What is it About Twenty-Somethings?


As the Baby Boomer generation begins to retire over the next decade, 45% of the workforce will disappear. We’ll need young people to mature into healthy leaders in their own right.

Last week, the New York Times ran an article called, “What is it About Twenty-Somethings?” It was a treatment of the rising population who are aptly called “emerging adults” by author Jeffrey Jensen Arnett. 

The article cleverly shares 10 clues that you really are a twenty-something, including: You plan to move back home with your parents, or you wish to live out your own “Eat, Pray, Love” fantasy. The article was enjoyable — but Arnett was interviewed yesterday on The Today Show and said that stalling in adolescence is not all that bad. What’s the big deal? So young adults are taking longer to grow up — is it the end of the world? 

May I venture a response? It may not be the end of the world, but it might just be the end of the world...as we know it. Let me give you just one reason why. Over the next 15 years, 45% of the workforce will disappear, mostly due to Baby Boomers retiring. Generation X, behind them is a much smaller generation. Even if all of them were outstanding, healthy leaders — there wouldn’t be enough of them to fill the holes vacated by the exiting Boomers. Generation Y (and Generation iY, the kids born since 1990), will be needed to fill responsible, leadership positions, likely before they are ready. Certainly before many of them are ready to be “adults.”

Understanding the big picture is huge. We’ll need young people to mature into healthy, leaders in their own right. We’ll need citizens who’ve identified their strengths, discovered their passion and who apply it to a need in society around them. Our economy needs smart, savvy young adults with new ideas and an ambition to carry them out. This is why my team and I at Growing Leaders are committed to working on college campuses around the world. And it is why I spent the last two years pouring over research and interviewing hundreds of students and adults to be able to write Generation iY: Our Last Chance to Save Their Future. I am challenging adults to be a guide on the side, not a sage on the stage with this young population. Generation Y is huge. They’ll need a huge commitment from us to help them out of their postponed adulthood.

Do you see the need for equipping students with leadership skills in your home or workplace?

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