THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- Gen Y: The inherent conservatives

The most prestigious place for college grads to get a job today is Deloitte, according to a Business Week story. In fact, the top three choices for Generation Y are all Big 4 accounting firms.

Are you kidding? If you ask Gen Y what's most important about work, they say flexibility, personal growth, liking the people they work with, and money.

A consulting job offers long hours in cities where you don't live, demanding clients, days of working at a client site where you don't belong, and isolation from all but a few co-workers.

Why is Generation Y going to these firms when they don't meet their top three goals?

The Big 4 are acutely aware of what young people want. Deloitte has been studying generational issues for years: workers move laterally or up or down depending on their personal goals and career aspirations. The Big 4 get the best candidates because they've been the fastest to react to new workforce conditions that place young people in the driver's seat.

Also, Gen Y doesn't admit it, but their top priority is stability: they're fundamentally conservative in their goals, lifestyle, and decision-making (not necessarily politically). They're not risk takers, boat-rockers, or revolutionaries. Young people today want a safe, nice life, and clear path to that goal.

Things start to look murky because young people are so difficult for older people to deal with at work. Young people seem to be demanding that everyone change to accommodate them. In fact, though, young people are merely demanding that the workplace live up to the values that the people who run it– their parents– taught at home: personal growth, good time management, and family first.

Why are Gen Y fundamentally conservative?

1. They love their parents.

And they want their parents to help them figure out adult life. Gen Y are hard workers, achievers, and rule followers.

According to Rebecca Ryan, author of the new book Live First, Work Second, violence, abortion and drug use are down; education, global vision, and career focus are up. 

2. They operate in teams.

This is not a generation of mavericks. This is not about self-reliance, it's about teamwork. But teamwork is inherently conservative because there's consensus. There's no infighting– Gen Y hates conflict.

3. They're not complainers.

Baby boomers got their start as people who bucked the system to protect their own interests by protesting Vietnam. Who was fighting the war? Baby boomers. But they hated the war. So they argued against it. Who's fighting today's war? Gen Y. And they hate it. But they almost never complain.

Similarly, young people hold all the power in the workplace today, but they choose to be consensus builders. They say, "Talk with us, work with us, let's understand each other."

4. They're not asking for anything crazy.

Gen Y are hard workers. The speed with which they sift and synthesize information puts their elders' skills to shame. So why complain about their demands? They're great at work, and they want to have work that's meaningful and challenging.

And this is exactly what everyone else wants from their work. These demands are not new. It's just new to hear them from an entry-level worker. But in fact, it's reasonable and fundamentally conservative since these are the values this generation has been taught to live by.

Certainly we can't fault Gen Y for wanting stability. Who doesn't want stability? Baby boomers wanted it, which is why they worked insanely long hours and surrounded themselves with tons of possessions. Gen X wanted stability, too. We just never got it because we graduated into the worst job market since the Great Depression. So we worked hard to create it for our kids instead.

Generation Y is the most conservative generation since the Great Generation that fought World War II.

So how about reframing things? Let's take another look at Generation Y– they're kids who are going to ensure that the values they were raised by will extend to the workplace. Finally.