Saturday, June 1, 2013

Little Princes: What’s Right with Generation Y

By: L. Anna Lenz

I’ve been reading a lot of articles describing “what is wrong” with our generation. There is the very negative attitude towards ‘millennials’, and I believe that judging our generation by those with different standards and values is unfair and very one sided. We are different, but our strengths in the workforce, if harnessed correctly can benefit any company.

First thing you need to know about Generation Y, is that we view ourselves as a part of a community, not a competition.  Yes we grew up in a time where everyone earned a trophy, but the confidence we drew from that allowed us to feel secure enough in ourselves to not feel threatened by the success of our peers. Our parents grew up during Cold War Era mentality of competition, a deep desire to be the best.  This mentality forces an “every man for himself” attitude towards each other.  Generation Y is much more supportive of each other, we are genuinely happy to see our peers succeed and actively help each other out.  Trying to motivate us through competition won’t be as successful as challenging us as a team. Previous generations were able to exploit an insecurity to draw out productivity, trying to use that method on millennial is just not going to work.  This mentality may not fit into the old corporate line of thinking about expansion, crushing the competition and the bottom line, but maybe teamwork, connecting and working together will help businesses ride out this storm and enter the new world economy.

The generation before us built empires without thought or care about the effects on the future of the planet, the community or the economy. Growth and expansion fueled the drive for profits, success and domination. It’s a system that is unsustainable, and frankly not one we wish to be a part of and we aren’t spoiled communists for not wanting to be a part of it. Thirty years ago one could work in a company that paid a decent salary, would work for twenty plus years with the same company and then received a pension and benefits.  That isn’t a reality for us. There is no loyalty and no security. We are disposable and a commodity expected to be thrilled to be used for the greater good of the corporation. (For the record there is something so “Soviet Block” in that mentality, erasing individuality, creativity and development, and you call us communists?) Sorry if we don’t seem enthused to be a part of that mess.

Innovation, creativity and individualism are what made America great. We support local business, organic food and quality products. We want to have lives outside of work and don’t wish to be slaves to our jobs; instead we make our careers an integral part of a fuller life. Yes we believe we deserve that kind of lifestyle, but we also believe you deserve it as well.  Successful businesses will harness our generation’s enthusiasm, skill, innovation and creativity to build themselves as members of a community, not exploiting their workers and the surrounding community for numbers. We see through that and no amount of marketing will make you successful if you are still focused on dealing with us “the old way”.

We are a generation of craftsmen. I am so proud to see the level of care and craftsmanship that goes into everything we create. Just visit or Kickstarter and see all of the beautiful things we create. Craft beers, food, tattoos, art, design and technology, the bar has been raised on the quality of things we produce. We have created art forms that either didn’t exist or developed old forgotten ones and have taken them to the next level. You can find a fine, handmade rocking chair much easier than you could have ten years ago, and there is something really cool about that.  The failure of the corporate conglomerate, big box, cookie cutter economy has forced us to be creative, focus on generating income ourselves with small business and freelancing. We want to see each other succeed and actively work towards that goal.
The crumbling of the economy kept us stagnant us for a few years, and we continue to struggle in this world that hasn’t quite adjusted to our way of doing things yet. Yes, we are taking longer to get established and get on our feet, but it just isn’t economically feasible to not be this way. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I lived with my grandparents for a year in my mid-twenties and I am so grateful that I had that time to connect with them. My grandmother is one of my best friends.  Our family bonds and appreciation are stronger than they had been in the past.

Past articles have called us self-absorbed and shallow because of social media sites. I think our generation is more connected to each other than ever.  The internet has given us the ability to become a global community. We can organize and change the world in a few key strokes, but we are also involved off line with our local communities. There is no way our generation will get a job without interning or volunteering. Studies show we log more volunteer time than previous generations and we like to be active members in our communities, globally and locally. We are earth and health conscious, like well made, quality products that benefit the communities we live in.  It doesn’t fall in line with the values our parents had, nor does it follow the values the media has tried to instill in us. We are an anomaly formed by a mix of structure and chaos. We support individuality, creativity and community. We are incredibly special and are already changing the world. I am proud of all of us in our generation and can’t wait to see the world we build.

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