I was a freshman the first time I learned Generation Y is supposed to save the world.
It was my first semester at DePauw University and I was reading a marketing book for an honors media course. The author explained that Gen X is the lazy generation, the product of being too spoiled by Baby Boomer parents.
But Gen Y—also known as the Millennials—is the group that taps into the pre-corporate world Baby Boomer-style, out for social change through activism.
A few years later I found myself researching my generation while interning under the sales director of two radio stations in Nashville, Tenn. As I read, I became intrigued with piecing together what Gen Y was all about.
In the face of a bad economy, Gen Y may be dazed into believing the tales that we’re lazy, cell phone-obsessed, and that we know more about Justin Bieber than politics. But here’s why Gen Y will save the world, even if we don’t find jobs:
We seek out meaningful opportunities.
We aren’t just settling for flipping burgers or working as telemarketers. Instead, we seek out opportunities that allow room for professional and personal growth.
Service opportunities are a priority. This article reports that over half of 20-somethings want to find work at companies that are big on providing volunteer opportunities. So maybe we’re a little picky at times, but it’s because our social conscious speaks loudly.
It’s all about the cause.
Gen Y tends to extend social consciousness into consumer habits, as well. The Radio Advertising Bureau reports that over half of Millennials feel that it’s their role to make a positive impact on the world, and over three-quarters claim that companies should help with this.
Gen Y is therefore more likely to choose brands that are heavily involved in a cause or have demonstrated social and environmentally conscious practices. They will pay attention to where they spend their money and will easily switch to a brand that is in line with something they believe in.
We’re redefining home.
Even real estate is impacted by the savvy Millennials. The typical Gen Y member is looking for a lifestyle. Fortunately, it’s a positive one. Melissa Birdsong writes in her article, “Gen Y— Leading the Charge into the Future,” that members of this generation are happy to escape from the cookie-cutter suburbs. We find the opportunity to fix up an older home worthwhile, and that part of our duty is to “recycle and reuse.”
Neighborhoods that are multicultural are appealing and reflect the worlds we grew up in and encountered at school. We are also much more likely to choose a home for its neighborhood and the experience it offers: easy walking access to restaurants, shops, entertainment and public transportation. Therefore, we’re driving urban revitalization. The cities and neighborhoods that became ghost towns as our grandparents and great-grandparents moved to the suburbs may find new life.
We want a life.
This USA TODAY article says it best: “They want to work, but they don’t want work to be their life.” To some of the older generations it may sound lazy. But Gen Y is frequently the offspring of workaholic parents. Therefore, is it bad that we want to find a balance and enjoy our lives?
John McWethy, a now-deceased former national security correspondent for ABC News and an alum of my school, spoke at the class of 2003’s commencement ceremony. In his speech he offered the lesson to “never confuse your career with your life.” This line has been brought up several times during my four years in college, every time by other alums that interacted with and respected him. In a way, I think it’s a motto of Gen Y. We want to do awesome things and have a productive career. But we want to travel, we want to enjoy the arts, and some of us want to marry and have kids. We’re all about the balance.
As I look at my peers and prepare to graduate in three short months, I see that we, the proud Gen Y, are ready to get started in this crazy world. Like many of the articles reported, the people I know are intelligent, interested in urban life and mass transportation, have dedicated themselves to incredible service ventures, and are interested in a multicultural world. We see ourselves as successful and happy. Maybe the cruel world will burst our bubble, but maybe we’ll survive and make the world a little better in the process.
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