In the Eighties they wanted to be yuppies. Then they were slackers. Has the picture changed? Rosie Millard talks to three young adults from different backgrounds about work in the Nineties
The secretary Bryony Gibbins will be 20 next month. She was educated at Roedean, a girl's private boarding school in East Sussex. She has nine GCSEs, two A-levels and an A/S-level (equivalent to half an A-level). She lives in her own flat in Kingston andattends St James's secretarial college in Kensington. Her parents are divorced. Her mother works for a travel PR agency, her father is a chartered accountant at KPMG.

I was at Roedean for seven years. I loved it. I suppose I didn't know anything different. I wanted to teach primary science, so when I left Roedean I went straight on to study for a degree in education at Kingston University. I left after two weeks. It wasn't for me. It was all about how to teach kids English or geography. When I left, I was a bit worried about what my parents might say, particularly my father. He was fine about it.

I changed to a degree in applied biology and chemistry, with the intention of doing a PGCE [post-graduate certificate in teaching] at the end. I failed the end-of-year exams, so I had to leave the course. I failed them accidentally-on-purpose. I didn't know what I wanted to do, but I did know that I didn't want to be at university. I didn't like being a student. I was lost. No one knew my name. I felt like I was simply a student identity number.

My father has bought me this flat in Kingston, where I live with my boyfriend and a tenant. It cost about £60,000. My father set up a trust fund for me when I was born, which gives me an allowance of £500 a month.

I know that's quite a lot, but I still have an overdraft. The fund pays for things like my car, which cost £6,000. It's a J-reg Renault Clio. I'm half way through my secretarial course in Kensington.

The fees are £2,000 a term, which my father also pays for. You learn shorthand and typing and word processing. It's quite a smart place. You have to wear skirts. I think it will give me a good start.

I don't worry about not having a degree. So many graduates can't find jobs anyway. I think secretarial skills will get me a good job.

Until then I can live off my trust fund. Hopefully, it'll go on until I can find a job. I can't get my hands on all the money until I'm 25 - my father knows me too well! Ambitions? Well, I don't want to be the chairman of ICI. I'd be quite happy to plod along. I want to do something in the City, like being a PA to someone in finance or banking. That's where the money is. I don't know very much about finance or banking. I don't know if that matters very much.

I am pretty optimistic about the future. I expect I'll get married when I'm in my late twenties, and have kids.

I don't think I'll work when I have kids - at first. I'll have a nanny and I'll probably pack them off to boarding school. Then I might go back to work. I'll live in a nice London town house.

No, I can't ever see a time when I'll be hard up.

What do I think if people might criticise me for having an easy life? Mind your own business.

The entrepreneur Never mind the money, I want perfection Nick, 23, is a product manager at London Records. He was educated at St Alban's School and Leeds Polytechnic. His mother runs a recruitment agency in London and his father is a businessman.

I've always been brought up to be independent. When I was young, I ran a car-cleaning enterprise. It was a really professional thing. I used to take appointments and have regular bookings.

After I left school, I was taken on by Bradford City as a professional footballer on a trial basis. I also took a place at Leeds Poly. After three months, I decided I didn't want to commit to football, so I just did college full time.

But the level of work wasn't enough, so I set up my own business, launching a night-club in Leeds. I was paid £400 a week. Then I was poached by the biggest club in the city. I became overall promotions manager; I brought it to the attention of the national press, and it became one of the country's top 20 clubs. I even managed to pass my degree (economics and public policy) while I was running the club and producing special club nights all over Leeds. By the time I graduated, I was earning about £20,000a year.

London Records approached me and offered me a job as project manager. This is where you manage an artist, or a band, and put the whole project together, co-ordinating with the company's other departments. At the moment, I look after Jimmy Somerville, Salt 'n' Pepa, Deuce and some other new bands.

I earn about £30,000 from this, but I can't tell you what my full income is because I'm running four other companies: my own record label, Charlie Girl Records; a club in Leeds; a club in London, and a DJ-ing business called Trannies With Attitude. I work 12-hour days, and seven-day weeks.

My one main advantage has been my education. My parents were careful to send me to the right school; it encouraged personality and independence.

I'm extremely ambitious. I want to go as far as I can; I don't like to fail. I work as hard as I can on every project I do; I can't bear disappointing myself. I want to create the biggest band of all time, on the most successful record label ever. I wantto achieve more than anyone else ever has before.

It sounds silly, but I think ambition needs to be untenable; it helps you go as far as you can. I'm glad I'm young; time is worth more than money. It gives you time to fulfil your promise. I aim to be the most successful person in the world. Money isn't my main motivation. I had an offer to go to the City, but turned it down even though it was far better paid. Perfection is my motivation.

My business partners in Leeds think I'm definitely one of the Thatcherite capitalist breed. I have a social conscience, but I also believe in the free market. Everyone has the right to do as well as they can; and if it's disproportionate, that's the way it is. I am a capitalist. During my interview at London Records, the MD asked me where I wanted to be in six months' time. I told him I'd like to be in his shoes.

The fashion student Proud, determined, serious - that's me Jane Anderson, 24, is on an access course studying fashion and textiles at City and Islington College, north London. She was born in Linwood, near Glasgow, and left school at 16. Her parents are divorced. Both are unemployed.

I left school in 1987, age 16, with three O-levels: art, secretarial studies and home economics. My parents were divorcing, and school was hard. I went on to do a couple of YTS jobs, one as a dental assistant and one giving car insurance quotes. I stayedthere for about three years but I was treated like a dog's-body; in the end, I resigned.

I was a Goth; I had black-dyed hair and I wore black clothes. I lived at home on the dole, following bands round the country with my friends. Gay Bikers on Acid was our favourite. I didn't worry about wasting my life away; it was new and exciting.

When I was 20, I moved to London. I still had no job. I must have lived in about six or seven places, with friends. What did I do all day? Not much. Sat around and watched telly. I became a bit of a soap addict. In the evenings we saw bands. I thought I was having fun.

Gradually, my attitude changed. I got bored; I was broke. Nothing was going on for me at all, but I couldn't find a way out. When you're out of work, you've no way of getting experience. I wanted to do a course on making clothes, but I was told I hadn't enough qualifications. I didn't regret leaving school so young; I did as well as I could.

Because I'd been unemployed for so long, the employment office put me on a Restart course; out of 15 people on the course, I was the only one accepted into college.

I started at City and London last year. Next year, I'm intending to do a degree course in theatrical costume at the London College of Fashion. Before, my life was just being unemployed and making weird clothes for myself. Now, I'm going to be a costume designer. I want to design fantasy costumes for films like Star Trek. That's my ultimate aim.

I know what I want to do, and I'm going to do it. I have enormous drive, I want to better myself, and I'm ambitious. I'm going to have to study a lot when I get to the London College of Fashion, but that doesn't put me off. I couldn't be without an aim, not after being unemployed for so long. If I had all the money in the world, I'd still want to have a job.

I'm still skint and I still wear clothes from charity shops, but I know I'll own a house one day, and I know I'll be a success. I feel so proud of what I've achieved.

I'll show people how serious I am about my career. I'll have kids, but not until I'm established. Of course I want to make money. Who doesn't? Am I a product of the Thatcher years? I don't take any interest in politics whatsoever. I've simply found out what I really want to do with my life. I don't want to end up like all my girlfriends back in Linwood have ended up, pushing babies around.