20/20 Vision

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Baby boomers, stop rolling your eyes.

Your twentysomething offspring face such hurdles as a "quarterlife crisis" and their own generation gap with their elders as they fan out into the world of marketing.

Young people are under severe financial pressure from college loans and the fact that they will be the first generation in U.S. history not to do better economically than their parents, says Alexandra Robbins, 28, author of "Conquering Your Quarterlife Crisis: Advice From Twentysomethings Who Have Been There & Survived."

Ms. Robbins nevertheless urges twentysomethings to take risks immediately in their careers. Risk-taking is crucial "because if you don't take risks, if you don't get out of your comfort zone, then you're not going to learn, you're not going to broaden your knowledge base and experiences."

And without risk-taking, says Ms. Robbins, a Yale grad and former staffer at The New Yorker, "there's a greater chance that you won't find the things that you're passionate about."

If it's passion and risk you're looking for, then Craig Evans and the other young people featured in this Special Report have come to the right place in advertising and marketing.

"You've got to come up constantly with new ideas and be on your game-ideas that might even be good but for lack of a better word have got to be damn cool, too. And that's something you can't quantify. ... I think the whole thing is definitely a risk," says Mr. Evans, 29, who graduates next month from the Portfolio Center in Atlanta and plans to work as an art director.


With the ad industry in a period of major transition, Portfolio Center President Hank Richardson says, "You've got to have people take risks. This is not an industry that does not take risks. The equity of the business is built in taking risk, not in sitting back. ... This is not an industry set for the mild of heart."

"It's a marvelously scary time" to be in advertising, Mr. Richardson says.

Jeffrey Metzner, an instructor at the School of Visual Arts in New York, urges his students to embrace the idea of "temporary fearlessness."

"You don't have to be this way all the time," says Mr. Metzner, a veteran creative director before he began teaching a decade ago, "but bring your energy together for these moments. They have to come from a fearless place."

At a time when "the business is changing and creative is going downhill, this is the time when upstart people emerge and things start happening," Mr. Metzner says. "You need to go out and build your own little business" and find someone who has their own great idea for a new product.

But you don't have to be a headline-collecting entrepreneur by age 30.

"Get the concept of age deadline out of your life," Ms. Robbins says. "You don't have to succeed magnificently by the age of 25."

After all, she notes, if "you were to figure everything out in the next 15 years, what are you going to do for the next 50?"

Besides wait for Advertising Age to feature you in a Special Report titled Eightysomethings.

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