Has the Web explosion created a new Lost Generation?

The first Lost Generation is widely considered to be those who were wandering through a post-WWI world trying to come to terms with a new global reality unlike any seen before. It was the generation that includes infamous authors like Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. In more modern times, Lost Generation has been used to describe groups of younger people heavily impacted by an economic shock — the lost ones are those folks unable to jump right back into the ranks of the gainfully employed when the economy starts to turn around.

I’ve been thinking of another type of lost generation lately though — the students who graduated college in the early 2000s, a time period when the Internet was seen as the future but no one had a clue about how large a role it would play. I was having a discussion about this last night with my wife, Jessi, and two colleagues from work: Becky Johns and Angela Minicuci. Jessi could be considered part of this new lost generation to which I’m referring. A graduate of Ferris State University in 2003, she had classes on Web design and was certainly interested in the promise of a future that would involve the Internet in some way. Since then, she took her degree and her college experiences and built a solid career in public and media relations. Now, because of term limits in Michigan, she’s looking for the next step in her career as the senator she works for will be unceremoniously booted from office at the end of the year.

One of the frustrations she’s commented to me about is having to compete with students coming out of college who seem to have so many Web skills and who have probably had 10 times the opportunities she had in regard to Web design and interaction with the Internet.

Becky and Angela are good examples of this next generation of recent graduates. Just check out Angela’s online profile. She has six different ways for people to connect with her — six ways that didn’t exist when Jessi graduated from Ferris just a handful of years ago. Becky has a large personal and professional network for someone her age, and I’d attribute a lot of that to online activities via Twitter and LinkedIn.

Certainly things change over time and what we learn in college is never going to stay static. And to Jessi’s credit, she hasn’t been one to just sit and whine about the changes that have occurred. She’s involved in many of the same online services that Angela is. She has her face buried in a computer screen because of social media almost as much as I do. But as the Web-based world has grown exponentially, she’s been working to pay the bills and using her free time to try to keep up. In the meantime, young professionals like Angela and Becky have been growing up alongside the Internet. Now, it seems many potential employers see them as Internet natives whereas Jessi has to prove that, while not a native, she’s certainly a full citizen of the online nation.

What do you think? There’s no question I’m biased about this because of my relationship with Jessi. But has there ever been a time when a technology has affected a generation of relatively recent grads the way the Internet and social media are impacting the university classes of 2003?

(Jessi’s photo courtesy of Capital Gains.)

Battle Decks proves mid-Michigan’s got talent

There’s never been much doubt that the mid-Michigan market has a bevy of talented people from many walks of life — but seeing them all come together in their own way to participate and support Mid-Michigan Battle Decks earlier this week really helped prove that.

In case you missed it, Battle Decks is part of a national campaign in which you get up in front of a group to do a PowerPoint presentation that lasts about 3 to 4 minutes ā€” with the kicker being that you have no idea what is in the deck you are presenting. Some of the slides may be serious quotes, another could be an Excel spreadsheet graph, some could be silly pictures.

Mid-Michigan Battle Decks occurred on Nov. 17 at Michigan State University, thanks in large part to the graciousness of the MSU chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America. As the chapter’s professional adviser, I’m a bit biased, but I truly believe this group of talented young people really is going to help the PR profession advance and grow in the years to come. They helped me figure out the venue, offered to let Battle Decks piggyback on their monthly meeting, and then assisted me in promoting the event. Props also to Cravings Popcorn, who came for the PRSSA meeting but then stuck around — with their free popcorn — for Battle Decks.

I lined up four judges for the event. Andy Corner and Ryan Knott are two PR pros from the area, Becky Johns is a recent grad with a bright future ahead of her and Nick Lucido is a nationally acclaimed PR student. To be sure, these folks know talent when they see it, and their judging comments were right on target.

“Smooth and quick on your feet.”

“Very smooth – nice transitions — unflappable.”

“Slightly disturbing but I love your sense of humor.”

These are comments you might normally see from a speaker’s evaluation form when they know what’s on the next slide!

Kudos are due, therefore, to the great contestants who were willing to get up in front of a crowd and just start talking about whatever nonsense I put up on the screen behind them. If you haven’t gotten to know these people by networking via professional groups in town or on Twitter — you are missing out on a great opportunity. The winner for the evening was Charlie Wollborg, but he was followed closely by the other contestants in the scoring. Josh Hovey, Natalie Scott, Dan Hogan, Julielyn Gibbons, Veronica LaDuke, Jessi Wortley Adler, Ivy Hughes and Lauren Leeds should all be proud of how they performed.

If you couldn’t make it to Battle Decks, keep your eyes and ears open for another one coming to mid-Michigan in 2010.

And, in the meantime, you can check out all the presentations on YouTube, courtesy of Good Fruit Video. Which brings me to my last nod to greatness in mid-Michigan. Kraig Westfall and Justin Caine, co-founders of Good Fruit, are entrepreneurs with a young company who are out donating their time and efforts to community events in a way you would expect a much larger, well-funded company to do. These guys are just starting out, but their sense of community and their desire to be there for people because they can help rather than because they can make a buck is one reason I believe we’ll be seeing productions by Good Fruit Video for many years to come. I wish them all the success they can handle.

But enough with what I have to say about all of this. Go enjoy the presentations — but be careful, some of their bullet points are deadly!Ā  šŸ™‚