Do you know what they’re saying about Gen Y?

Gen-Y (Millennials) are a hot topic, as usual. And, in the past few weeks I’ve had many interesting articles come up in my RSS feed, email and through word of mouth. I’ve summarized a few of the more interesting ones below, so check them out and let me know what you think!

Young and Poor in America.

On average, Millennials are comparatively spending less than Gen-X. And that’s bad for the economy, folks. On the other side of the coin though, there isn’t the earnings to match – many millennials are out of work, or working in lower-wage jobs as their education doesn’t match the job market.

Factors impacting their pockets are  fewer jobs, lower earnings, poorer job quality in terms of benefits, higher debt, and higher costs for education, rent and health care.  The data is a clear warning to marketers counting on discretionary dollars from young adults to jumpstart their industries out of recession. It’s not gonna happen.

Read more here

5 Millennial Myths, debunked. 

Thank goodness this article is helping to shed some light on the misconceptions that have permeated mainstream opinion on Gen-Y in the workplace. The five myths and a quick summary:

  1. Millennials don’t want to be told what to do. (In actual fact, Millennials, like to inform themselves of the easiest way to get to the right result, so employers should take the opportunity to give great direction to employees).
  2. Millennials lack organizational loyalty. (Research shows Millennials have the same level of commitment as Gen X. So there. In actual fact, the rate of job changes are consistent through various ages across generations.)
  3. Millennials aren’t interested in their work. (To quote the article directly, “It isn’t that millennials aren’t motivated; it’s that they’re not motivated to do boring work.”).
  4. Millennials are motivated by perks and high pay. (According to the facts, perks are great (and millennials love them, don’t get me wrong), but they won’t change how dedicated someone is.)
  5. Millennials want more work-life balance. (Okay, there is some truth here. But, it’s more of an overall societal shift, and Millennials just happen to be at the forefront. So sue us.)

Read more here

Yes, we’re poor.

The Globe and Mail recently did a live chat with author Rob Carrick (who has a new book out called How Not to Move Back in With Your Parents: The Young Person’s Complete Guide to Financial Empowerment – If there’s a literary agent reading, I’d be happy to accept a freebie….). The Q&A transcript has a lot of useful information on battling student debt out of school.

Read more here

Generation Why Bother.

A rather dark take on the trend of risk-aversion that’s seemingly attributed to Gen-Y’ers.

But Generation Y has become Generation Why Bother. The Great Recession and the still weak economy make the trend toward risk aversion worse. Children raised during recessions ultimately take fewer risks with their investments and their jobs. Even when the recession passes, they don’t strive as hard to find new jobs, and they hang on to lousy jobs longer. Research by the economist Lisa B. Kahn of the Yale School of Management shows that those who graduated from college during a poor economy experienced a relative wage loss even 15 years after entering the work force.

Read more here + A likeable response

The new 20-something benchmarks for life, in general.

How do you measure your life?

You know what I mean. The successes, the failures, the wins, the losses; the things that we use to benchmark ourselves against our peers.

In the past, marriages, kids, buying houses, cars and material things were used as the true “benchmarks” in life. Just look at our parents – a mix of boomers and Gen-X’s – who measured things by getting married at a certain age, having kids at a certain time and making sure that they picked the right neighborhood and schools for their kids and did everything on the pre-defined “life” checklist at just the “right time”.

We can’t – and don’t – measure life that way anymore. There’s simply too much variety, choice and change.

Not only can’t we measure this way, but what’s the point of trying to do so, anyway?

I know I don’t want to be perceived as a “failure” because I’m 25, unmarried, living in  bachelor apartment with student debt that prevents buying a house.  I want to be recognized by my personal achievements – whatever they may be – and celebrate the life I’m creating for what it is: uniquely mine. And for those I know in my age bracket that have the aforementioned things, I don’t judge, but I do applaud. They’ve make choices based on their life, and I’ll continue to make choices based on my life.

But, I wouldn’t be a Type-A if I didn’t want some way to measure. Don’t you want to know what the new benchmarks are?

If I had to make a new list to replace the marriage, having kids, buying houses list, here’s what I think fits the current generation.



Continue reading

We are a generation of scanners.

Folks, I’ll keep this brief; I have a hunch you won’t read every word here, but that’s okay. We are becoming a generation of scanners, taking in titles instead of full paragraphs, bullet lists instead of full prose, bolded words instead of complete thoughts.
Just think, when was the last time you fully read something like a newspaper, web page, document or blog post, from start to finish?
I bet it wasn’t recently.
A 2008 study found that on average, a webpage reader only has time, at most, to read 28% of the material on the page. Most likely they will take in only 20% of the information presented.
(PS – You made 25% of the way – keep on going!)
I’ve noticed that my reading habits have changed over time, too.
As a student I had an overwhelming amout of information to digest so I learned shortcuts and prioritization techniques to make life easier. Those techniques have proved to be extremely important as the information that is available to me keeps increasing and seemingly, my ability to find time to read this wealth of information keeps decreasing.
More often than not, I look at my google reader with 100+ new items, my twitter feed with endless updates, and the piles of unread magazines, books and articles that are scattered around my apartment, and I just don’t know where to start. So instead of reading thoroughly, I start scanning for the bits and pieces I find relevant, interesting and meaningful.
And I’m not the only one. According to Carol Phillips, Millennials have been noted to be a generation of scanners. We like quick hits of information, instant conclusions, summarized findings, and it all has to come in a format that lets us get what we need, and move on to other things quickly.
I worry that the quality of information changes when we change the way in which we present the information.
Will newspapers begin to report in bullet point lists only? Will websites become more visual and provide less text in the future? Can short basic words replace long and complex words and still provide the same meaning?
It’s obvious to me that our tendency to scan information is already making changes to the way information is presented.
I prefer to read blog posts that have titles bolded and paragraphs that are short and to the point. I prefer facts to be present in a list, not in prose and I always prefer a graphical visual when data is involved.
But, what works the best?
I’m sure the jury is still out on that.
What I do know is that although style is evolving, substance still trumps everything.

Gen-y: the instant hot chocolate generation?

In 1997, long before I had ever heard the phrase “Generation Y”, I was a grade 6 student at A.G. Baillie Memorial Elementary School. At that time I was a stubborn kid who always wanted to know the right answer and I was already showing signs of Type-A personality; complete with control issues, impatience and constant competitiveness.

In one specific memory I was in Mrs. Smith’s science class, provided with the following supplies: one d-cell battery, two pieces of wire, one flashlight bulb, and a piece of paper, divided into, I think, eight sections. The only task that day was to find your own quiet spot in the classroom and figure out how to make the light bulb light up, eight different ways.

Within 5 minutes, someone else had yelled out “Success!” (Actually, it was more of a fist-pumping “yessssssssssssss!”). Meanwhile, at the same time that I heard this cry, I was stuck and as the seconds ticked by I was getting more and more frustrated. Within 10 minutes, 80% of the classroom had at least one solution, and once you have one solution, the other possibilities are just as easily found and documented. Some kids had the time for fancy artistic drawings while I was busy blowing steam out my ears in frustration! By the 15 minute mark, I was still without success, and close to tears. Mrs. Smith, knowing of my desire for success and my certain impatience, made me continue on my own for nearly one whole hour until I had finally taken enough time to cool down, and solve the problem with logic, not frustration.

I can remember two key things from that experiment:

1) It pays to figure things out on your own, but getting to success can be time consuming and requires patience (a trait I’ve always lacked).

2) When the experiment was over, Mrs. Smith had dubbed our class, or in her words at the time, “our generation” (who knew what that meant at that time?) the “instant hot chocolate generation”.

Surely she was a forerunner on generational gap trends, or she was and early adopter of the idea of Generation Y and the traits Gen-Y encompass, or maybe it was just my standoffish impatience that typified us all. I do remember that that phrase was often used throughout the rest of the school year in our classroom, whenever anyone displayed any signs of wanting the instant answer without any of the work.

I’d like to flip that assumption – instant success with little work – on it’s head, because as much as I think calling Gen Y “the instant hot chocolate generation” is cute, accurate and funny, I think it’s a good demonstration of the generational gap at work: we like things fast, uncomplicated, and we don’t like to re-create the wheel.

Generation Y works differently than Generation X, and those differences are becoming increasingly apparent. I see it in the way my parents do things that I do differently. I see it in the way companies are trying to market to Gen-Y from the Gen-X perspective.

Today we’re reading more an more about generational trends and  as time goes on, we are learning more about what it is that defines Generation Y. I’m happy to know that our dominant characteristics seems to be stronger family values, a clear desire for balance in our lives and more time to pursue personal interests, no matter how we are perceived by the generation that has gone before us.

And for me, it’s the defining moments in my life, such as this one, that keeps me learning and writing about what makes my generation – this generation – so interesting.

My Summit 2010: The protests

This post was originally featured at The Next Great Generation.

I was privileged to be one of the 150 Millennials from around the world invited to the My Summit 2010 event. Each delegate was invited to participate and talk about their ideas for the future and challenge the G8 and G20 leaders to devise solutions that will benefit not only our generation, but also the generations yet to come.

Leading up to the G20 Summit proceedings, the downtown core of Toronto drastically transformed. Stores closed, businesses shut down and security tightened up. Police were on hand to re-route traffic, keep the peace and encourage people to stay out of trouble. On Saturday June 26, 2010, the first day of the G20 Summit, the youth delegates happened to be on a coach bus in downtown Toronto as the day’s events for the My Summit 2010 were taking place outside of the G20 lockdown zone. As we tried to move around the city, we were forced to experience what it was like to be in the midst of a protest.

For upwards of two hours the youth delegates were trapped amidst the commotion. Besides the disappointment we felt for the destruction and chaos that was ongoing, the general feeling in the air was that we were unaware of the message that anyone involved in the protests were trying to convey. It was beyond frustrating to be stuck in the frustrating confines of the bus, locked in for safety as we tried to get where we were going, impeded and delayed by the activity in the streets.

Protesters are often typified as young and reckless. They get lots of media attention because they are loud, proud and, in this particular case, ironically destructive. While there is lots of excitement around what happens at a protest of such magnitude, all of this commotion detracts from the main event and the real reason that so many people have gathered together.

While on the bus, we had limited access to the news, so our Blackberries became our fuel for updates via Twitter and news sites. We were enraged, excited, dismayed, shocked and awed at what was going on directly around us. Things changed by the second and, as we were potentially a target, the feeling in the pit of my stomach worsened. It was similar to the feeling of wearing a blindfold and having someone be your guide. Our blindfold was our lack of knowledge, creating fear of the unknown and our only guide was our ever present connection to the digital world.

I’ve lived and worked in Toronto and I’ve called Toronto my home. But on that day in Toronto, the city looked and felt nothing like the Toronto that I knew. Where there should have been tourists, there were protesters – everywhere.

Everyone can have an opinion, but it’s what you do with that opinion that matters.

I respect the right to an opinion and the rights of others to have their own. I don’t, however, respect unlawful destruction and the absence of a cohesive voice or substantiated opinion. Finding purpose in your voice is what will ultimately create change, so why not put your effort into something constructive that will get your voice heard and make a difference?

Seizing the opportunity to wreak havoc on a city simply because they have bulked up security is not effective. It is a harmful, frustrating, ineffective, complete waste of time, energy and resources.

There are probably a few parallels between those involved in the protests and those involved in the My Summit 2010 delegation. Both groups are young, on average, and are extremely passionate about specific issues. However, one group chose violence and destruction, while the other chose a forum that gave their cause a constructive and actionable voice. And on Saturday, June 26, 2010, the group that chose violence won the battle to get the best media coverage, simply by making a spectacle.

The delegates are people that are passionate about their future and want to make sure that the issues that are important to them are heard. I believe that our generation is willing to take risks, speak up and speak out on what they believe in.

My hope for the future is that events like the G8 and G20 will happen without protest. We need forums where our world leaders can talk about what issues face us. As Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in his closing address, “we no longer have a national economy, we have a global economy.”

We persevered through the protests and by night’s end the noise, commotion, and destruction had died down. The broken Starbucks windows will be fixed quickly, and soon enough Toronto will be back to normal, without protesters, extra police and steel barricades. Many people will reflect back on the G20 Summit of 2010 and think of what happened in the streets of Toronto.

I will look back and remember the decisions that were made, the subjects that were talked about and that the voice of our generation was heard.