Surprising Things You Should Know about GEN Ys

Unless you’re the doting parent (or grandparent) of a Gen Y (in which case he or she is the world’s best kid), this youngest generation (born between 1980 and 2000)  is often described as narcissitic, self-absorbed, digitally addicted, and more.  A few authors have even labeled them as the “the dumbest generation.”  

I’m not sure I believed all the bad hype was owned exclusively by these Gen Ys.  I’ve known plenty of narcissistic, self-absorbed, addicted Baby Boomers and Gen X too.   But in a post I just read, a Gen X writer penned a list of 5 things you should know about Gen Y.  For me, what makes this article so poignant is that one of the biggest generation rifts in the workplace is occurring between Gen X and Gen Y.  So in a demonstration of some light at the end of the generational tunnel, you can read her list of 5 Surprising Things You Should Know about Gen Y.

They are desperate for mentors
These are kids who were friends with their parents in ways that we (Gen X and older) never were.  They’re used to having an adult they like helping them navigate the world.  But now that they’re out of school and choosing careers – about which their parents may know nothing and therefore can’t help – they’re kind of lost for guidance.  We aren’t reaching out to them because they seem so confident that we think they don’t need (or want) us.  But they do.

They’re scared to fail
These are kids whose every word, step, poop and dance recital was applauded, announced, videographed and trumpeted as the Second Coming.  Now that they’re adults, they’re beginning to realize – and accept – that the world isn’t going to congratulate them for successfully wearing matching socks.  But they have so little experience of failure that they’re scared to death of it.

The peer pressure is brutal
For those of us who graduated in, say, 1991 with an English degree, just getting a job was enough.  The recession had been going on seemingly for ages, we were all working for peanuts at crap jobs, and we really only knew what our own circle of friends was doing, so peer pressure was minimal.

These kids have been hearing stories from older siblings about getting $80k-a-year jobs (which did exist a couple of years ago), the internet gives them access to a huge network of people at their lifestage (some of whom are still snagging great jobs or making huge salaries), and the media has filled their heads with stories of other 22-year-olds who invent some social networking site that they sell 3 years later for $1.9 billion.  So when all they see in front of them is a $40k-a-year job as an Assistant-Something, they begin to think that they’re the only one their age who’s ‘sucking’.

They don’t realize that the marketplace has negative stereotypes about them
When I mentioned that recruiters and employers often think that Gen Ys have a sense of entitlement, don’t work beyond 9-to-5, and come into a job expecting to be running the company within a year, there was shocked – and nervous – laughter around the table.   

Not only do they not think of themselves this way, they were surprised to learn that potential employers might see them this way.  They think of themselves as hard workers who are just waiting for the opportunity to prove themselves – in other words, they think of themselves the way every new-to-the-workforce generation has thought of themselves since the dawn of time. 

In some ways, they’re just as green as we ever were
We tend to believe that this internet generation is more savvy than we were – that they’re entering the workforce with more knowledge and confidence or something.  And sure, they have more access to information than we ever did:  They can find and apply to more jobs (via the internet), they can better prepare for interviews by Googling a potential employer, and the internet is awash in resume templates.

But in some very basic ways, they’re still as ignorant as we were:  Remember when you didn’t know how ‘headhunters’ worked, or who paid them?  Remember when you didn’t have a ‘network’?  Remember thinking, in the first year of your first job, that you hated it but now you were ‘stuck’ in this career forever?  Gen Ys may have a superficial confidence and swagger, but it’s often masking #2 and #3, above.

Which brings us right back to #1.

Read the full article

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