The Truth About Generation Y

Euro RSCG Worldwide's Prosumer Report shows that Millennials believe they can effect world change.

Euro RSCG Worldwide’s Prosumer Report shows that Millennials believe they can effect world change.

TIME Magazine’s cover article on May 20 about the “ME ME ME Generation” by Joel Stein has led to some false ideas about the ambitions of Generation Y.

Today’s twenty-somethings, or “Millennials,” are a product of the current economic climate. Stein calls the generation lazy based on the fact that they are unemployed, single and living with their parents.

This, as you may have guessed, is less about motivation and more about the fact that there simply are not enough jobs to accommodate every recent college graduate.

 2013’s State of the Internship Report gives us a clear picture of Generations Y and Z. Let’s bust the myths surrounding the younger generation, shall we?

Myth #1: They’re lazy.

Contrary to popular belief, Generations Y and Z are not unambitious or lazy. Over 33% of today’s students complete their first internship before their sophomore year in college to get a jumpstart on their career.

On top of that, 82% of Millennials worldwide believe that their generation has the power to change the world, and 73% of them think that people become successful by working hard—not by being beautiful or lucky, according to the Prosumer Report by Euro RSCG Worldwide.

Myth #2: They don’t respect authority.

This myth really depends on how you define authority. Young people today are less likely to trust politicians and religious leaders, which could be seen as a rejection of authority. However, 61% of youths worldwide actually want advice from the previous generation, recognizing the older generations’ experience and wanting to learn from it.

Myth #3: They are unhealthily obsessed with social media.

Now this one is only part true. Despite their seeming dependence on social media, 82.1% of students said that not being allowed to use their personal social media accounts while at work would not affect their willingness to apply.

But while nearly all Millennials are connected to social media, it might not be for the reasons that you think. 70% of young people believe that social media is a force for change. The Millennials are using it to fight corruption, evaluate public schools, and fight stereotypes, according to the Huffington Post.

Myth #4: They’re all about money.

Students these days are less about the 401k and more about culture and flexibility. 60% of young people look at the work atmosphere of a job or the ability to balance their work life and their personal life before even glancing at salary.

58.9% of students said that the most important part of their internship experience is gaining experience and building their portfolio. Financial compensation was lowest on their list of internship benefits.

Myth #5: They’re always looking for the next great opportunity.

68% of 2013 graduates expect to stay at their first job for three years or longer, according to Accenture’s recent survey. Millennials want to commit, and their loyalty does have a price, just not the price you’d expect.

What Millennials really want is recognition and guidance. Businesses lose Generation Y because they aren’t paying attention to the generation’s needs. 46% of young people said the best sign that they are doing well at a company is “being recognized as an expert in the field,” over a promotion or a pay increase.

Don’t be too worried about hiring candidates right out of college. Dealing with the latest addition to the workforce is easy if you know what they want. The Millennials don’t take job opportunities for granted, and they aren’t the lazy no-good kids that the media makes them out to be.

So how do you make the Millennials work for you? The Globe and Mail says that it’s all about mentorship and flexibility. Work for them as much as they work for you, and you’ll not only build a good relationship with your Gen Y and Z employees, but you’ll tap the boundless creativity that the Millennials have to offer.

Download the full State of the Internship Report!

Download the full State of the Internship Report!

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Liz LeCrone

  • jokim1

    Faulty logic and weak arguments refuting Myth #1. Gen Y is lazy, but I do agree they are ambitious. These characteristics may be somewhat related but are separate. Belief does not = action. Further, how does Gen Y’s belief in hard work compare with Gen X? Gen Y = tim ferriss “4 hour work week” worshippers.

    • Liz LeCrone

      Thanks for the response! I agree. Belief definitely does not equal action. But to call an entire generation lazy is disingenuous, especially when the Millennials are responsible for the creation of massive companies like Facebook, Groupon, and Tumblr. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 27% of Millennials are already self employed. In 2011, they launched 160,000 startups per month and 29% of all entrepreneurs were aged 20-35.

      And Generation Y is not all that different from Generation X. The older generations are always calling their kids directionless and narcissistic (see Newsweek’s cover of “The Video Generation” or TIME’s “Twentysomething” from the 80s and 90s). It is entirely cyclical and not at all unique to Gen Y.I It won’t be long before Gen Y is saying the same things about Z.

      • jokim1

        I was a bit rude in my initial response. Apologies for that. You on the other hand very classy in your response.

        Having said that, I’m still troubled by the use of statistics. For example, it would be helpful to have some of the statistics in relation to other generations. e.g., “27% of millenials are self employed” in relation to what? vs. what for Gen X?

        Also, the fact that entrepreneurs aged 20-35 are all entrepreneurs doesn’t really mean much. Doesn’t mean they aren’t lazy. Also, most entrepreneurs should be in that age range. Most married older folks with kids take less risks and don’t have the ability to adjust to startup life.

        Just speaking anecdotally you do have a few extremely talented and ambitious Gen Y’ers but too many in that generation that I’ve personally hired have been straight up lazy. They aren’t used to working hard and try to shift work around or to other people. Again, anecdotal but I’ve hired about 15 in that age range in the past 2 years and unfortunately the majority have been lazy, self-serving, etc.

        I’m just concerned by the conclusions being drawn from point statistics and without a sound basis for drawing those conclusions.

        • Liz LeCrone

          This is definitely some interesting feedback. Putting statistics and percentages aside, we’ve hired about 5x that number of students and have had a nearly opposite experience. Each has been independent, self-motivated, and highly capable.

          A common issue is that Millennials are extremely mission focused. They’ve spent their lives up to this point in very structured situations, all driving toward one goal at a time, so making sure to hire students who are truly passionate about your work can create a world of difference. We recommend interviewing students about their extracurriculars, finding those who have already taken an interest in your line of work, rather than just searching for high GPAs or top notch schools.

          A large number of companies are frustrated that not every student is excited about work in general, but still many more are thrilled when they find the right students who are excited about their team, culture and mission, and who can be more independent and effective then hires in the past. It isn’t about making students fit into the cookie cutter cubicles that once ruled the work world. Millennials refuse to lose their individuality, and so you have to find the individuals who are more suited to your business, and work with them. Learn from them, and they’ll learn from you.

          I think the biggest thing to note is that students in this generation are not lazy, but instead they see a greater blurring of work and free time, meaning that finding the right students who are willing to be engaged all the time is more important than it has ever been before.

          We don’t have a choice when it comes to dealing with the Millennials, as they will soon make up a majority of the workforce as the Baby Boomers retire. They were raised differently than Gen X was, and we have to change how we hire and how we manage our younger employees, not only to help them reach their potential, but also to utilize their potential to make our businesses better.