Mark Kooyman
6 min readJan 26, 2024

“Embracing The 20-Somethings… Lord Help Us, They Need A Hug!”

This is an actual real dialogue among two 20-something friends I overheard in an Atlanta coffee house…

“I am no longer enthusiastic about my job… its not what I thought it was going to be”

“Me too… seems like I never really do the things I enjoyed about pursuing the career I am now in.”

“I guess I thought I would be making more money by now… I still am barely making over $100K.”

“I am frustrated because I have not been given the title of at least VP by now.”

“When I watch the TikTok videos others post you can tell that they are the ones in command at work… and I am not.”

“Shoot, that woman I report to told me I even had to start dressing better when I come into the office!”

“Yeah… well my boss told me I had to put away my iPhone and take out the earphones when I am in meetings.”

“I wish I had known that my career was going to turn out this way when I took the classes in college”

“When I turn 25 next month, I thought I would have a successful career by now.”

“Me too. It just not very fair given all the time we have invested.”

This year marks the end to any Millennials still being in their 20s.

The “20-Somethings” are now comprised of GenZers and Tweeners… Tweeners being those stuck between the Millennials and GenZers.

The two individuals … one a male and the other a female… were both Age 24 and had been out of college each for three years.

The guy had a degree in marketing and worked for a large restaurant group.

The young lady had a degree in accounting and worked for an investment firm.

They both worked out of their homes three days a week.

It appears that they both made over $100K in salary.

These two GenZers are not unique.

The 20-Somethings, who just might become their very own “Generational Group” are in a crisis mode.

Many are not happy with the world around them.

An article running in last week’s New York Times Sunday edition noted that “roughly 85% of U.S. 20-somethings polled in a new LinkedIn survey say they are thinking about changing jobs.” That is up from an already alarming stat just one year ago in 2023… 67%.

The article goes on to say that “many of the 20-somethings are discovering that they have less leverage in their jobs than they thought they did.”

A survey conducted by Gallop, reveals that “more than 75% of 20-somethings believe that the world will be less better off in the next year than it was in the past year.”

In the same Gallop survey, the 20-somethings reported that “they believe their jobs lack fulfillment” and that they find “being in the office,” “being supervised by a boss,” and “not getting a raise at least one every 6 months” (not making this up!!!!!) Is “unfair” and “unjust.”

To their defense, the staggering cost of having an apartment let alone someday purchase a home is depressing.

Nielsen reports that those in their 20s spend an average of $25 per day just on coffee drinks purchase via a drive-thru.

An article in today’s Wall Street Journal reported that 59% of Gen X parents shared in a Pew Research Center survey that they financially “helped” their adult children (those over 21 years of age) financially in the past year.

In that same Wall Street Journal article, the authors note that among adults under that age of 30, 57% still live with their parents… up from 48% in 2018.

I am writing this blog post in a coffee shop in the University town of Athens, GA that is dominated by 20-somethings.

Nearly 8 out-of 10 of the 20-somethings are sitting alone with headphones on, interacting on a laptop and periodically picking up their smart phones to text their social media “friends.”

To be honest, I come to this coffee house a lot because despite it being packed, it is very quiet and conducive for the work I have to do.

The New York Times ran an article just after the first of the year noting how many large employers are putting in place “orientation” programs for new 20-something new hires.

In those programs, they take time out to…

** Showcase basic verbal communications

** Why the iPhones and headphones have to be stowed away

** Explain how to read time on non-digital, conventional clocks

** How to script “emoji-free” text messages and Emails

** How to load staples in a stapler and that when it runs out of staples not to throw the stapler away

EXPERIENCE has a 20-something intern right now and we are very, very blessed! She was raised by “older” Baby Boomer parents and hung out with Millennial siblings.

While her area of expertise is social media, we never see her with headphones on and she communicates wonderfully in both typed text and even handwriting.

I feel the good Lord blessed us with a very, very gifted young addition to our staff.

When I presented generational insights to a business leadership group this past week, several of those attending (GenXers) made the comment that we might be blessed with the smaller size of the combination “Tweeners” and “GenZers.”

It is unfortunate, but there are few brands who are embracing the 20-somethings.

Many brands are already racing to befriend the Alpha Generation.

If you have some spare time, spend part of an afternoon and tune into networks or digital sites driven by Disney, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network.

The program is entertaining and the advertising is fascinating and you can see quickly home many brands are jumping past the 20-somethings and GenZers to capture their share of the Alpha generation!

Many of the individuals entering the U.S. legally or not are 20-somethings and many are hard working individuals.

The manufacturing and service workforce of America today is dominated by newcomers to the U.S.

Many of the incomers to the U.S. stay focused on their work, but the smart phones, headphones and ADHD mindset generated in part by the speed of the Internet and social media posts are also part of their daily engagement set too.

I personally engage a lot with individuals who I run into in public.

In my chat groups and one-on-ones with 20-somethings, I sense that they are even more driven by the ability to “personalize” their home space and self-expression/self-identity.

As much as they are remain virtually wired to the web, high-touch may be a balance gap that they seek to fill.

High touch may break Into their headset more than any form of digital.

An indicator of this may be the 20-something passion and drive to wear vintage clothing that showcases their personalized array of tats (… tattoos).

I do appeal to their Gen X parents too.

More than half of those GenX parents grew up with divorced parents who remain Hell-bent to provide their children with stability and be their kids’ anchor point.

It is time for those Gen X parents to let go… time to let their adult kids be adults.

And time for the Gen X parents to focus instead on one another for a change.

That spells opportunity too for brands who understand the inner headsets and appeal beyond their price points and websites in tapping both the 20-somethings and their Gen X parents.

If you read this and see opportunity … and it is knocking!!! … pick up the phone and call me at 404.245.9378.

If we can get the 20-somethings to put away their smartphones and headphones, I know that they would appreciate some coffee hon the house and will hang in at least for 30–40 minutes for a coffee house chat.

Mark Kooyman

CEO & Discovery Chief at EXPERIENCE Insight Group, Inc. In the business to discover and craft brand experiences that humans seek out and engage in.