Generation Y. Bright, bold, and bloody impatient. A group borne of a constantly connected environment where information, entertainment and content from the earth’s every nook and cranny are just the swipe of a smartphone away.
But what influence do these factors have on Gen Y as a workforce? We spoke to a number of hiring managers about how they perceive Generation Y as a talent pool – and we’re happy to present you with the findings, for better or worse. Because we all know deep down that we could be better. And because we want to give Generation Z a run for its money. Any of this sound familiar?
1. THE BRIGHT
If you’re a Gen Y-er lucky enough to have grown up in the free world (government cyber-snooping aside), there’s probably never been a time when you needed to find something out quickly and weren’t able to.
Unfettered access to information troves such as Wikipedia make it ridiculously easy to learn new things and ridiculously difficult to justify ignorance. Ian Baron, CEO of interactive marketing pioneers Thumbtags, agrees:
“Generation Y is the most gifted generation yet. Knowledge is abundant, the grasp of new technology unparalleled”.
SHOE-SHINE YOUR ONLINE PRESENCE
Baron goes on to say that the ability to influence socially can be a game-changer for companies. Fluency in social media is a weight-bearing pillar for Gen Y, but while nigh everyone tweets about what they may or may not have had for breakfast, the smart thing to do is take it to the next level.
Using Twitter, Instagram or a personal blog to broadcast your interests is a simple and engaging way to signpost your relevance to a prospective employer.
Find a niche you’re passionate about and strive to position yourself as an online ‘authority’ on the topic – not only will it send like-minded people flocking, it will show that you’ve got a keen interest in both learning and teaching.
2. THE BOLD
Access to literally a whole world-full of opinions means that Generation Y on average is better informed and ready to question accepted views.
Dan Garraway, co-founder of video tagging tool wireWAX, sees Gen Y as inquisitive, innovative, and champing at the bit to challenge what they see. These are splendid things indeed for breathing fresh air into a stagnant business model and shaking the shoulders of those who have become too complacent.
But the downside?
“This trait can lead to a tendency to want to think and theorise more than do. The ‘doing’ bit can be boring at times.”
Sad but true; successful businesses cannot exist on thought alone.
GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF THE CLOUDS (some of the time)
Attempting to keep abreast of every single content and news source that interests you is like trying to sieve the Sahara. And like sponges, our brains have a saturation point for the amount of information that can be retained in one sitting.
Mehdi Nayebi, CEO of social event discovery tool KweekWeek, makes the observation that Gen Y’s interest in a broad range of topics sometimes comes at the price of not being able to focus on a specific task and a lack of attention to detail.
The solution? Choose something that you’re dead-set on being the best at, try to restrict your content consumption to relevant articles, and practise practise practise till you ARE the best.
Another spot of good news is that Generation Y is apparently an audacious bunch.
Jamie Waldegrave, Finance Director of customer loyalty innovators Footfall123, acknowledges that though it’s hard to generalise, this generation is willing to shrug off the comfort zone and move around both geographically and between industries on the quest for a fulfilling career:
“Lots of people seem willing to push the boundaries more than perhaps their parents did, which is a positive.”
3. THE BAFFLING
There was an almost unanimous sentiment among the companies we spoke to that the worst thing about Generation Y is an inflated sense of entitlement. In other words, we want it all, and we want it YESTERDAY.
Hiring managers find themselves mystified time and again by the mismatch of candidates’ experience and expectations. The head of HR at match outcome wizards Football Radar, Helene Mark, hits the nail on the head:
“Many Gen Y’s are very selective in where they want to work and expect to find a ‘purpose’ in their job, not just payment.”
Looking for meaningful work is a laudable thing, of course, but not without a firm understanding that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Her advice? Don’t be overly picky when looking for your first job. Like everyone else, you need to be prepared to work hard, and work your way up.
A WAY IN IS A WAY UP
So, it turns out that your calling in life happens to be one of the most competitive jobs or industries?
Instead of getting tunnel vision and wondering why those darned stubborn employers can’t see past the fact that maybe you just happened to choose the wrong degree subject, there are other ways and means to reach your goal… with the right tenacious attitude and a smidgen of flexibility.
How then? Black magic? Bribery? Bending the truth? No, no, and NO WAY JOSÉ. Jamie Waldegrave points out that one nifty – and oft unconsidered – route to your dream job is to scope out a company where you like the culture, the mission and the people, and apply for a vacancy there which doesn’t sound too odious.
Do the job well, impress your colleagues boundlessly, and there’s often potential for internal movement.
And what of the dreaded initial grunt work? Waldegrave points out the value inherent in what might mistakenly be perceived as drudgery:
“Don’t underestimate how important the basic skills you learn during an internship are – how offices and companies work, what it expected of you when you have a job, that sort of thing.”
So there you have it. Three key things to boost your employability and get ahead as a Gen Y-er: get savvy on your social networks, get specific in your focus, and get ready to work hard.
By Corissa Nunn, European Development at Enternships
Other things to help you on your way to professional greatness: