Since the turn of the millennium, there have been predictions and opinions formed about the effect that Generation Y would have on the future. We are a generation of people who grew up on the internet, iPods, and mobile phones. Our regular communication patterns are totally un-comprehendible to our predecessor generations, who watch in amazement as we manage to text, email, Facebook, and tweet all at once. One of the most particular ways that Generation Y has predicted to revolutionise the future is through our work ethic and global development patterns.
Some of the ways that Generation Y individuals have distinguished themselves include their extreme orientation for achievement, which means something much different than what our parents considered achievement (back in ‘the day’). Gen Y workers have a new set of standards and expectations for their life’s work.
Working with Generation Y
“Achievement” in the new generation’s terms translates into making major changes and differences. We have only just started to introduce our generation into the working world, and are currently working under the regulations of our Baby Boomer generation bosses. This is creating an interesting dynamic in the work space, because the two generations have entirely different perspectives of worthwhile work purpose.
The difference lies in the ethos of “Living to work” vs. “Working to live”. The work philosophy that pre-dates our generation includes a strict 9-5 regiment, making as much money as possible, and establishing oneself within a company over the twenty-some-odd years they spend working there. Gen Y has a different outlook on employment. Work is more-so a means to live. Our generation is not likely to settle for jobs that pay well but hold no sentimental meaning to our lives. We also demand a lot more from our employers, such as volunteer options, environmental missions, and worldly visions. Our generation has been brought up under times that created a certain cynicism surrounding points of authority. We have seen the corruption that surrounds the “Corporate World”, especially as we’ve watched our parents throw themselves into their work over the years, only to be spat back out and made redundant. Relationships with our bosses and companies will be significantly different and more resistive to commitment than the employee behaviours of the past.
One of the major ways that Generation Y will revolutionise the work-place is through our means of communication. Since a young age, we have been recognised as a group who values the pay off of team oriented projects. We have grown up in environments where communication with one another is very important and highly valued. This foundation has surrounded our work habits, and as such, we work more productively in teams than as individuals.
Generation Y has grown up with constant sources of stimulation. We are used to having tasks thrown at us from every angle, and somehow accomplishing all of them by the end of the day. This constant motivational incentive has made us a generation who becomes easily bored. We are always looking for a new challenge and changes in tasks on a monthly basis. The Baby Boomers and Generation X grew up in a work environment that valued continuity; hence the reason we saw our parents working with the same companies for decades at a time. Generation Y finds this same continuity (that our parents esteemed) as a sign of dulling stagnation. Even though Generation Y only entered the workforce about nine years ago, statistics show that individuals maintain an average of about four years in a position before they move onto something new and fresh.
Ironically enough, the entire work industry has been preparing for the entry of Generation Y into the mix for the past decade, just in time for a global recession to strike. We have grown up and been educated in an era of very high employment, watching the generation before we choose from a variety of employment options and financial freedoms; and just as the working revolution is expected to hit…so did the recession.
This put a major damper on things, seeing as we were the ones who were expected to sweep the world off its feet and into a new frame of professional mind. Now, our generation is struggling to find any work opportunity, let alone transform and modernise the ways in which the global market functions!
Thankfully, we are not an assembly of individuals that define ourselves by our work. A strong work ethic may be important, but in this day and age, we are able to find different outlets to create foundations for ourselves.
One of the most inescapable reputations we have gained for ourselves is that Generation Y is the affluent offspring culture of the Baby Boomers, who aren’t used to hearing “no”. We are expected to be stubborn and infected with our own self-absorbed ideas.
Why is it that we have developed this reputation over time?
A very reasonable explanation for this cultural phenomenon is the fluctuation of wealth that preceded us. Our parents (mostly Baby Boomers) grew up under many different circumstances of wealth. Their parents, the veterans and society of World War II, were just beginning to populate the white collar segment of the workforce. Plainly put, there weren’t as many luxuries involved in everyday life.
To compensate, many of our parents pursued a workaholic lifestyle to enable a more lavish existence. This wealth was bestowed onto our upbringing. The amount of money surrounding our parents working generation was astronomical, and as a result, they ‘spoiled’ the ones they loved the most—us! We grew up with a consumer frame of mind and thus have spent our youth buried under endless collections of senseless toys and belongings. For example, a Generation Y little girl would not have just one Barbie, she’d likely have a collection of Barbie dolls in order to play with each other.
Our generation is only ‘spoiled’ if you consider our lifestyles relative to those of our parents and grandparents. We have grown up knowing nothing outside of our superfluous existence, and often it is interpreted that we do not understand or care for the value of a hard earned dollar. The Baby Boomers often rant on about the “good ol’ days” and how things used to be so simple, and as any Gen Y knows our worlds have become anything but simple amidst the overflow of technology and information that bombards our culture.
One of the nicknames given to our youth era is “iGen”, a play on the fact that our generation is synergised with the technology boom of the past thirty years. In primary school, we were taught how to navigate our way around the internet and type on a computer keyboard. Just like learning a language early on, we were at an extreme advantage by learning the ways of technologic communication while we were young and impressionable.
Members of our generation have taken the prospect of mass communication to the next level. Our lives are now interwoven with the management of Facebook accounts, iPhone messaging, and multiple email names. The amount of technological information that we handle has become normalised among our generation, but to our predecessors, we are juggling an overwhelming load of data at once. The speed at which modern day mass communication can transfer a message was unfathomable thirty years ago!
This plays into our tendencies to work as a team. When the Earthquake in Christchurch struck, the worldwide news was breaking the story within the hour. International loved ones were in touch with us nearly immediately to verify our safety. The combination of technologic communication options and the inclination to work together has created a massive global network. Correspondents across the planet are now in a more constant state of contact with one another than the decades pre-dating our generation’s times.
Since the beginning of our time (oh…the 80s), social researches have had high expectations for what we were to become. Literally, we are the people of the future. In a decade’s time, we will be the politicians, the CEO’s and the big thinkers of the world. With the strong potential that we hold for a changing world, Generation Y is bound to make the history books for the positive transformations we supply to the global society.
The combination of our strong threshold of knowledge with the education we’ve grown up with is a recipe for strong leaders. We have the potential to create many new opportunities for the following generations. As we have seen our parents and grandparents grow and learn from their experiences, it’s now our turn to take the lessons of the past and construct the world the Generation Y envisions.
Words by Ashley Smith.