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5 Things Gen Y Can Do to Survive Recession, Layoffs

By Meridith Levinson, CIO
November 04, 2008 06:00 PM ET

CIO - In some ways, Generation Y professionals may be better positioned than Baby Boomers and Generation X workers to survive a recession. For one, they don't have the same strong allegiances to their employers that their Boomer and Gen X counterparts have, which some experts say might make it easier for them to cope with being laid off. Nor do they have the same financial burdens as Baby Boomers and Gen Xers. So if Gen Y professionals do get laid off, they have fewer expenses to worry about. (For more reasons why Generation Y is well prepared to survive an economic downturn, see 5 Reasons Gen Y May Survive Recession, Layoffs Better than Gen X and Boomers.)

But in other ways, a recession could come as a complete shock to Generation Y. They've never before experienced an economic downturn as working adults, and the resulting budget and job cuts may come as a rude awakening for this entitled, coddled generation that expects special treatment from its employers. (For more reasons why the economic crisis could be a sobering experience for Generation Y professionals, see 5 Reasons Gen Y is Unprepared to Survive Recession, Layoffs.)

Whether they're poised to withstand the economic storm or whether they're going to get soaked by it, Generation Y workers will have to change their expectations of their employers and their behavior in the workplace-if they want to hold onto their jobs, career experts say.

1. Gen Y workers must understand that they can't have it all during a recession.

Generation Y is notoriously demanding of employers. In a 2007 CareerBuilder survey, employers reported that millenials expect raises and promotions within a year of starting a new job, access to consumer technologies and lots of vacation time.

It's no wonder that they're so demanding: Lisa Orrell, a generational relations expert and author of Millenials Incorporated, says that when members of Generation Y began entering the workforce four years ago, job security was a given, and some of them received generous signing bonuses. But that rosy economic picture is now history, says Orrell, who notes that starting salaries are going to be lower for millenials and perks like signing bonuses are now but a dream.

She says Gen Y professionals have to change their expectations of their employers. They can't expect to get a job, let alone a high starting salary or signing bonus. Nor can they expect their employers to cater to all of their training and technology needs.

"They're going to have to be very understanding of the challenges their employers are facing," says Orrell. "They have to be more patient with their employers. If they're not getting everything they want, they can't just jump ship to another employer because the job market isn't very good right now."

2. They need to market themselves and show some investment in their employers.

Millenials have a pretty bad rap in the workplace. In addition to being viewed as demanding, they're also known for not being particularly loyal to employers. Their transactional relationship with their jobs could hurt them as their employers contemplate staff cuts.

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