Plugged In: The Generation Y Guide to Thriving at Work

By Tamara Erickson

Published on November 3, 2008 by the Harvard Business Press

Representing one third of the global population, Generation Y will dominate the workforce for the next 40 years and beyond. More than any generation before them, "Ys" will have opportunities to experiment with careers, choose jobs they love and leverage their unique talents and viewpoints to change the workplace in unprecedented ways. This savvy career guide shows them how.

The massive "Generation Y"—individuals born during the 20 years spanning 1980 to 2000—has begun pouring into the workforce in earnest. Seventy to 90 million strong in the United States, Ys are the first generation born "wired" and reared in a global, networked world. The good news is, as scores of boomers enter retirement age and organizations begin to hemorrhage talent employers desperately need Ys. The bad news is, today's managers—heralding from older generations with very different values, aspirations and approaches to work—tend to view Ys as impatient, demanding and hard to work with. How can Ys change that perception—and find a way to connect with a world of work that’s not quite ready for them?

In Plugged In: The Generation Y Guide to Thriving at Work (Harvard Business Press), Tamara Erickson argues that as the changing demographics of the workplace shift power away from boomers, Ys will find themselves with increasing opportunities to reshape their relationship with those who employ them. The key to success, Erickson says, will be for Ys to find constructive ways to "plug in" to corporations and connect with the colleagues they find there. This won’t be easy in today’s multigenerational workforce, but it will be essential if Ys are to embrace the incredible opportunities opening up for them. Based on five years of eye-opening research on the needs and preferences of Generation Y, Plugged In provides a detailed profile of this influential generation as a whole—who they are, what they value and what they’re looking for in a life and career—and then shows Ys how to use this information to customize a career path that suits their own passions, values and goals.

Erickson explores how Ys diverse cultural backgrounds, increased life expectancy and educational patterns will change the structure, length and context of their "working life" and how events and trends like terrorism, advanced technology and growing up in a strong pro-child culture shaped this generation’s self-esteem, sense of social responsibility and life and career expectations.

The book then provides a six-step framework Ys can use to sort through their options and find a career they can really plug into:
  1. Find your passion: Think about the kinds of experiences that engage and energize you
  2. Identify your preferences: Decide what work is really about for you: Creating something of lasting value? Being a part of a winning team? A secure path to success?
  3. Target your place: Weigh the pros and cons of different work environments to see which best fits your preferences
  4. Align the practical realities: Decide how much time and energy you are willing to invest in work and what you need and want in return
  5. Find the perfect job: As the right questions and watch for red flags as you interview
  6. Leverage your advantages: Request better work arrangements, expect to have multiple careers, use your technological savvy to find better ways to do things
Erickson also profiles the three other generations Ys will work alongside: traditionalists, boomers and Gen Xers—generations whose views on life and work were shaped by very different times—and offers practical tips for understanding, working and communicating effectively with older colleagues.

The work world may not be quite ready for Generation Y, but it certainly needs them. Filled with thoughtful research, insightful generational profiles and invaluable career advice, Plugged In is the must-have career guide for the latest newcomers on the corporate scene and the companies that want to attract and retain them.