Generation Mindfulness

By Megan Reilly

I had one of those weekends that every graduate student experiences at least once (if they’re lucky!) – weekend classes! All day last Friday and Saturday (9am-5pm) was spent in a classroom regardless of the beautiful fall weather that graces DC in September.

The class was on Supervision in Higher Education and was a mixed masters/doctoral elective course. This made the dynamic of the course very interesting, especially when the issue of generational differences arose.

We outlined the things that characterizes each of the major generations currently in the workplace. In the context of the supervision theme of the course, we filled the better part of three hours discussing how these characteristics (some of them based more on stereotype than fact) influence supervisory relationships in various settings.

To sum up the conversation, Millennials (aka Generation Y) are just the worst. Anyone born between 1981 and 2000 (for purposes of this discussion) is likely going to come into your organization with an obsession with technology, a high opinion of himself/herself, and an expectation of an elaborate rewards system.

Of course, being a proud Millennial myself, I see what the Generation X’ers and the Baby Boomers in the class (and probably in our jobs) see when they look at us. They see us as lacking commitment and loyalty for changing jobs, cities, and careers more often than those before us. They see us as irresponsible and lacking goals and direction for not buying houses until later in life, and they see us as selfish for delaying marriage and having children. They see us as egotistical because our resumes can be a little over-the-top and include accomplishments that they wouldn’t have shared. They see us as lacking social skills because of our apparent addiction to cell phones, social media, and the Internet.

I see these things too but from a slightly different perspective. I think we delay settling down and buying houses because we have been encouraged to see the world, try new things, and do our “bucket lists” before taking on the responsibility of starting a family. I think we aren’t buying houses because our student loan debt is crippling and we have some more exploring to do before we commit to one city and settle into a mortgage. We have been told our whole lives that we can do anything we want and because of that, we aren’t willing to settle for jobs that don’t make us feel fulfilled. Our resumes are crazy and unique because we want to stand out and be relatable in a workforce struggling to recover from a terrible recession. We are idealistic by nature and we are willing to just scrape by for a few years if it means we can pursue our passions. We love technology because of the sense of connectedness it gives us to other parts and people of the world, as well as our friends and family who have scattered across the globe. We embrace technological development and change because the next best thing could be just around the corner and “good enough” isn’t necessarily good enough for us. We want to make the world a better place simply because we’ve been told – by our Baby Boomer and Generation X parents, grandparents, mentors, and teachers – that we can.

The perspective of our predecessors WILL impact our ability to get jobs, be successful in the workplace and move up the ladder in our desired career paths. But I hope my generation never loses sight of how great our generation has the potential to be. And maybe, just maybe, one day we’ll be remembered as the “Greatest Generation” and earn the right to complain about the young’uns that come after us.

Feel free to follow this Millennial on Twitter at @MReilly90!

Student Affairs - the First Years

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