WISE BEYOND THEIR YEARS: a conversation with Gen Y

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They may be young, but when it comes to the job market, Generation Y knows what they want, and more importantly, how to get it. These 71 million young people, born between 1977 and 1994, will be occupying the cubicle next-door soon enough. In fact, some of them - the oldest of the bunch graduated college last year - are already among us.

Meet Nicole Romoli. The 23-year-old graduated in 1999 from the University of Arizona, with a degree in business and public administration and an emphasis in marketing. Not surprisingly, Romoli landed a job immediately with an Internet security software company in Santa Clara, California, at a starting salary of $38,000. Within the year, she was promoted to advertising manager and bumped up to $55,000. "My mouth dropped when I first heard that," she says. "But, I must admit, I get the urge to want more."

Here's what one Gen Y representative has to say about her working world. Pay attention. She may be on your payroll someday.

What do you look for in a job?

I was looking for training, fair compensation, and most importantly, a positive company culture. If you are in a place that allows you to be yourself, you're more motivated. My intuition was to take this job. My mom told me to leverage this offer to get a higher paying position, but I just felt this was right for me.

...My work has become very personal. That is one thing I never thought I would find in a job. Your job can become very addictive, especially when you love it.

What makes a good boss?

My boss is the reason I stay here. She empowers everyone who's under her. She takes everything you say into consideration and is very open and positive. She also gives me a lot of flexibility - I can take the day off if I need it or work from home. As long as I get my work done, that's what matters.

Do you see yourself staying at one job the rest of your life? Are you "loyal"?

I'm loyal to this company because I know they will increase my skills and I also really enjoy the friendships I've formed. But I don't think loyalty is based on the number of years you stay with a company. It's based on the honesty and respect that exists between people you work with. I know I'll be done here in about a year, but only because I don't think the next position will be available when I'm ready for it.

Do you plan to go back to school or take additional training courses in the future?

I think my college degree only takes me so far. I probably should get my MBA. I'm also constantly going online to become more informed about what's going on in my field and getting a better understanding of what I need to do my job better.

Did both your parents work when you were growing up? How did their working arrangements influence your work ethic?

Both my parents worked while I was growing up. My mom used to work out of our home, so I was used to seeing deadlines and business relationships. It made me realize the importance of being a leader and a team player. They taught me never to bring business home with you unless you have to. Enjoy work for what it is, but don't let it rule your life. I always knew I wanted a career and that I wanted to be at the top - CEO, VP, you name it. I would like to achieve this goal before I have a family because then I'd like to be a stay-at-home mom. But that could change, you never know.

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