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February 19, 2008
We Get Letters, Boy
I wrote a piece a month or so ago right in this very space, a look at the new group I call Generation Broke. TM  Please visit/revisit it here. The musing was plucked from a book I've got coming April 11 called 2011--about the future--from McGraw-Hill. I was amazed that the posting prodded people to write me in droves. Letters, posts, and a bunch a serious f**k yous to boot!

I want to share some with you in the guise of a column. Call me lazy, call me Richard. But read on....

"I am 22 years old, and am working to become the exception to your rule. I graduated high school in 2002, and immediately enlisted in the United States Navy. I believe that if the people of Gen-B could have the discipline and sense of honor that the military instills, the American workforce would witness a marked change in attitude. I is one thing missing from your article. The role-models and examples of greatness in our world have changed since Gen-X. Whereas Gen-X looked up to barons like Warren Buffett, and emulated the fictional characters of Gordon Gekko, Gen-B is left with media whores like Paris Hilton and Britney Spears."

"Just read your piece about "Generation Broke." You nailed it. I am a copywriter at Ogilvy here in NY and I see it every day. As a matter of fact, I had been trying to come up with a title for this generation, but I don't think I can top yours. I sincerely hope that the generation behind this one endeavors to build a reputation as far from Gen B as possible."

"You’ve beautifully crystallized the thoughts and discussions my cronies and I have been having for the last few years. I find it therapeutic knowing I wasn’t the only one thinking the exact same thing. Thanks for putting into words what we’ve all been suspecting. I can’t wait to read your responses to the parents of fragile adult children who will soon be responding to your column."

"Thank you for vindicating my own suspicions and disbelief and sadness re: the generational malaise. Disregard anything you may hear about the 'Midwestern work ethic.' It's all over the country."

"I have a mantra about just this exact scenario * anybody can design something that’s cool * like your buddy’s new alt/goth/neo-glam/indie band’s CD cover * and make it look good. But show me what you can do with a piece of POS that the client wants to see 100 lbs. of s**t stuffed into a 5 lb. bag....then calls back at 5:30 pm for you to add another 20lbs to it by tomorrow morning...." - 20-year creative vet

"Some seem to think that youth is the price of entry into our business. It's not --talent is, and always has been. Before unleashing your arrogance and sense of entitlement, how about actually DOING something?"

"I agree that my generation (I am 26) certainly seems to value work less than previous ones - generally - and that they feel that a college degree is a rite of passage to a job and earning more money. There are some of us in the minority that do believe in quality work, questioning the people above you, standing up for what you believe in and working hard. But which generation has been responsible for being too nice to their children, pushing education and degrees more than internships and actual jobs? I also do not subscribe to the baby boomer idea of working for 30 years to retire on a pittance and having my work define my life. I also want to actually be able to spend quality time with my children."

"You hit the nail on the head, but you quit hammering too soon! Here's another trick I learned in my twenties that those today don't know -- teamwork surpasses ego, especially around the office."

"The kids are all about fame and fortune, but as you say, they aren’t willing to do the work. They assume good connections and networking will offset doing good, well-thought out work. Some of them spent half their time trying to figure out where to meet the right people at the right place and time, so as to see what they could do for them. And I thought we were the “ME” generation!"

"I'm a fifty-something creative director who left the states in 1995 and currently live in Vietnam. And I'm here for a reason. It's more fun than working in the US right now!"

"Oh how I laugh at the new grads and a few other peers (who as you described SO accurately) who expect everything on a silver platter and are not willing to bust their ass for it. I cannot tell you how many times I have stayed up until 2 in the morning working on agency/client/pro-bono/freelance work while the rest of my co-horts went out and partied. I do it because I know it will pay off in the end and because Sir, I love what I do and had to work very hard to get where I am at now. The last thing I want is my job and dream of being a damn good Copywriter now and CD one day, ripped out from under me by some portfolio school jerk with bad puns in his/her writing and cheap cologne on his/her pieced together GAP "look"/Vintage threads."

"Everything you wrote is what I experience with my coworkers everyday. Their parents do EVERYTHING for them. They are heavily in debt (bar hopping, shopping, extravagant gift-giving) just to get their parents pay off their credit cards. By the following month, they are back where they were a month before. Mind you, we are all career transitioning in some way, while working here. However, most of the time, I can barely understand their logic in survival. They clearly have none - only mommy and daddy. They turn down jobs, because the money isn't "enough" or the position "just sounded boring". The funny thing is they don't have the experience in the first place. They have the benefit of being out of school within the last 4 years. Who knew there could be such a difference among an eight year span? I am 35, they are 27 and younger. So I commend you on a sorry, but accurate depiction of "the future."

"Generation Broke gets on MY nerves. We are needy. We are greedy. And WE don't even really know what will make us happy in our professional lives. "

"When we hire a lawn service instead of insisting that our sons and daughters get out the mower, who’s to blame when they roll their eyes at anything that smacks of grunt work?"

"Just like beauty is in the eye of the beholder, perhaps the ineptitude is in the tongue of the lasher. When you stop seeing us as little broken-winged baby birds and start expecting and treating us like adults, then maybe that’s what we’ll become."

"Yes, we love to party and live life to the fullest. Maybe we've grown up witnessing our parents focused on their careers that we've decided we don't want to be constrained by our jobs like it seems they've become. We want to live and have fun too. P.S. Your biggest mistake in life would be believing you work for someone else."

and finally . . .
"God help us all when this book hits the shelf. If this article is indicitive of the writing in his book all Mr. Laemer offers is one thing: rancor." - TheTruthHurts (their name), 27

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Richard Laermer is CEO of New York's RLM pr, representing, among others, e-Miles, Epic Advertising, Yodlee, Revolution Money, Group Commerce, Smith & Nephew, and HotChalk. He was host of TLC's cult program Taking Care of Business and speaks on trends and marketing for corporate groups. You can read Laermer on The Huffington Post and on the mischievous but all-too-necessary Bad Pitch Blog. For more like this, follow him on @laermer.

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