The Power of Now: What Sets Gen Y Apart
July 11, 2007
It seems like the more I read, the more I see people my age blogging about work, careers and how we’ll face the challenges and opportunities we know are coming. As a part of the conversation myself, I’ve been very interested in how workers in different generations view this topic of our generation. Today, over at Brazen Careerist, Ryan Healy touched on this a bit in his column, TwentySomething.
The conversation about and among different generations in the workplace is pretty interesting. I read everything from bewilderment to incredulity to agreement with the insights of my peers. Some tell us that we’re no different than any generation before in terms of what we want. Some say that our sights are set too high and we’re going to have to pay our dues like everyone else has before us. Some share their insights, encouragement, advice and camaraderie.
It’s a great conversation. It’s made me think seriously about what really does set Gen Y apart. The answer: it’s all about timing.
What sets our generation apart from the rest of the generations is what’s always set generations apart from one another – when our lives are taking place and what’s happening as they are. For example, we’re entering the workforce now, as opposed to any other time. What else defines us? Here’s a view from the inside.
- We were told we could become anything growing up. Most of us believed it. Some of us got a false sense of self out of the deal, and others just pushed ourselves to do everything we could.
- We were born to Boomer parents and kept a watchful eye on the Gen Xers closest to our age. We saw our parents sacrifice their lives to their careers and don’t want that for ourselves.
- We saw Gen X rebel against traditional structures our parents followed, and their garage start-ups became billion dollar companies, not to mention the best places to work . Doing things ourselves seems like the ticket to many of us, too.
- We grew up with computers and now fuel the user-generated, social media technologies of today, as opposed to more gatekeeper-controlled mediums of the past.
- We have unprecedented access to technology and education.
- We may not all be “risk-takers” like Gen Xers, but we don’t have to take as many risks. Our Boomer parents have our backs. For longer than ever before. That can be debilitating or empowering.
- We are used to immediate gratification thanks to things like the microwave, movies on video and shopping online.
- We were told the job market was stellar and we’d get an awesome job after college. This was true for some of us. Others of us are putting off finding a job by going to grad school or traveling. The rest of us are waiting, rather impatiently, either for a great first job or a great promotion. (See the above point.) In the meantime, many of us want to do something about it.
These all lead to some fundamental shifts in the way we view, interact with and anticipate the world and our lives, as it often goes with all generations.
These factors have helped set the stage for us to join a very powerful conversation. It’s the one defining our values, our work ethic, our expectations and even our results. Who we are as a generation is being defined right now, and we know it.
That’s why I love the dialogue between all the generations on this subject. But there’s more to it than that. We’re realizing the power of the conversation. We are not just asking questions. We are not just aware that we’re being defined and letting other people write it down for us. We are responding to, participating in and even instigating the conversation. We are helping write the definition for our generation by adding our voices to the mix.
And to me, that’s what it’s all about. That’s what I mean about timing. Our generation is different because we’re out there en masse, now, in our youth, taking advantage of technology, timing and the conversation. Stirring the waters in a forum that didn’t exist during the formative years of the other generations. Maybe it’s a new incarnation of an old rebellion. Blogging might be the new underground newspaper – with wider reach and more people contributing. And that’s already making some interesting things happen. Even if it’s just in the form of a well-read conversation or interesting debate. You know what Seth Godin tells us about good ideas. They spread. Like a virus. And eventually, they change things. That’s the hope of bloggers like me who are joining the conversation that is defining who we are. We’re embracing the power of now.