Do you know what it means to be Gen Y?

If you’ve never heard the term, or don’t quite get the connotation yet, take some time to tap into this article, this article, this article and this video, and you might be surprised by what you find.

Also known as the “Millennials,” Gen Y is a term used to describe anyone born between 1980 and 1995, so yep, that’s us. In the business and management world, we’ve acquired several not-so-hot stereotypes. This is the pretty all-encompassing list I found in the Entry Level Careers Examiner (written by @heatherhuhman):

  1. Gen Y is entitled.
  2. Gen Y is needy.
  3. Gen Y has no work ethic (read: lazy)
  4. Gen Y is self-centered.
  5. Gen Y isn’t loyal to employers.

Those five are among the most negative, but other career experts also hypothesize that we don’t crave work-life balance like Gen X; we just want our work (even entry-level) to be meaningful.

I don’t tell you to this to break your spirit or make you come to some realization that you’re a narcisstic, good-for-nothing, iPod-listening, disloyal employee wanna-be. I tell you this so you know what you could be facing from potential employers and hiring managers.

In an interview, the person across from you could be thinking, “Is this person going to do anything but come in at 10am and listen to her iPod? Will she ditch our company for the chance to fly to Mumbai for the Amazing Race?!” Yes, that’s an exaggeration, but I’ve had friends come back from interviews and say that a good many of their responses were met with, “Well, that’s because you’re Gen Y,” or, “Oh, how Gen Y.”

The stereotype is out there, so be ready to deal with it, or better yet, incorporate anti-stereotype qualities into your personal brand. Make it a point to show how you can think outside yourself and help others. Show how you’ve taken initiative. Show that you’ve started something and stuck with it. Dispel the myth of Gen Y before it even enters the employer’s mind. (And the @heatherhuhman article gives you some hints to do it, too.)

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3 responses to “Do you know what it means to be Gen Y?

  1. Thanks for writing this article. The thoughts that Huhman shares in her works represent stereotypes that do possess kernels of truth. Gen X’ers like me feel stuck in the middle. The Boomers have sought meaning through every medium other than faith, creating havoc in virtually every institution. However, given how small our Generation is compared to Boomers and Y’ers, we will have a minimal window to take the reigns of leadership.

    Gen Y has already shows its reasonable strength, and direct contrast to X’ers, by uniting with Boomers during the 2008 Presidential Election. X’ers are more conservative than the generations before or after them. That’s really not a surprise, given our environmental influences (Reagan, Cold War, etc.).

    Y’ers are not entirely at fault for their stereotype. They are also the generation influenced by “hover parents” and the exponentially growing application of “positive reinforcement” and artificial confidence building.

    Naturally, Y’ers will have to adapt to the realities of society en masse in order to achieve in a culture where present generations, just like ethnicity’s, continue to grow due to longer life expectancy and the expansion of careers focused on knowledge rather than physical strength. X’ers will likely retire on average at 70-75, but it is possible that Y’ers will be prepared to work until their 80’s. We’ll just have to see.

  2. garyalanmiller

    For a more positive spin on things, read “Not Everyone Gets a Trophy: How to Manage Gen Y.” I’m about a third of the way through it, but thus far it’s quite good. Takes the stereotypes and spins them into reality, then gives managers suggestions for positive interactions and getting the most out of Gen Y’ers.

    If it helps to hear it, we Gen X folks had to deal with many of those same stereotypes as we entered the workforce. We, too, were not loyal and had no work ethic (“slacker” was the term de jour). Most of us turned out okay. 🙂

  3. tarheelsintransit

    @Ken – Thanks for the insights! Always interesting to hear a Gen X perspective on things. Do you read much of Penelope Trunk (Brazen Careerist)? She’s a Gen X, too, and some of your thoughts (conservative nature of Gen X, helicopter parents, etc.) remind me of her articles. Bet you’d like her, if you haven’t found her already.

    @Gary – Saw you were reading that — thanks for the rec! It’d be interesting to see what kind of advice managers are receiving about how to deal with Gen Y. Why do I bet that all young generations, new to the workforce, have to deal with the “lazy stigma”? I think it’s one way the older generations’ fears manifest — change is always scary. It’s scary for us in Gen Y wondering what to do in this economy, and it’s scary for the Boomers and the X’ers wondering how Gen Y will impact the work world. Can’t wait to see how it plays out.

    Thanks to you both for reading and commenting 🙂

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