A Different Look at Gen Y

If I was born from 1982 to somewhere close to 2000, I’d be feeling pretty unique and awesome by now.  Let’s look at some Gen Y characteristics that are stereotyped:  idealistic and socially conscious, confident, ambitious, achievement-and-team-oriented, authenticity seekers, attention cravers, culturally liberal, virtual relationships, engage or loose me, ask and guide me, immersed in the digital world from an early age….  This is known to be a generation of self-confident optimists due to years of helicopter parenting and unconditional positive reinforcement from work-centric and goal-oriented Baby Boomer parents who over-compensated for how tough they had it.

While all that may be true, when was the last time we asked a Hispanic, African American, Asian or multiracial Gen Y if these so-called core traits apply to them?  Did they have helicopter parents hover reassuringly above them?  I’m not convinced that socio-economic groups other than white affluent teenagers display the same Gen Y attributes we read about.  It’s not that multi-and-cross-cultural parents don’t want to treat their kids as special, but they often don’t have the social and cultural capital, the time and resources to do it.

Since the 2000 Census allowed people to select more than one racial group, Gen Ys have asserted their rights to have all their heritages respected, counted and acknowledged. 2010 Census showed 32% growth in multiracial category from 2000, and on track to grow another 25%.

I think we can look for cross-cultural commonalities and find these shared values and characteristics:

  • Yes, first era of reality TV, rise of dot-com, virtual relationships
  • Change is mandatory, make it meaningful
  • Demand for authenticity and honesty
  • Culturally liberal, color and gender neutral if it weren’t for parents influence & 9/11
  • Family centric with much closer relationship with parents, unlike the “individualistic” Gen X’ers
  • Delaying some rites of passage into adulthood (for more on this, click here)
  • Love flexibility and work-life-balance even more than Gen X’ers
  • So, yes, perceived as a bit lazy by workaholic Boomers
  • Less employed than any other generation due to the economic situation starting up in
  • More educated, purchasing power rivals that of the Boomers
  • Leverage the digital world to connect, engage & motivate – but want it personal & real
  • Freedom, equality, opportunity, inspiration & honesty are cross-cultural shared values

How do you think all this will re-define Corporate America as Baby Boomers start to retire?  You’d have to be willing to make a difference to make a living.  Think of Lady GaGa and her message of “be who you are”, and Black Eye Peas, a group as multi-culti as you can get.  Cross-cultural messaging through commonalities works.  Start now.

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