These kids today with their twits and their tweets, their ninth-place ribbons and their gimme gimme gimme! Lazy! Selfish! Back in my day …
Pinning the "me, me, me" label on Gen Y, millennials, or whatever you want to call them, has become so ubiquitous, Time magazine actually blasted it across their cover a few months ago: "The ME ME ME Generation."
But guess what? Twentysomethings aren't apologizing. They say it's a good thing.
"It's viewed as an extremely self-centered thing—and that's kind of the point!" said Tim Tieu, who has his own consulting firm just two years after graduating from college. " If you're not self-centered in this way … if you don't create a LinkedIn profile to show off your skills or if you don't have that personal website talking about your side projects … then you're at a disadvantage."
(Read more: These people have the best jobs in the world)
One of the biggest criticisms is that they give off a sense of entitlement.
"I think it's true what they're saying. … I just don't think it's as negative as it initially sounds," said Matt Prince, 29. "Our generation is so successful, there's a feeling of, 'You know what? I do deserve this and should be able to do something that makes me happy.' "
Prince said that many of the people complaining about this generation are baby boomers, and they're the ones who raised this generation—complete with all that coddling and everyone-gets-a-trophy mentality.
"When they started having kids it was, 'What can I do to make my family happy?' " he said. "With Gen Yers, it's, 'What can I do in my career that makes me happy?'
"I think a lot of the animosity that comes from baby boomers, it's like, 'Well, shoot, why didn't we think of that?' " Prince said.
Steve Fagan, a life coach whose clients tend to be 40 and over, said one of his key exercises is getting people to reconnect with themselves and figure out exactly what made them happy.
In other words, he's actually making them think about "ME ME ME."
"Reconnecting with self helps you to feel happy with yourself," Fagan said. "If you're happy with yourself, your confidence level goes up. If you're confident, you're able to take chances and step outside your comfort zone. … And you have more energy and more excitement to look forward to your day at work."
(Read more: Why the Hyperloop won't crush you)
That generational gap plays out in very distinct ways: Many baby boomers were taught by their parents that you don't hop around from job to job, that it makes you look unreliable. But Gen Y, with their Mark Zuckerbergs and Larry Pages, aren't letting any grass grow under their feet.
"Baby boomers wanted stability for their family. Gen Yers want growth. If they're not growing at the pace they want to, then they'll find something else. … In moving from job to job every two, three or five years, you get better titles … amazing, cool titles," Prince said. "There seems to be an expiration date that I and other Gen Yers get with our job descriptions."
And that's why at the ripe young age of 29, Prince is on his fifth job as manager of social media and digital marketing for Walt Disney. Before that, he was the senior manager of executive communications at Disney, handling speech writing and strategic communications for executives at Disneyland; he was previously director of communications at the Orange County Business Council.
How many people reach the director level by the time they're 40, never mind at 29, and, uh, two jobs ago?!
The "me" generation just isn't buying the old-timer saying that you "have to put in your time."
"Look around college campuses right now," Tieu said. "The big thing is … these entrepreneurship clubs … sponsored by companies … who understand that you can make a difference. Anyone can be like the next big entrepreneur or have the next big idea. That's what we understand and what we believe. We can go off and start our own company."
Of course, wanting to accelerate your career (and your paycheck) is fine, but one thing many 20-somethings today seem to be lacking is tact. They may be almost rudely obvious about the fact that they took this internship just to network. And, some hiring managers admit to counting the number of times a job candidate says "I" or "me" in the interview.
"Focusing on self is very good ... but you need to find the boundaries," Fagan said.
College career counselors like Kelly Brown, the director of the Newhouse Career Development Center at Syracuse University, are aware of this and are actively doing all they can to prepare students to tone down the "me me me," "I want" business and focus on showing hiring managers what they can offer the company.
They're "used to talking about themselves," Brown said. "But they can't just say things like 'I can really learn and grow here'—that type of stuff doesn't resonate with companies. They have to be able to talk about what they bring to the table. Companies are looking for, 'How can you make my job easier?' "
That is the art of networking.
"If you show what you bring to the table, they're more than happy to help you and be a contact going forward," Brown said.
And, while these kids today may be savvier at technology and social media than their older counterparts, one thing Brown said the career center focuses on is teaching soft skills—you know, good old-fashioned handshaking and talking on the phone, not just sending an email or text.
(Read more: Arggggh! Companies with the hardest job interviews)
What's more, a recent study shows the "ME ME ME" generation didn't just spring up overnight. The shift toward "me" has been going on for a couple of centuries as society moved toward an urban setting from a rural one and with the rise of technology and the availability of education.
Patricia Greenfield, a psychological scientist at the University of California in Los Angeles, used the Google Ngram Viewer to scan more than 1 million books. Her findings, which were published in Psychological Science, showed that there has been a distinct rise in more individualistic words such as "choose," "get," "feel," "unique," "individual" and "self" and a decrease in community-focused words such as "obliged," "give," "act," "obedience," "authority," "pray" and "belong."
So, before you go pointing your finger at these kids today—or me—remember, it's you, too. And as we learned from that kid with five jobs who now has an "amazing, cool title," it's not always a bad thing.
In the words of CC Bloom (Bette Midler in "Beaches"): But enough about me, let's talk about you. ... What do you think about me?
Disclosure: Cindy Perman graduated from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University.