When it comes to us 20-somethings, the general consensus is that we suck. That seems to be how the older generation views us in a nutshell. We get called lazy, told we feel over-entitled, and are constantly berated for our love of texting and Facebook. But the truth is, young professionals have an insane amount of skills to offer the workforce and world.
While I’ll be the first to say that not all of Gen Y is as hard-working and motivated as I am, I do think that a large number of us are a great benefit to our employers, our startups and the U.S. economy as a whole.
Don’t let anyone tell you that our generation is the one that has a lot to learn — older generations are, arguably, the ones that should be learning from us. Here are 10 things they can start with:
1. Using social media
Yes. Gen Y loves our social media. But guess what? Having an integrated social media strategy has become a cornerstone of online marketing and business success! This means we have the upper hand on older professionals who still don’t understand “how to work The Facebook,” and we will gladly work overtime if it means Tweeting, sharing and Re-pining for our clients.
2. Inventing creative, breakout strategies
Not only do we know what SnapChat is, but we invented it. Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy who cofounded the social app are just two of the plethora of Gen Y creatives who have been reimagining life as the world knows it. Among other 20-somethings that have influenced our society in recent years are Mark Zuckerberg, Lady Gaga (love her or hate her, you know who she is), and Tumblr-creator David Karp.
3. Adjusting to life changes
20-somethings in the professional world have a knack for adapting to life’s many changes. Most of us vividly recall 9-11, The Great Recession and the (still-continuing) debate over climate change. This doesn’t suggest that older generations didn’t experience these events, but rather that Gen Y was at that crucial point in adolescent development throughout many of these events. Monumental changes have been happening all around us since as long as many of us can remember, making us experts at coping with acute changes in life trajectories.
Baby Boomers may have experienced the aftershocks of The Great Depression, but they also think that $0.25 is an appropriate tip for your waiter and reuse Ziploc bags to save money. The point I’m trying to make here is that, yes, older generations have been through some hard times as well, but they’re still not very adept at adjusting to those changes.
4. Promoting equality
Another seldom-mentioned positive quality of Gen Y is that a large majority of us believe in equal rights. Whether it’s race, economic class or sexual orientation, we want an equal world where everyone has a chance to live a happy life. And we aren’t all talk either. According to The Huffington Post, 75% of Gen Y donated money to charitable causes in 2011. Basically, if you’re looking for a new HR rep., go with someone under 30.
5. Working for the team
Studies have shown that Gen Y professionals are more likely to find greater productivity in teamwork as compared to Gen X and Baby Boomers. No, it’s not because we want to shuck off some of the workload onto our teammates. Many of us are genuinely interested in hearing our coworkers’ points of view, and we believe the best end product will be created with the greatest amount of unique perspectives. Perhaps this also comes so naturally to us because we’re used to seeing all of our friends’, families’ and coworkers’ opinions on our social newsfeeds every day — but that’s just my opinion.
6. Working enthusiastically
Contradictory to the ever popular stereotype that we hate work and will do anything to avoid it, many Gen Y professionals are absolutely enthused about our careers. Not all of us are trying to work for Google or some other insane tech company, either. In fact, the main reason Gen Y employees are so amped up about work is because we’re much more likely to seek out jobs that give us a sense of purpose and happiness, rather than simply accepting the highest-paying position. When you actually enjoy your career, you’re a lot more likely to work hard and deliver some amazing results for your startup or boss.
7. Foregoing money
While some people seem to think that Gen Y college students, graduates and employees are all sapping money from their parents, the truth is that many of us are trying to be as self-sufficient as possible. The New York Times reported that 44% of college students and recent graduates used their personal savings and part-time work to support their educations between 2006 and 2010.
And many of us have been paying our way through college from the start, with no expectation of parental help. Plus, with the state of the economy right now, most graduate still can’t get jobs, making us experts at getting by with what we have.
8. Being positive
Despite the economy we inherited, though, I have yet to see the kind of positive outlook exhibited by Gen Y in older generations. We’re great at finding the good in things when we try, and we’re consistently more positive about life in general than those older than us. Older generations like to say that we’re just “too young” to have faced life’s challenges yet, but that’s a cop-out. Many of us have seen some pretty awful things, and we’re still optimistic about the future. Maybe it’s all the Sundance Film Festival movies and Judd Apatow flicks, but something about our generation is making us more positive, and positivity is always a strength.
9. Rewarding hard work
Gen Y professionals not only work hard, but we also reward hard work. We love our incentives programs and killer company holiday parties because we know that celebrating even small successes pays off in increased effort and career satisfaction. Buy us a cool mouse pad, and we’ll try to double next month’s quota. Give us a gift card to Starbucks, and we’ll work overtime for 3 months straight. We don’t necessarily want your materialistic affection, but we appreciate your recognition and thanks. Plus, free coffee is always nice.
Why do you love being a part of Gen Y? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!
Kayla Minguez is a Gen Y blogger and Jr. Online PR Specialist at WebpageFX in Harrisburg, PA. She takes way too many pictures of her food before she eats it, loves watching cat videos on YouTube, and is preparing for the zombie apocalypse. She also graduated summa cum laude and is happily married.
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