‘Generation of kids choosing love over a desk’
- Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ‘10,000 Hours’
We’re often chastised as an indecisive generation that doesn’t know what’s good for it. On the tube this morning, I was listening to Jason Calacanis argue that millennials are innately selfish - we’re looking for personal growth, things that we need/have to do. 18 months into a new job we decide that we have to go to Tibet. No, the company don’t have an office out there, but it’s not about them, it’s about us. Today’s graduates aren’t looking to find a job, batten down the hatches and ride it out, they want to knit together a patchwork quilt of ‘life experiences’, when the going gets tough, they don’t get going, they just go.
Adulation, praise and leisure time. These are a few of our favourite things. Outspoken ‘Gen Y experts’ blame childhoods filled with trophies and constant praise for our fragile egos and aversion to good, old fashioned hard work. From a young age we’ve been taught to look after ‘numero uno’ - a recent University of Michigan study of 13,737 college students found that young people today are ‘40% lower in empathy that their counterparts of 20, or 30 years ago’. 40%. That’s a lot. Psychology professor Jean Twenge brands us ‘Generation Me’ - with a certain satisfaction she argues that our ‘soaring expectations’ will, sooner or later be met with ‘crushing realities’.
Ok. So those are some compelling stats, they’d definitely make you sound cool at parties, but what do we really want? Adulation seems to fit the bill for many. The bright lights of celebrity shine brighter for the young, and giving ‘role models’ like Lauren Goodger (‘Towie’) column inches for ‘avoiding puddles’ encourages people to think that, when everyone cracks open The Daily Mail at lunchtime, they could be the topic of discussion.
Even for those who don’t want to ‘make it’, recognition is important - we want to know that we’re doing a good job. Older colleagues, friends and family members might grumble about feedback and office reviews - these were never necessary in ‘our day’, it’s ‘political correctness gone mad’ etc etc. BUT, they let employers keep on top of performance, ‘Dan from Accounts’ can’t spend all day on Facebook, he has deliverables.
Companies are beginning to change the way they approach Gen y. It makes sense right? We want different things and employers should recognise this. They’re starting to acknowledge that today’s talent is ‘special’ - they have plenty of help of course, I wonder how many self professed ‘Gen y coaches’ there are offering their services (a Google search returns nearly 2 million results). We’ve all been told that if your careers page isn’t mobile optimized you haven’t got a hope. That your website content needs to be engaging, and that you should ‘gamify’ anything and everything you can. Sure, some of this is exaggeration, everyone has booked tickets on the bandwagon, but companies should ignore it at their peril. If we are so self centred and if we have such short attention spans, what kind of impression do you think bland content and uninspiring job ads make on us? We want to work at ‘exciting’ companies, so what are companies doing? They’re making themselves exciting! E-commerce retailer Shopify’s wants candidates that can ‘draw the fu**ing owl’ (must watch), Google has consistently created puzzles and problems for potential applicants. This is what we’ve done - we’ve forced companies to stop trotting out the same generic text, we’ve forced them to think differently. **self congratulatory pat on the back everyone**
Is all of this a little childish on our behalf? Do we need to grow up and ‘face the music’? Are we trapped in some kind of distorted internal Neverland? - we want to hang out with with Peter Pan instead of joining ‘real life’. Is it all bad though? Our workplace iconoclasm could easily be viewed as a desire to innovate. We tend to be self assured and very ambitious; over two-thirds of millennials say they want to run their own business one day. Also, I think we can all agree that the new focus on ‘candidate experience’ serves all applicants, not just Gen Y. Companies are harnessing ideas previously more at home in the marketing department to engage potential applicants from the moment they first encounter them. We may never fulfill our ‘unrealistic’ ambitions, or live up to our delusions of grandeur, BUT we are at least partly responsible for accelerating changes in the way companies recruit.
*Disclaimer - I’m one of the ‘notorious’ Gen Y-ers
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Ben Slater is VP Growth at Beamery, the all-in-one sourcing, engagement and employer branding platform
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