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THEY SAY IT’S ALL IN OUR HEADS: Transitioning Life Stages

For those who think Gen Y/Millennials lack a sense of responsibility, there is validation; for the Gen Yers themselves, there’s an excuse. It’s their brains!

I am fascinated by the brain research on health and human development as well as behavioral economics – all related to what influences us to do what we do. In previous writings, I have mentioned the relatively recently labeled new stage of life, emerging adulthood or enduring adolescence, usually defined as age 18-29 (or even to 34). Brain research now tells us there is scientific evidence that explains some if the hesitation/reluctance to commit and mobility of Gen Yers.

Jeffrey J. Arnett, a professor at Clark University which recently concluded a nationwide poll of over 1,000 young adults, was quoted in the Wall Street Journal (8/21/12): “It should be reassuring for parents to know that it’s very typical in the 20s not to know what you’re going to do.”  The brain is still unfinished in early adulthood. The upside of that is it allows us to adapt to changing environments and learning things like new languages that are more difficult later on. So today’s Gen Yers benefit from things that are cognitively stimulating. This explanation offers both good and bad news to employers.

Dr. Arnett advises parents “It pays to relax and not panic because your 21-year-old, or even your 26-year –old doesn’t know what he or she is going to do. Almost nobody still has that problem at 40 or 50. We all figure it out eventually.”

Do we figure it all out by our 40s and 50s? Is the midlife crisis a myth, not to mention career transitions? A lot of Boomers are determined to keep growing and re-inventing. In this fast changing world, we all need to keep “figuring it out.” And employers and the workplace must be open to change.

 Phyllis Weiss Haserot    www.pdcounsrl.com


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