I did a presentation today at Jeff Pulver’s Social Media Jungle in which I referenced how much I prefer working with Generation Y (Millenials, Digital Natives). Talk about a crowd response! In the spirit of practicing what I preach, let me share my philosophy behind it.
As the Baby Boomers begin exiting the work force, my generation, Generation X, finds ourselves in the unique sandwich position. Caught in the middle of two massive generations, we have operated largely ignored and uninhibited for quite some time. While the Baby Boomers have been running traditional corporations and operating in the pre-Web 2.0 world, my generation has been quietly building our own working world.
My generation is a generation that frequently operates best in a freelance environment. We like to have the freedom to work at home, often alone by default, and are not traditionally joiners. This means that I often know several Generation X colleagues I can tap for one project, and I often do bring them on board, but their network is often much smaller than I seek for an ongoing relationship. Sure, Gen X is on Twitter, for example, but generationaly often scoffs at the connectivity of social media even as they use it (or build it).
For that reason when it is time to consult on a project I turn to my colleagues in Generation Y first (personally, I prefer Digital Natives to Gen Y as a “label”). As a consultant, I don’t “hire” people for permanent staff, I collaborate on projects with other freelancers instead. For per project consulting, I find that Digital Natives, as a rule, are more in tune with quickly shifting trends and have larger trusted networks to use as the building blocks to future collaboration. This makes them ideally suited for social media projects.
Do I ignore my generation in favor of Generation Y? Absolutely not. I simply find that my generation is already self sufficient, set up to freelance, and we work better together on one-time projects and as a resource behind the scenes for each other. If you run a company and you have Generation Y on staff that you “don’t understand”, I recommend finding out more about them. You have a vast, untapped resource at your disposal.