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Christine Hassler

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Inspiration From Generation-Y

Posted: 08/08/10 12:10 PM ET

At the end of a recent interview I did for an article on Gen Y, the twentysomethings of today, the reporter said to me, "Out of all the people I interviewed, you are the only one who had anything positive to say about this generation." That comment inspired this post. Today's twentysomethings are often labeled as entitled, immature, needing constant validation, self-absorbed, lacking a work ethic and respect for authority. While there is some truth to those stereotypes, too much focus in being put on what's wrong with Gen Y rather than leveraging what is so great about this global generation who are evolving far beyond their labels.

At 33 I am on the cusp of being a Gen Y but fit more into the category and shared characteristics of Gen X. However in my work as an author, life coach/counselor and speaker primarily dedicated to supporting people during their twentysomething decade, I see that there is a lot more to Gen Y than they often get credit for. It's time to highlight the positives that this generation brings to our society. Hopefully these insights may change your perception of your Gen Y employee, child or colleague. And give twentysomethings encouragement to disprove some of your less desirable stereotypes.

They Are Passionate
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Gen Xers and boomers often get frustrated that Gen Yers want to actually like the work they do. Older generations can be a little sour about the fact that they had to climb the corporate ladder without any sprinkle of passion. You can often find bitter boomers lecturing about how they had to pay their dues. As more opportunities and types of businesses have come of age, so has the mentality of the young workforce. They see the unhappiness of their parents and/or superiors and are choosing a different route. It's not that they are unwilling to pay their dues; they are just unwilling to pay them at a place that is not worth the investment.

Rather than being annoyed by Gen Y's thirst for passion, managers and recruiters should learn to quench it. If you can learn and find ways to incorporate their passion into their job, you will be impressed with their performance. Better yet, if you can find a Gen Yer who is passionate about what you are passionate about, you've got gold. Keep in mind that Gen Yers can be a bit noncommittal; changing what they are passionate about as frequently as they change their Facebook profile picture, so it's incumbent on older generations to keep them engaged. Now you might say, "Why is it my job to keep them engaged? I have enough work to do!" Consider that by working to engage them, you too will become more passionate about your work. Let's face it, the old way of doing the same job the same way day after day is on its way to extinction. Reinvention and innovation are where we are headed. Gen Y knows this and are discovering ways to get there.
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Gen Y is a unique generation with the same naivety and self-focus that is typical of the first decade in adult life. The characteristics that often give them a bad reputation, especially in context of work, are not necessarily their fault. Generally, they were over-parented, over-praised and overstimulated. They are doing the best they can given where they have come from. And now they are entering a grownup world created by preceding generations that is not so inviting. In a decade or two this is all going to fall on their shoulders, so why not celebrate and encourage what makes them unique, and quite possibly the ones who are going to change things for the better.


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