Generation Y, or is it Generation Why?
Move over Baby Boomers and Generation “X”ers, there is a new kid in town, Generation “Y.” This new generation includes individuals born between 1979-2003, today’s young people. They are also known as the “Millennials,” “Net Generation” and “Nexters.” Let’s explore who makes up this generation and what are their characteristics, strengths, and weaknesses.
The events of our world culture have shaped the members of Generation “Y”. Just as the development of the motor vehicle changed the world in the 20s and the “Great Depression” shaped the morals of individuals born in the 30s, digital technology has immersed Generation “Y.” They have grown up being able to exchange information all the time and in all locations. Social networking is a standard form of communication and thus open sharing of information, photographs and other personal information gives the concept of “open lines of communication” a whole new meaning. Other historical events that have shaped their views and values. During the lifetime of this generation they have known a nation that has been at war, they have witnessed multiple terriost attacks to their country and their people, with the Twin Towers being the most notable memory of destruction. They strongly value safety and security.
Millennials are often seen as sheltered and over-indulged. As children they experienced an era that came with a great deal of encouragement and positive reinforcement. They have received trophies, ribbons and accolades for their efforts in sports, music, and academics and often not just for winning, but for simple participation. This generation was enrolled in organized groups at a very young age, often beginning soccer, baseball, tumbling and dance at ages as young as 4 years old.
How do all these life-shaping experiences play out for Gen Y?
Strengths: Confident, multi-taskers, team-oriented and prefer to work in groups, techno-savvy, they want a challenge (but not responsibility.) They easily embrace change, possibly even thrive on it. They value civic duties, acceptance of diversity and able to be empathetic. They want to work, but don’t want work to be their life.
Weaknesses: Struggle with processing failure and criticism, commitment phobia- don’t tend to stick to any one job or any one assignment for too long, their focus is more on making a difference, having fun and learning as they go.
Predictions for this generation are they will truly strive for a balance of work and family. A focus on personal time and pleasure will drive their choices more so than career building. Remember there isn’t the “corporate ladder” for this generation. They aren’t afraid to take chances. They are ambitious and eager to learn new skills. Trial and error is a common learning tool for these young minds.
Are you feeling a generation gap with a young person in your life? I know I have. In dealing with the young people in my life, I have had to adjust to a cell phone bill that arrives in the mail looking somewhat like a book from Amazon.com. Seeing the number of texts that can transpire in a 30-day period can be mind-boggling. Parenting concerns of my generation about whether “girls should call boys” is obsolete. Generation Y lives in the age of massive, continual communication and gender boundaries do not register for them at all. There are positives in these broken barriers and there are also new challenges for parents and for the members of this new generation.
As you work through issues related to the generation gap keep these points in mind. Appeal to their strengths of valuing teamwork, striving for input and affirmation from others. Challenge their sense of curiosity and their ability to embrace change.
As with all generations there are strengths and weaknesses. From these unique characteristics have come great marks in history. Each era has built upon the previous era for the betterment of society as a whole. This current generation will be no different. Their mark in history will be uniquely theirs and future generations will strive to learn from them as well as, create their own uniqueness. Good luck and oh, may I suggest you request “paperless billing” for the cell phone bill.