Chutes & Ladders



Several months ago, I wrote about a phenomenon that's been plaguing many metropolitan centers in America these days: the fact that so few people, especially men, dress up for work anymore. My thoughts on the subject were pegged to an article that appeared in New York magazine called "Up With the Grups." "Grups" was the name the editors applied to these new adults, who, in terms of age, are way beyond the young techie-trained college grads who appear each year wearing their ubiquitous uniform: sweats and jeans to work. The guys New York was talking about are middle-aged and older.

The New York piece said of this particular male that he "owns 11 pairs of sneakers, hasn't worn anything but jeans in a year, and won't shut up about the latest 'Death Cab for Cutie' CD. But he is no kid. He is among the ascendant breed of grown-up who has redefined adulthood as we once knew it … "

In addition, the article noted that, for grups, "professional success is measured not by how many employees you have but how much freedom you have to walk, or boogie-board, away."

As if to verify the New York piece, The New York Times Styles section for June 8 ran a piece called "A Life Between Jobs." Its main point was that young workers are willing to quit even a good position "rather than limit their vacation adventures to two weeks."

According to reporter Anna Bahney, any number of young people out in the workplace "are finding that quitting their job is becoming the satisfying new alternative to the standard, entry-level benefit for vacation. As they found out, the two weeks allowed to most young employees is barely enough time to visit their parents for Christmas, go to a friend's wedding and take a long weekend."

For one young man they cite, the solution to the problem was simple: "Stop jockeying with senior employees for the prime vacation weeks. Quit and start again — but first, get away."

Of course, such behavior marks a sharp change from how jobs and downtime were conceived of in the past. As Bahney noted, studies show that earlier generations "valued tenure and career advancement. But this group sees the chutes in the world as interesting as the ladders." And though there are no recent studies that follow the employment patterns of Generations X and Y by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the organization has reported that "even those born at the tail end of the baby boom held an average of 10.2 jobs between age 18 and 38, from 1978 to 2002."

So what's wrong, asked the article, with taking all your ambition and "putting it into a bus trip through India? A climb up Kilimanjaro? A month studying Russian in Moscow?

"The trend, career experts said, is an outgrowth of today's nomadic job culture, as well as an attitude among many young people open to adventure and big experiences — and, yes, a bit of indulgence." Oh, just a bit?

What sorts of children did we boomers raise, anyway? 



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