By OnlineCollege.org Thursday, February 09, 2012
Generation Y is generally thought to describe those born between 1980 and 1995. They may have been born in the "me" generation, but came of age in the "we" generation of the Internet. This unique place in history shaped its character in many ways, for better and worse, and bestowed certain traits unseen in earlier decades. Here are eight of our greatest strengths as Generation Y-ers.
Divorce rates in the U.S. peaked almost simultaneously with the beginning of Gen Y. As the children of broken homes, Millennials resolved to not let work ruin their marriages and relationships. Tragedies at home and war abroad have reminded us at pivotal young ages that tomorrow is not promised us, and that no one ever said on their deathbed, "I wish I'd spent more time at the office."
Despite a bad rap that paints us as reckless spenders, a recent survey found that Millennials are up to three times as likely to want to save money compared to our parents and grandparents. No doubt part of this mentality is borne of necessity — we harbor no illusions about the awful state of the economy. Eighty-five percent of us who graduated in 2011 moved back home with our parents, a cost-saving measure that previous generations shunned, regardless of need.
Although the baby boomers certainly made their voices heard by politicians of their day, they fell far short in community activism. Their cry was "do what feels good." Since the sobering events of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, Millennials have recognized the need to participate in serving others, from their own neighborhoods to the global community. In 2006, 61% of 13-25 year-olds said they feel personally responsible for improving the world. In 2008, Millennials swept former community organizer Barack Obama into office with the highest margin of victory in our age bracket ever. One of our mandates to him has been to support the social uprisings in Libya, Egypt, and elsewhere.
Gen Y-ers are nothing if not confident. Thanks to a childhood full of positive feedback from "helicopter parents" determined to reverse their parents' cycle of tearing kids down, employers are often taken aback at just how self-assured Millennials are. Despite the fact that nearly 40% of us have no job, nine out of ten Millennials believe they will eventually meet their financial goals. In the workplace, we are outspoken and not afraid to challenge outmoded ways of doing business.
Generation Y is all about efficiency. Laptops instead of desktops. Cell phones instead of landlines. Telecommuting instead of polluting commuting. We aren't afraid to cut something that's always been done before just because that's how it's always been done. With an estimated value of $50 billion, Facebook is a perfect example of a super-successful company changing the way an office feels, under the careful direction of Millennial Mark Zuckerberg. Employees in casual clothes lounge on mats, write on walls, and move furniture when they feel like it.
The Internet and basically everything associated with it came into wide use on our watch. Our development was mirrored by tech's development — Atari to Nintendo to Sega, car phones to cell phones to smartphones. The boomers were too busy with work to pay attention to what was happening, but we factored it in to our growth and made it part of ourselves. Herein lies our greatest strength: we use technology as well as anyone, but we know what to do when the tech breaks down, because we know the steps it took to get us where we are.
Changing social values and an increasingly diverse population have made us Millennials a pretty tolerant group. A majority of us believe immigrants make society stronger. Although we're split over same-sex marriage, by comparison, baby boomers oppose equal marriage rights for homosexuals 2-to-1. Ninety-three percent of us approve of interracial dating. Our ability to work alongside people of different races, lifestyles, and beliefs makes for a much more productive and efficient class of employees. Fortunately, the blind prejudices and bigotries of our ancestors are mainly a thing of the past.
Maybe it's our desire to be well-liked and tally a high "friend" count, but Millennials are great team players. Through school projects and massive, collaborative online games, we grew so comfortable working with others that many of us say we are more productive working in teams than on our own. This has obvious benefits in the workplace. Where other generations may have seen in teamwork only the danger that hard work will not be rewarded and poor work will blamed on a scapegoat, Millennials thrive on being part of a team.
This article was originally published at OnlineCollege.org, an advice site for students that publishes feature articles and tips on the admissions process, new education technology trends, and the demands of today's job market. Blogger Melissa A. Venable, Ph.D. also hosts a weekly Twitter #IOLchat on trends affecting online learning.
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