers: A Message From Gen Y : Under30CEO
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Dear Baby Boomers: A Message From Gen Y

| March 9, 2010 | 54 Comments

Generation YDear Baby Boomers,

I know you’re not my biggest fan. I’m one of those pesky GenY twenty-somethings that you’ve called “cocky,” “lazy,” and “incompetent.”  It appears our generation has hit a nerve, really gotten under your skin.  Well, I am writing to you because I feel like we’ve gotten off on the wrong foot. Please hear me out.

I’ve thought long & hard about what it must be like from your perspective, and I have some theories about your frustration. I will have to generalize, but from the many papers & articles published about GenY as a whole, I think you will understand.  Here it goes-

Many of you were raised the sons & daughters of hard-working middle class Americans & first-generation immigrants. Growing up, you watched your parents make sacrifices & work incredibly hard to realize the American dream, even when fair employment was rarely offered to those not educated in America. As young men, you faced drafts & as young women you had to break down the barriers of inequality in the work place. You did not have it easy but you were determined to succeed.  Many of you were the first in your families to receive higher education and entered the workplace hungry for success.

For years you worked diligently, providing a lifestyle for your family that you could only dream of as a child. All of the things you had to work so hard to achieve, you happily handed to us, your children.

We gladly accepted the opportunities provided to us and as youngsters, always sought your advice.  However as we enter adulthood, many of us having graduated college; masters programs; and/or started promising careers, some of us are turning away from the path that has been so carefully laid out before us.  As a result, you feel betrayed, taken advantage of, and ignored.  You might assume we are lazy & unwilling to work hard to achieve success the way you did. You think the environment of positive reinforcement you raised us in has created an epidemic of spoiled, self-involved young adults.

Am I close?

If it sounds at all familiar, I think we can clear a few things up. First of all, please know that we are grateful for the sacrifices you made for our generation; we recognize everything you did and know that we could not be where we are today without you help. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

That being said, I’d greatly appreciate it if you could consider the below:

  1. You are right that many of us do not want to work the way you did, BUT by no means does that imply we do not want to work hard.  While we may not be following the standard 8am-6pm cubicle job, modern technology allows us to be productive from anywhere at anytime and we are taking advantage of it.  You may not consider tasks like utilizing social media or blogging “work” but believe me, if you are contributing anything valuable, it is!
  2. We have different definitions of success than you do.  Many millennials are placing greater importance on quality of life than monetary success alone.  After receiving top educations & gaining valuable experience, we are passing up some very lucrative, respectable careers, but we prefer to be passionate about our jobs and are willing to make financial sacrifices to get there. I understand your frustration- tuition costs have skyrocketed and you want to get your money’s worth.  However, instead of judging the worth of our education based solely on our starting salaries, please try to look at the whole picture. You’ve given us the background to find careers that not only support us but more importantly are fulfilling. Perhaps we are starting our own business or following another, non-traditional career path, but trust that whatever we do, we are not treating it lightly.  With the constant restructuring of modern businesses, we are concentrating on building our individual worth by pursuing careers we are passionate about with the hopes to achieve long-term success.
  3. (The one that really gets to me.) We’re tougher & more grounded than you give us credit for. When you have gone through such lengths to prepare us for the real world, how is it that you so quickly assume we are making foolish decisions? We don’t expect success to be handed to us on a silver platter; give us a little credit & maybe even a chance to prove ourselves.
  4. And finally, we’ve learned from watching you.  Like every generation, we observed your trials & tribulations and have learned from them. Perhaps we saw marriages fall apart or witnessed our fair share of mid-life crisis among the neighbors. Whatever it was that influenced us, it is time for us to start our own journeys, make our own mistakes, and eventually give the generation after us their very own list of problems to avoid!

The best way for us to understand & maybe even help each other is through open communication. I hope this is a good start.



Written by: Tina Paparone is the co-founder & CEO of the unique gift company BeMe, which creates products to inspire girls to embrace their individuality. Find out more about BeMe & Tina’s other projects at

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  • angelagiovine

    Nice job. I couldn't agree more. My sister Tina was also profiled by AOL news on a similar topic here

    Love you guys at Under30CEO!

  • Jared O'Toole

    Thanks! That's an awesome article over on AOL also. Tina's doing some great things!

  • Srinivas Rao

    Great article. It might take a while for the baby boomers to come to terms with everything we’re doing and the way we’re doing it, but all the points made in this article are spot on.

  • Tina Paparone

    I would love to hear what everyone thinks. My theories are largely based on my own personal experiences. Has anyone had similar thoughts? Or a totally different experience? Any baby boomers out there who think I have this all wrong?

  • Jason

    I daresay this message also applies to me (as a Gen X’er) to my WWII parents.

  • Shallie Bey

    Dear Gen Y,

    You are 100% right! Gen Y and Baby Boomers have much in common, especially entrepreneurs. You are our children or grandchildren. So, we care about you and your future. In my case, three of you are my children and will eventually be the parents of my grandchildren.

    Secondly, you have important and interesting things to say. I personally follow @under30CEO. I'm @ShallieBey. Check your follower list to confirm that if you like. And I didn't just begin to follow you this morning.

    Additionally, though we form businesses at a faster rate than any other generation, you start businesses much earlier in life than most of us. There is room for collaboration. I have written about that several times.

    People say things like you want daily feedback and constant reinforcement that you are making progress. Isn't that exactly why people become entrepreneurs and manage bottom lines to measure daily success?

    Aren't many of us baby boomers trying to start businesses that give us better work/life balance than what we have had in the past? Is there anything wrong with you wanting to avoid right up front something that is not in balance rather than having to abandon it as we are? Funny, we are trying to get to the same end point. Just, watching us, you figured it out sooner.

    My opinion is that you are exactly right. I applaud your call for better communication and will support it in every way that I can.

    Shallie Bey
    Smarter Small Business Blog

  • Jared O'Toole

    Great stuff Tina. I love part #2. I agree that a lot of the conversation is simply based around the fact that we have different definitions of success. It's not about monetary success at all but rather that lifestyle goal. We have been given a great opportunity with technology and other resources today to truly pursue things we love.

    I think its great when I meet someone who passed up a high paying job to go after something that created more personal value to them. I think in the end that leads to more happiness for themselves and everyone around them!

    But without a doubt we appreciate the fact that we got those pricey degrees. It's not that they are worthless to us. Those years, the things we learned and the connections we made at school are still so important in the creation and development of the paths or businesses we choose to create.

  • chrisreddin

    Excellent post. It tracks closely to a article I wrote recently for a local magazine: Businesses feel younger workers “text too much”, while young professionals feel underpaid and uninspired. Who's right?

    I think there is middle ground between Boomers and Gen Y in a shared sense of wanting to make the world a better place. Gen Y just wants to do it differently, and why is that a problem?

  • Rob

    Heh, now only to get Baby Boomers to read this article! Sorry in seeing that irony. I couldn't agree more though, I think bringing perspective to both parties, in large by collaboration and communication is what will help people find that middleground. I certainly know for one I need mentors, I need people with experiences! I leap to offer them what I know about the the new tools when someone is receptive.

  • robvsmith

    I really enjoyed this article.

    As a 24 year old running a start up I would say that what you say is right about a small portion of Gen Y.

    Say what you want about quality of life, but living in a perpetual state of beer pong and sleeping in the same bedroom you had when you were 9 while complaining when your parents get on you about finishing college or getting a job is simply one of the symptoms of a spoiled generation.

    Again, I'm not saying this is wrong. I'm just saying that while it is right, it is right about the minority of people that are Gen Y. For every person who is willing to bust their ass there are about nine people willing to live in their parents homes and just hang out with friends while contributing nothing to society.

  • joemurtagh

    At age 64, the lead edge of boomers…I agree and think you have much to offer and will make our world an even better place.

  • Jared O'Toole

    Great to hear it! I hope we all can follow through on that.

  • Jared O'Toole

    I agree that there are always some people who are laying back and acting spoiled. But I haven't seen it that much. Most friends are actively trying to finish school and get on with their own lives. Their parents don't have to push them to do it they are trying to do things as fast as possible.

    Maybe its a case of a few bad apples ruining it for the whole bunch.

  • Jared O'Toole

    There definitely is a middle ground but of course that is the hardest thing to find. I don't think we will ever find the perfect solution. But as long as everyone keeps learning and stays open minded we will get close.

  • Tina Paparone

    Thanks for the response, Shallie! I couldn't agree more that we “are trying to get to the same end point.” Oddly enough, my experience has shown some of the people who are taking the exact same steps later in life to have voiced the strongest criticism to my leaving corporate america to start a business at 25. It is wonderful to know that is not the general concensus! I hope to hear more from people like you in the future.

  • terrierolwes

    Gary, I'm a 52 year old professional women who couldn't agree more! As a parent all I wanted for my children was for them to have a better life, an easier life than I. I think that is what our parents wanted for us, and their parents for them.

    While the baby boomers whine and complain about the younger generation, as our parents did about us (don't forget the pot smoking, liberal, loud music that didn't make any sense generation), life will pass them by as the miss the opportunity to be part of the Gen Y and X generations.

    Wake up baby boomers! You've given your children the gift of an outpouring of love, made them feel special, in some cases spoiled them rotten and now you expect them to be you! They don't want to be you, they want to be what you truly wanted – they want to be themselves. With new ideas, more creativity and the gift of thinking, dare I say, outside the box!

    Our country needs these gifted youngesters to take us through the Millenium! We are going to count on them, and their gifted, creative, innovative ideas to get take us the the “technology.2″ period. The Industrial Revolution is GONE!

    I am so happy to be working with young, vibrant, brilliant adults and am grateful they let me play in their sandbox, and oh yes, even ask me for advice now and again. You see, while they don't want to tell you, they do still listen to the older generation.

    Terrie Rolwes
    WoW Customer Experience Group

  • Tina Paparone

    Hi Rob- I am really glad you can relate to the article & think that the concerns you voiced are felt by a lot of people.

    I have largely witnessed my friends out-grow the “perpetual state of beer pong and sleeping in the same bedroom you had when you were 9…” and really begin to passionately pursue their life goals over the last few years- whether entrepreneurial pursuits or not. I even have one friend who turned the partying/sports watching life-style of college into a very successful blogging career; it’s interesting to see the way GenY can take something that was never considered “work” & turn it into a successful business. I think that is where a lot of the criticism is rooted- thinking that following something we are passionate about it not a serious career. Of course, that is not the case for everyone but in my experience the majority is truly motivated. For those lagging behind, I believe that if we bring better light to all of the awesome career possibilities for our generation they will soon be inspired to step it up :-)

  • robvsmith

    Jared, I'm glad to hear that. I've had a very different experience with my own peers. The joke is that I am an “old man” who would rather work than get drunk… of course that's good for me, it's easy to shine like a diamond when I'm surrounded by coal.

    Tina, I think there is a lot to be said for the alternative career possibilities that are not typically considered work. I've been lucky in that my own parents and grandparents have been supportive of me getting into internet videogame development. And your point of people not knowing all the possibilities is also very accurate. I sincerely hope that more people are willing to take advantage of these things.

  • terrierolwes

    I agree Rob! I mentor many and learn from even more!

  • Steve Latham

    I think this is a good perspective of how Gen Y views the workplace, and the points are communicated well. But having hired 20+ Gen Y employees over the past 4 years, I’d like to challenge a few assertions, namely the statement “..we prefer to be passionate about our jobs and are willing to make financial sacrifices to get there.”

    In my experience, many Gen Y’ers are long on passion, but somewhat short on sacrifice. And despite limited experience, skills and job-specific knowledge, they often have unrealistic expectations regarding compensation. The bottom line is that most new hires require a significant investment in training (12-18 months) before they can become effective producers, allowing their employers start to see a positive ROI. Many feel they should earn more today, based on value they will contribute in the future. Unfortunately, businesses can’t succeed based on this model.

    As a Gen X entrepreneur, I’ve observed that many 20-somethings have yet to learn that all the passion, intelligence and zeal won’t compensate for lack of practical experience, skills and expertise in a particular role or function. I know because I was one of them. As a newly minted Harvard MBA, I thought I was qualified to do pretty much anything that I set my mind to. It took 10 years for me to realize how little I actually knew about the roles I landed in my late 20′s (VP of a private equity firm, VP of a software company). Looking back, I would not have hired me for those roles; I would have hired someone who had direct experience and a track record of success in those roles. I would have hired someone I didn’t have to train. And I would have scaled the compensation to their skills and experience.

    I also think that among 20-somethings, there’s too much of an self-centered view of the universe (NOTE this is not specific to Gen Y – this has been true for all generations). Young employees have a lot to offer but they need to realize they must earn respect and think about the organization, not just themselves. If instead of asking “can I come in and 10am, work from home 2 days / week and get an early raise?” they asked “what can I do to be of greater value to the organization?” the increase in compensation, respect and autonomy would come naturally.

    Good topic for discussion!

    Steve Latham

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  • bepcerf

    Hear! Hear!
    As a Mom of four Gen Yers I couldn't agree with you more! We have so much to learn from each other! Open lines of communication are crucial. Today is SO much better than when we were your age. We Baby Boomers are a generation of one phone call a week home to our parents, maybe. And even then the conversation was brief (I can still hear: “these calls are expensive.”) Thank God for cell phones, text and email. As a result, we hear from our kids more, we can “check in” and be quite content with a text back: “thx mom”. You guys are terrific tech support! I'm sure I drive my kids crazy with my questions about Facebook or blogging…, but I also know that I feel more in touch, hip and happening as a result of their tutelage. I have total faith in you guys and the decades to come! I also think some of the advice and consultation we give is indeed appreciated! Please check out my blog, I blog about parenting Gen Y (as a matter of fact, my tech support is walking me through a new website with exactly that title!) :)

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  • Jared O'Toole

    Haha I hear the same thing…Its not that I don't want to go out a lot but some times I just have work to get done on a saturday night. But I know it will all pay off!

  • Jared O'Toole

    Thanks for the comment Terrie! Glad you see it that way and are so excited to be working with the younger generation. And I can tell you first hand we still do listen to the older generations even if we don't admit it all the time!

  • Jared O'Toole

    Great to hear you have faith in us! And I think all these stereotypes come because today is so different then years ago. There are simply other paths and other opportunities in front of everyone. I don't think its wrong to at least and go after these things and explore more options in life before settling into something.

    Hopefully we won't let you down and live up to your expectations!

  • WriterChanelle

    “You may not consider tasks like utilizing social media or blogging “work” but believe me, if you are contributing anything valuable, it is!”

    This is so true! It takes much more savvy, intelligence and skill to run a SM campaign or manage a blog than any cubicle job I’ve ever had.

  • benjaminmccall

    Glad you are open to thoughts. This may come across negatively but not my intent:
    I think some of it is bull and some of it is true. I also believe that the main issue that we all have within our differences (baby boom, X, Y, Millennial) is that we more often use our own experiences and general perceptions to make these arguments. Many times our own perception is flawed. Instead of treating each individual as an individual we bring all the baggage in and dump it.
    I think you are right in your own perceptions but wrong in trying to explain them to boomers just as they (in your writing) have possibly tried to explain or push their ideas and path on you.
    No matter, we all do this regardless of age.
    I love the conversation

    Twitter: @BenjaminMcCall
    Website: &

  • MattWilsontv

    Hi Shallie, it's amazing how many of our readers are over 30. They love to relate to the enthusiasm of people striving for their goals. You are absolutely right, we are all trying to get to the same end point–hopefully writers like Tina can continue to inspire people to accelerate success!

  • Tina Paparone

    Hi Benjamin,

    Thanks for commenting! I agree that the whole baby boomer/gen y discussion largely revolves around various perceptions & that my article was shaped by my own experiences. I think I get what you mean- that the whole argument is just a mish-mash of people being close-minded & we are thus arguing in circles. My thought process is that by opening the lines of communication, it would force everyone individually to address whatever assumptions they've made & re-evaluate. My point of view is definitely not applicable to everyone but I hope that the article allowed everyone to explore & better understand any generation gap tension they have personally experienced. By talking about it, we can all learn to open our eyes more.

  • chris3002

    i agree 100%…..i am thrilled to see gen y'ers who pave their own way….i believe that each society should try to create a better society than the previous one. see ing gen y'ers who do not define themselves by lucrative salaries and corner offers is extremely refreshing.

  • Jared O'Toole

    I like the thought that each generation should try to pave and create an even better society then the last. This takes innovation and change which is a good thing. Glad you liked it!

  • mel478

    Interesting points Tina! I feel like you're right, you can't paint an entire generation with one broad stroke, and it looks like you really try to address that point.

  • KCDaisy

    Great post!

  • SEOcopy

    Ahh what a refreshing post, funny I wrote a post “almost” like this one but, of course speaking for my generation. Great minds think alike ;) You may want to share it with your readers.
    Kids- You Can’t Stop What’s Coming I have to admit I am amazed at how many young people aren't as articulate as you are. You are a wonderful spokesman for your generation, I think I may have a crush on you ;)

  • Tina Paparone

    I am so happy that you like it! I have to admit, when I originally wrote this article I was a little anxious that people would not identify. However, the response has been overwhelmingly positive! Articulating feelings can be difficult- especially when frustrated- so I hope that this has helped some of my fellow GenYers & the Baby Boomers alike.

  • Tina Paparone

    I am so happy that you like it! I have to admit, when I originally wrote this article I was a little anxious that people would not identify. However, the response has been overwhelmingly positive! Articulating feelings can be difficult- especially when frustrated- so I hope that this has helped some of my fellow GenYers & the Baby Boomers alike.

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  • harshika

    Do u know any thing about fashion awareness of gen Y

  • Beppie

    Dear Gen Y,
    I write about parenting you!
    I agree, you guys get a bad rap AND we Baby Boomers are somewhat responsible! After all we are your parents. You're right, we can get along AND btw, we LOVE hearing from you, being a part of your lives and contrary to popular belief, we can ratchet our involvement back…a lot! We love being consulted on stuff and many of us continue to support you, emotionally, financially…because, to us, you will always be our kids and we love you. But make no mistake, we do expect you all to be independent and productive members of society. That doesn't mean we won't be cheering you on and applauding your successes! Cheers!

  • TinaPaparone

    I'm not sure if this is directed to me, but I can't say that I do- best of luck! How about Alyssa?

  • TinaPaparone

    I'm not sure if this is directed to me, but I can't say that I do- best of luck! How about Alyssa?

  • Kingchuckfong

    Dear Offspring:

    The articles's summary text is already a given in our minds. Your understanding of our generational sacrifices is already figured into life's formula, i.e. we EXPECT you to see that larger picture with maturity. Your own journey to experience life through the learning process of making mistakes is not to be tampered with. It is good that you recognize a life is one of his/her own making, one to be carved out by your own hand. It is good that you perceive through your observations of our actions the generational methods we use to deal with the challenges we face . . . as you ultimately will also. We seek merely to give you the proper tools to do the job and for the long journey ahead.

    Though the time machine settings may be different, with technology replacing antiquity, cyberspace replacing postage, certain principles will remain timeless. You will forever be challenged with life's ups and downs albeit differently. Always carry the right tools. Your shipment of hardships and grief may have a different label but the need for guidance, hope, and love are all the same.

    Medical breakthroughs and conquests of prior unmanageable diseases and plagues are replaced with new mutations that threaten populations. Loss of loved ones will endure despite all earthly efforts.

    As the larger picture continues to materialize in your minds through the passage of time it is then that the tree begins to bear fruit. Wisdom is a gift given only to the experienced soul and not to the foolhardy. Positively persist onward without cessation until success results. There is no other viable approach.

    And when the mantle of success is reached along your journey . . . it then becomes time to pass the torch.

    Baby Boomer RCF

  • Rick Ladd

    I swear, Tina, I could have written this to my parents 40 years ago. I’m now firmly convinced I am part of a very small cohort of boomers who didn’t follow the plan. As a 63 year old with two young children (9 and 6), I’m surely not in the same mold as the people you addressed here and maybe that’s why I resonate so strongly with your message.

    As an example, I learned how to work hard but always thought it was more about how smart you worked. If you can get the same thing done in half the time, why not? As a knowledge management professional, I also appreciate the value of blogging and using social media to share information and co-create knowledge. Also, money has never been a primary objective of mine. I guess that’s pretty weird for a boomer, but there were an awful lot of us back in the late sixties and early seventies who seemed to think that way. It seems most of them just gave up and decided to take the path of least resistance. Jackson Browne did suggest such a thing in his lyrics to “The Pretender”, but I guess I didn’t realize just how thoroughly some had gone down the garden path.

    At any rate, I hear ya sister. I am entirely supportive. I pursue and embrace change and I think y’all are doing a bang-up job. As they say, “non Illigitimi carborundum”.

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  • CC

    Dear Offspring,

    I enjoyed reading this and I appreciate your comments. I am a baby boomer in my 50′s I must tell you that I really enjoy Generation Y. I recently went back to college, just for the experience, and I have had great experiences with the younger students. I hate to say it but the Gen Xers were a bit difficult. Gen Y’s are friendly and easy to approach, intelligent, happy to help, and have respect for individuals from all walks of life. I am really looking forward to seeing what Gen Y does for our world.

    I do have a question that I am hoping you will answer regarding your point #4 (we learned from you). I believe that you have seen a lot. I have too (parents divorced several times, wars, etc), so I am hoping you might be a bit more specific on what the BB’s passed on that is of value to Generation Y.

    Thank you!

  • Offspring #1

    Hey CC,

    I can’t speak for everyone, because we’ve all had our different experiences, but there are several items that stick out for me regarding #4. The one that had the greatest impact on me? I’ve watched my father get jacked around by corporations his entire life. From my understanding, this is significantly different from how things worked for the previous generation—where many people could work at one company their entire career. I watched as corporations merged, moved, downsized, and disregarded his wellbeing as a loyal employee. Corporations have effectively raised a completely non-loyal generation of workers. It isn’t to say that I won’t work hard at a job or take a specific job because of it, but I’m wary and will strive to be the least dependent on these bodies as possible.

    The second item that seems to have had a great impact on me (although a less direct response for #4) is my experience with politics in general. Keep in mind that I’ve only been politically self-aware for a little over two presidencies. I’ll try not to delve into political arguments, because those are irrelevant to my point. But what I’ve experienced seems to be an extreme polarization of politics. The left and right seem to be anchoring into their positions, neither of which satisfies my own thoughts and ideals. Meanwhile both major parties seem to cater only to the needs of the big corporations while disregarding the needs of those they represent.

    I’d love to hear your response, especially to my political rant. Have things always been as polarized as they seem to be now?

    Offspring #1

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  • Bobglob

    Someone didn’t get laid in college, eh?

  • Ausfhasuhgaw


  • Allison Webster

    It’s all been summed up in the new “Baby Boomer” song that just popped up on YouTube. Hear it yourself. It nails ‘em.