Skip to content
November 24, 2012 / W. Stanton Smith

Makers vs. Takers: the wrong way to frame a debate

The discussion of entitlements and makers vs takers is very much in the air today. Even some gen y’s are expressing the view that their generation has an entitlement mentality. I agree that this attitude exists in gen y but also in every other generation…just looks different.

In fact I believe that the word “entitlement” and the phrase “Makers vs. Takers” have been so politicized that they both have lost the capacity to be descriptive in a way that moves a much needed discussion forward. What is really being talked about in the entitlements discussion is a belief that we as a society, especially  gen y, are relatively lacking in self-sufficiency  and expect an obstacle-free life.

As I have aged and had to contend with a serious illness (Parkinsons Disease), I have modified my beliefs as to my own self-sufficiency. To paraphrase the poet John Donne “No one is an island” not even the so-called self-made successful businessperson or politician.

We face a fundamental choice in the direction our society will take. We can make all of our lives relatively short and brutal by dividing ourselves into makers and takers. In contrast we can face up to the fact that we all can have better quality of life if we cooperate with each other and accept that we’re all in this life together.

Life in and of itself presents obstacles to be overcome. We don’t have to add in extra problems that could be avoided. Some of us are gifted with the ability and drive to overcome barriers quite successfully while others struggle for a lifetime. Why make their struggles more difficult than they really need be? Is it really out of concern for their growth or some other motivation that is not so laudable like the need to feel superior to others who are less deserving in our opinion? These are questions I’ve asked myself over my career as I’ve come to grips with the ups and downs of life. The reality of our interconnectedness (whether or not we like each other or believe someone or group of ”someones” is deserving) is not optional. We breathe each others air and can make each other’s lives so much better or worse. Let’s recognize our interconnectedness and take a step towards solving our mutual problems in a way that gives hope to us all.

November 13, 2012 / W. Stanton Smith

Gen y & the 2012 Election: Permanently in the Progressive Camp or Just Passing Through

Those voters 30 years old and under (aka gen y, born 1981-1995 approximately) broke for Obama by a wide margin. When combined with higher than expected turnouts and huge margins from African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans and women (especially single women), this bloc of voters becomes a formidable force in any election. This has led some commentators to talk about a more or less permanent majority for perceived “progressive” candidates especially in future Presidential elections.

Others believe that the passage of time will take care of the currently progressive political leanings of gen y. In other words living life will make them more conservative. Bill O’Reilly of Fox News expressed this view on election night. The inference is that gen y is just going through a stage of life and that the majority of gen y will naturally adopt traditional conservative values in due course of just breathing long enough.

There is a certain level of truth in the assertion that we all become more cautious, if not conservative, in some areas of life as we age. In addition this expectation of increased conservatism as we age provides much comfort to those who don’t like the changes occurring in the demographic, political and social philosophy of contemporary society in general. But how much comfort should they take in the old bromide that older adults have offered to young people forever it seems: “When you have responsibilities (kids, a mortgage), your views will change and you’ll be less sympathetic with those who want “stuff” from the government at your expense…you’ll see that free enterprise works….giving not taking, that’s the way.”?

Is there research on point or at least some reasonably objective data that can answer the question above? I believe there are inferences to be drawn even if there is not research that is right on point. For just under a decade, beginning in 2001, I led a research effort in a major professional services firm looking at gen y. Our objective was to assess what they were looking for in a career, in an employer and in their personal lives and make changes as necessary to continue being successful in the talent marketplace.

Upon analyzing the research data, one of the biggest surprises was gen y’s deep mistrust of business aims. Further how these young people envision business being run ideally is entirely different from the way most business people believe business must be run to be commercially successful.

Here are two examples:

  1. Nearly 70% agreed with the statement “business is always talking about how they care about people-their employees, customers and communities-but they would put money and profits in front of all these if it came down to it”. Only 41 % believed that “business usually considers the non-financial, i.e., people, impact of their decisions.”
  2. When asked how they would prioritize business focus on customers, people, financial and community, they said that the top priority should be customers followed by people and financial in a tie for second place and the community a distant last place.  When asked what the reality is, they said the financial considerations were alone in first place by streets ahead of customers in a distant second place, people even further back in third place and community safely in last place.

What does this have to do with voting for progressive candidates? Plenty…based on extensive discussions with gen y’s and delving into the research, I can make the following inference: the two points shown above taken together with a gen y sensitivity to being taken advantage of and/or talked down to plus gen y’s predilection to being inclusive of different life styles and viewpoints, leads me to believe that at significant number of gen y will retain their skepticism toward the way business is conducted. This skepticism will extend to the political philosophy that goes with free enterprise capitalism as currently practiced and the candidates who stand for the traditional ways of doing business and politics.  Not all gen y will maintain this skepticism for sure but enough will retain this “progressive” viewpoint to make prudent politicians examine their assumptions about gen y. So gen y attitudes may morph towards conservatism to an extent but overall I see the preponderance of views staying in the progressive side of the house.

Put another way, Democrats should not take the gen y vote for granted as disaffection may manifest in simply not voting or general non-participation in politics. Republicans on the other hand need to find a less strident voice on controversial social issues and drop the condescending verbiage about those who don’t agree with them. If Republicans are really serious about courting the gen y vote, they need to engage in more patient explanation of why conservative views should be attractive to gen y. As it currently stands it is not at all obvious to a majority of gen y voters why they should be interested in the current type of conservative philosophy being espoused by the GOP.

Note: an extensive discussion of gen y attitudes towards business et al is available in my book Decoding Generational Differences: Changing your mindset…Without losing your mind. The book is available through

October 27, 2012 / W. Stanton Smith

Career tip #13 The boss may not know the answer already

When you receive an assignment from your boss, accept the responsibility that you are being asked to come up with an answer or answers that the boss doesn’t already have.  I once gave an assignment to a high potential gen y who was working for me in his first year after graduation. He listened and asked what answer I expected. I replied that if I knew the answer or outcome, I wouldn’t be giving him the assignment. So do the work as thoroughly and confidently as you are able and then during the discussion of your work product ask if your conclusions are in line with what your boss expected or, if they are not, ask why.

September 28, 2012 / W. Stanton Smith

Career tip #12 Treat your boss as an expert

All of us like to be seen as an expert in something. So treat your boss as an expert from whom you can learn. If you show this level of respect, you’ll see the difference it can make in your relationship with your boss.

Does it mean that you must like or agree with  everything your boss does? Of course not. The point here is to accept the fact that the boss does know more than you and take the opportunity to learn whatever you can from him or her. 

September 27, 2012 / W. Stanton Smith

Career tip #11 Play today’s game…not yesterday’s or tomorrow’s

This statement may seem cliched…but so what? There is a lot of truth in the statement. If you made mistakes yesterday, learn from them and try to do better today. Resist the temptation to revel in the sometimes “delicious” feelings of being done wrong by someone or dreaming about future revenge. All we have is today and adorning yesterday or tomorrow which don’t exist anymore or yet takes your focused concentration off today. By distracting yourself you are almost guaranteeing another yesterday of regret and tomorrow of underachieving.

September 15, 2012 / W. Stanton Smith

Career tip #10 The boss doesn’t know the answer already

When you receive an assignment, accept the responsibility that you are being asked to come up with an answer the boss doesn’t have. Once the project is done, it is fine to ask the boss if your conclusions are what he/she expected, and if they differ, you can ask why.

September 12, 2012 / W. Stanton Smith

Career tip #9 Use Social Media tools and the Internet for a Salary Reality Check

It is important to develop a realistic view about starting salaries as you begin interviewing for your first job out of school or later as you may change jobs. Unlike the past there is plenty of data to be mined but you need to exert healthy skepticism as you gather and review these data. This questioning attitude is necessary regardless of the source, whether it is the Internet or data gained from friends, colleagues and/or family.

In my experience through networking and researching on-line sources, you can develop a sufficient understanding as to what is realistic pay for a job you seek and what is just wishful thinking.

September 11, 2012 / W. Stanton Smith

Career tip # 8 The recruiter is not your friend

Treat any recruiter as an expert, even if the recruiting interviewer is nearly your age. Why? that young recruiter is an expert in the organization you are interviewing with; this is no longer a peer to peer discussion. This is all business.

Since the recruiter is not a newly found friend, avoid the informality that probably characterizes most of your interactions with your peers. He or she is doing a difficult task which includes weeding out candidates who don’t appear to be a fit. Your job is to make their job easier by giving them many reasons to be interested in you and recommend you to the next round to interviews.

August 28, 2012 / W. Stanton Smith

Career tip #7 Make sure that how you dress doesn’t become the focus of attention

Remember as you prepare to go to an interview: you are not going to a party and you are not attending a funeral. If you can , scout out what employees wear to the office of the company you are interviewing with. As a rule, while business casual will do, business attire is never out of place for an interview.

August 27, 2012 / W. Stanton Smith

Career tip #6 Every job interview could be the one that will open doors for you.

There are no exhibition or pre-season games in a job search. It’s the regular season every day.

%d bloggers like this: