The Advancing Leadership Blog

I am Gen Y

I recently joined the TEC Canada team after completing my degree at the University of Alberta. In the following weeks I plan to write a series of blog posts that will help employers better understand the up-and-coming work force, Gen Y. As a Gen Y myself, I will provide you with firsthand information and opinions about our generation’s experience in the working world.

It is important for businesses to learn about Gen Y now because Gen Y will be taking over today’s businesses tomorrow. By understanding how Gen Ys operate, companies have a much better chance of attracting and keeping good quality workers who have future leadership potential. Today, I want to focus on stereotypical Gen Y characteristics that have been shaped by the society we grew up in. Following blog posts will look at key reasons why Gen Ys are valuable to employers, how companies can keep hardworking Gen Ys and more.

When I first began writing I expected to find some similar qualities between myself and the generation that I belong to. I didn’t expect to find myself staring at a long list of characteristics thinking to myself, “OMG, I am completely molded by my generation. Am I unique at all?” This led me to think further, “which traits of mine are generational?”

Known as the echo generation, Gen Y and the millennials, my generation has no shortage of nicknames or distinguishable working habits and characteristics. Demographically defined as individuals born between 1980 and the year 2000, Gen Y is the most educated generation in history. We may be seen as fresh faced university and college grads with overblown egos, but we are taking the corporate world by storm, flaunting our eagerness, creativity and natural tech skills.

Why are we Gen Y?

Having grown up in the digital age, the technological advances of the last few decades have significantly influenced the way we think and perform tasks. The internet has made it possible for us to get instant results in everything that we do. Whether for research, education, social or professional purposes, Gen Ys are used to finding what we are looking for, instantly. Not to mention, we are avid multi-taskers with the ability to handle three-plus forms of technology all at once. Think of those teenagers texting on their phone, listening to an ipod in one ear and watching a youtube video on their laptop. They are even sipping a latte while maintaining a ‘mostly’ fluent conversation with a friend. Although these traits may seem annoying on the surface, if harnessed correctly they have immense possibilities in the work place.

This immediate and fast-paced world has caused us to have an increased need for variety and change. If you ask most Gen Ys where or what they will be doing in a few years time they will likely tell you that they could be anywhere, doing anything. Getting long-term work commitments from Gen Ys isn’t easy. We need change, challenge and flexibility. If we are not getting this, we are not afraid to move on.

Even our university experience has set us up for change and variability in the work place. Most university programs require students to develop a broad range of multifunctional skills. It is common for students to take a certain number of courses from faculties outside of their own. This is meant to provide perspective. By giving students a basic knowledge of all disciplines in addition to their specialty, it is up to the graduate to creatively apply what they have learned to different industries and working situations. Most people no longer go to school with one specific career in mind. With a broad educational base career paths are endless. We see career change as part of our journey, unavoidable and necessary. Employers can take advantage of this flexible mindset by looking to current employees to fill new roles.

Understanding Gen Y is important for the success of businesses in the future. Employers need to recognize how technology and society have shaped us in order to benefit from our unique characteristics and skills. Our creative problem solving, multitasking, eagerness and need for change and variety are all attributes with extensive potential to employers.

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