Over the past year or so, I have heard my generation (Generation Y, the Millennial Generation, whatever you want to call it) characterized in many ways. We are the generation who:
- Expects an award just for showing up
- Is incapable of hard work
- Is unwilling to put in long hours to gain the respect of coworkers and superiors
- Changes jobs every two years
- Is totally internet and tech-savvy
- Lives with their parents longer
- “Fails to launch” – puts off growing up as long as possible
- Wants to work to live, not live to work
- Doesn’t understand why they can’t wear flip-flops to work
Are these based on real-life examples? Probably. Are some of them true of me? Of course. (Some other day I’ll support the stereotype by ranting about my incredible hatred for office dress codes). Are they all negative traits? I don’t think so. But they are, overall, negative.
And again, this past week, I was at a conference where generational marketing was the topic of discussion. And again, I had to listen to a baby boomer tell me about how Generation Y has no brand loyalty and expects total transparency from organizations because they don’t trust them. At least this time, the presenter acknowledged that some of this was due to age (for instance, how many twentysomethings can afford to be loyal donors or have any brand loyalty?).
But honestly, I’m a little tired of it. I know for a fact there are kids my age who suffer from all of these traits, but we aren’t all like that. If you really want to know how we think, whether you’re in marketing, fundraising, education or whatever, here’s what you need to know: (Obviously, these are generalizations and not necessarily true for all of us).
- Save your stamps. We do everything online or via text. If you want to reach us, use email, Facebook, Twitter, text message or some other form of communication.
- We expect lots of feedback. It doesn’t all have to be positive, but it needs to be frequent.
- We want to be judged on the work we produce and not the way we produce it. If we can do the same work in flip-flops and jeans as we can in a suit, then why spend money on an uncomfortable suit?
- We have always been told to do the things that make us happy. We will not spontaneously forget this mantra when we turn 22 and graduate college.
- Contrary to what you might think, we are capable of hard work. But we’d rather work just enough to live comfortably than work crazy hours so we can retire early. Here I will admit – as a general rule, we have a hard time thinking long-term.
We don’t expect the world to mold to our expectations, but the bottom line is that everyone will need to bend a little now that we have three distinct generations in the workforce for the first time in many years. Okay, fine. We won’t wear jeans and hoodies to work, but in return, maybe we can work from home every once in a while. If you are uncomfortable with social media and all things web 2.0, we can help you get your company online.
I know nobody’s perfect and I’m definitely guilty of expecting companies to understand my way of thinking, but I can’t help but wonder who the slackers are that started all the stereotypes I’ve encountered. What’s particularly disheartening is that there were enough of them that they weren’t written off as outliers.
The other thing, though, is that I think our reactions are sometimes read incorrectly. For instance, in my first job out of college at The Company, I had to work long hours and travel about a third of the time for not a whole lot of money, which wasn’t worth it to me. Was this because I expected lots of money for 40 hours per week? No. It was because I wasn’t willing to give up my personal time (and my personal life) for a job. I didn’t expect to be paid more, I just knew what my priorities were.
Has anyone else experienced this, either from my viewpoint or from the outside looking in? Am I totally off here?