Not Your Typical Millennial

4 10 2011

By this time, we’ve all heard about the Millennial generation or Gen Y.  We know about Helicopter Parents (or worse, Blackhawk parents), entitlement issues, and the fact that they’re all what we’d consider “digital natives.”  Yep – Gen Y has never known the world without the internet.  We’re different than any other generation.  Yes, you heard me right.  We.  I’m a Millennial too.  Surprised?

There has been this huge topic of how companies will have to adjust everything they do as Gen Y enters the workforce.  For some, the very term “Millennial” or “Gen Y” may cause a knee-jerk reaction to roll one’s eyes.  Some companies have embraced this new generation of workers with open arms, while others continue to resist change.  Here’s the thing, though.  We’re not ALL your typical Millennial.  Below, I’ve highlighted a few reasons we’re good for the workforce.

Entitlement

Who didn’t or doesn’t think that they should have a job waiting for them upon graduation?  When I graduated college, I just knew there would be a company ready to offer me my dream job.  After all that hard work and time put into studies, it seems natural that a person would be considered a candidate.

Debunking the entitlement myth:  We know we’re going to have to work to get to the top.  That corner office isn’t going to be handed to us.  But, we’ve also been taught that it’s okay to pop into a supervisor or the CEO’s office if we have an idea.  If we have something to share, we’ll share it.  And we’ll go to whomever we wish.  The lines of bureaucracy don’t apply to us.

Solution:  Help us understand the processes and procedures.  Provide a little more flexibility in those processes.  We want to know that if we work hard, we can advance quickly.  Transparency is paramount with Gen Y.  We have good ideas and want to be heard!  Typically, we’re thinking outside the box, so our solutions may sound radical at first.  Remember, doing what you’ve always done probably won’t get you to where you want to go in the future.  Gen Y gets this!

Bonus:  We feel appreciated and valued as a team member.  Not only that, but both parties (company and employee) benefit as both advance.

Helicopter parents

Mom and dad are the people we go to for advice.  They’ve been with us the entire way.  They’re our cheerleaders.  We’re probably even Facebook friends with them.  When we need ANYTHING, we call them.  That could range from career advice to laundry services to lunch money.  Yeah, we’re pretty dependent on the parents.  But, let’s face it – MOST college students are!  I bet that if you looked back at what you were doing at age 18-22, you’d agree that the world was a bit scary.  Who better than our parents to assure us that everything would be okay?

Debunking the helicopter parent myth:  Here’s the thing – we love mom and dad.  They’re our most trusted advisors.  If we don’t understand a corporate benefits package (who really does?), then we ask someone who has some experience.  Yep – mom and dad.  They’ve not only learned how to navigate the benefits for themselves, but they’ve also managed to understand how to utilize the benefits for their children.  Generation Y is going to ask their parents.  Parents are going to be involved with much of their child’s journey to success.  But, they typically don’t expect to accompany the child to the interview, call to negotiate benefits, attend the career fair, or show up to class to take notes when their child is sick.  STUDENTS:  If you think this is okay, think again.  It isn’t!!  Parents want to help – we get that.  But we’re adults here.  Let’s take some responsibility to do our own research and learn to manage ourselves.  We can still ask our parents, but we’re the ones that should do the work.  I’d say that most Millennials understand this.  A few didn’t and ruined it for everyone!

Solution:  Give us a little time to digest information.  We live in an instant gratification world, but there are still things that need some extra attention before making a decision.  Once we have done our research, involve us in the decision-making process.  Help to provide an opportunity for transparent feedback.  We want to know now if we’re doing a good job or not (mom and dad ALWAYS let us know where we stood).  Don’t wait until the annual or bi-annual performance review to tell us.  Help us by sharing this with us now.  That way, we can adjust if needed.  If we’re already doing a great job, then we now know and are motivated to continue to improve!

Community involvement

There’s no myth here to debunk.  It’s plain and simple.  Today’s generation of workers want to know that their employer is involved in the community.  Not only that, but they also want to actively participate.  For Gen Y, doing well by doing good is inherent.  We don’t want to just give money to support a cause.  We want to be in the trenches, empowering those that are less fortunate with the tools they need to be successful.  We don’t do it for extra credit.  We do it because it’s the right thing to do.  So, whether it’s working with United Way, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, American Red Cross or organizations like Enactus, we want to be part of the goodwill.  It helps us remember that the world is bigger than ourselves, that we should be lucky to have what we have, and it provides us with an opportunity to share our gifts with others.

I mentioned Enactus earlier in this post for a reason.  If you’re not familiar with the organization, here’s a perfect opportunity to see the global scope of these young leaders’ projects.  Check out the newly launched See Opportunity campaign.  These students and global business leaders are not just talking about how the world needs to change.  They’re actually out there making the positive change happen!  Empowering people in need with the tools they need to be successful, Enactus students are changing lives forever.  It’s no wonder why the organization is supported by so many top Fortune 500 companies.  Enactus’ mission is clear: To enable progress through entrepreneurial action.  With programs active in 36 countries, 65,000 students on over 1600 university campuses, Enactus students completed over SIX MILLION HOURS of project service in 2010!  Yes, you may have heard about Enactus from me in another post a while back.  I work for Enactus and am proud to be part of such a dynamic and rewarding organization, helping our partner companies recruit students for entry-level jobs and internships.  Every day, there’s a new challenge and a new inspiration.  How many people can say that about their job every day?

I bring up Enactus students because they’re the perfect example of students who aren’t your typical Millennials.  They’re independent, creative thinkers, highly motivated, and possess business acumen with a global perspective.  Enactus students are involved in the program because they want to give back.  And they go to work for Enactus partner companies because of the investment those companies have made in them.  Like the research has shown, students today are motivated by opportunity for advancement, a company’s involvement in the community, and a sense of purpose that what they are doing contributes to the organization’s overall success.

Jillian Walker from theHRnetwork.com recently wrote this about Gen Y:

“We are all very different. Some use smart phones, some use landlines. Some love social media, some hate it. Some are entrepreneurial; some are 9 to 5…..Consider Gen Y as people. No different than the past when we have reflected on Boomers and Baby Boomers. It’s not one against each other…together, we are the workplace of tomorrow.”

Like she said, when it all comes down to it, we’re no different than Baby Boomers or Generation X.  The stereotypes all come at the same age.  With time, we all mature with life experiences.  So, it’s not that really about a generation.  It’s about the level of maturity at that time.  We all learn.  If we don’t, we fail.  Right out of college, we’re all naïve.  The world is our oyster.  Everyone is motivated differently and there are going to be those stories that become somewhat of an urban legend.  Don’t let one bad experience ruin you for life.  Learn, and then move on.

So before you pass judgment on Gen Y, dig a little deeper.  I think you’ll find that we’re not all typical.  In fact, if you give us a chance, we’re likely to debunk every myth about our generation!

Have a comment?  I’d love to know your thoughts.  Please leave a note below.  As always, thanks for reading!

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