20 Something Jobs: Coddled At Work

on Thursday, Dec. 16th

You know you’ve made it as a generation when you’re mocked on the most recent episode of 30 Rock. I wish I could find the video, but the dialogue will have to do:

Jack: I’ve cast a wide net, but even the junior executives here… There’s something wrong with this generation.

Junior Executive [walks in with floppy hair and eyes glued to his Blackberry]: Hey, Jack! Sorry I’m late. B-t-dubs, I gotta leave for my ironic kickball league in about 10. Also, I’m not interested in this position unless I’m gonna be constantly praised. And I won’t cut my hair.

This scene came to mind when I came across an article on Youth Radio’s site today about an advertising company called Mr. Youth.  The agency, (which specializes in youth marketing), prides itself on its retention of young employees. Apparently, there’s a whole group of us out there who aren’t so much worried about unemployment as they are boredom. Mr. Youth is trying to hold onto these young, talented, ADD employees by offering some pretty sweet perks like unlimited vacation time, no set office hours…and a dodgeball team?

Youth Radio’s article explains:

According to a study done by Mr. Youth, 37 % of “Millenials” (or those born around the 1980s) left their jobs because they just” “needed a change.”   They also found that the average 26-year-old has already held seven jobs.  Mr. Youth works hard to make sure their young employees stick around.

According to Akin [Mr. Youth's Chief Engagement Officer], between 60 – 70% of their employees are twenty-something, and no one abuses the flexible policies, like unlimited vacation time.  “People work weekends and nights, but that’s just part of the passion. It’s less about coming in at nine and leaving at five. We’ve made a fun culture where it doesn’t feel like work,” said Akin.

So call me a curmudgeon and you’d be correct, but these buddy-buddy office policies freak me out. There’s something wrong with being so comfortable at work that you voluntarily come in weekends when you could be cashing in on your unlimited vacation hours.

My friend works for one of these ‘cool’ companies–Apple–and it’s hard not to see the appeal. They sent her out from New York to California for 3 weeks paid training, gave her a 60 dollar-a-day stipend for food, paid for a rental car and just about everything else.  But here’s the part that creeped me out: while my friend took advantage of these policies and went out on the weekends, almost all her coworkers opted to stay in their hotel rooms and play video games. For many of them, it was their first time in California, and abomination of abominations, they chose to spend that time in Cupertino.  Close to the company headquarters at all times.

Look, it makes sense that a youth marketing firm called Mr. Youth has found the most effective way to market employment to its own youthful employees.  They’re probably right that they’ll retain their 20-somethings longer than the average company.  But I have to wonder–isn’t the joke ultimately on the 20-somethings themselves?  Sure, they’re worth being coddled now in exchange for their youthful insight, but what happens when they hit 30?

Corey McCall with the video game controller that measures the level of excitement in the player. Linda A. Cicero / Stanford News Service

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