Last week, I was busy doing research on generations and related issues in the workplace. My boss and I were asked to present to a local Chamber of Commerce about motivating Gen X (that’s me) and Gen Y (that’s you). Luckily, this topic has come up before, so neither of us was starting from scratch. In fact, my boss had been asked a year ago to do a similar presentation, but it was solely focused on your generation, Gen Y or the Millennials. With my generation-appropriate music pumping, I got right to work beefing up the information for my generation, Gen X.
The sad thing is that it’s hard to find concrete information about Gen X. In fact, some have dubbed it an ignored generation. There is not even a good definition of who belongs in that generation, when it began or when it ended. What I do know is that I fall on the cusp between the two generations, so I share some characteristics with Gen X and some with Gen Y.
There are some Gen X stereotypes that I want to stay clear of: slackers, whiners, apathetic, cynical. None of those qualities would win anyone “Employee of the Year.” But don’t get too excited. There are plenty of less desirable traits attributed to Gen Y: entitled, lazy, over-protected. The good thing is that these are stereotypes, so they probably don’t accurately portray who you are. Unfortunately, some people buy into these ideas and might incorrectly label you this way.
Even though your generation has been in college for some time now and has been entering the workplace over the past few years, employers still seem hung up on the Millennials. Employers want to know how to deal with you. In a sense, you’re entering the workplace at a branding deficit.
When it comes to building your brand, knowledge is power. When it came to learning more about the previous generation, Gen Xers had the power of film to highlight the negative perceptions of them and their peers. Reality Bites and Mall Rats capitalized on the idea that young people at the time were lazy. While there might not be any movies built around the negative stereotypes about Gen Y, there are better ways to gather information: the Internet (which is perfect for the Internet Generation, another name you might go by).
Read up on the generalizations about your generation. Learn more about the advice given to employers on how to manage you. Just Googling “managing Gen Y” should bring up enough information to keep you busy for awhile. Play up the positive generational characteristics you possess. And if any of the negative stereotypes hit a little too close to home, work on ways to reduce their impact on your workplace performance.
Even though the perceptions of your generation might knock your brand down a notch, you can use your knowledge of those stereotypes to trump them. I for one love reading about my generation. It’s fun and interesting to better understand the era I grew up in and the cultural aspects that shaped who I am today. Be proud of the generation that you are a part of. If you see it in a positive light, others can’t help but see it that way, too.
Laura serves as Internship Coordinator at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in the office of Career & Leadership Development. In this role, Laura advises students who are pursuing internships, assists employers with intern recruitment, and supports university faculty who oversee academic internships. She also provides students with job search readiness assistance through presentations, individual counseling, and social media. Laura earned her bachelors degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she majored in French and Political Science, and she received her masters degree in Counseling from UW-Whitewater. To learn more about Laura, read her blog, follow her on Twitter, or connect on LinkedIn.