You’re Young, You Get This Techy Stuff, Right?
It’s a common thread: Many Gen Y professionals are automatically looked to as the “techy one” in their offices by merit of age alone. It can be a good thing – one of the leading positive characteristics of our generation is our tech savviness and ability to quickly learn to use new tools.
But if you’re not necessarily in a field where new media knowledge is crucial to your professional skill set, like marketing, public relations or media, what should your reaction be? Is it stereotyping, or an opportunity?
I definitely err on the side of opportunity here. As a member of what’s been called “the first digitally native generation,” that learning curve for technology is noticeably shortened for all Millenials, even if you don’t consider yourself a techy person. I’m old enough to remember truly floppy discs, and the 3.5 versions. I taught myself to design greeting cards using Print Shop by about age 7. (Though I still struggle on what remote to use to control my combo DVR/DVD/TV/HD/etc.) There’s some natural skill set that our generation has learned, consciously or not.
Because information consumption has drastically changed in the last 15 years, younger people have a physiological advantage in the efficiency with which we can process information, and judge its veracity or usefulness. Use it to your advantage.
Three Ways to Take Advantage of Gen Y Technology Stereotype
1. Educate your more seasoned coworkers. Gen Yers are all about teamwork, so this is a chance to teach and show your team spirit. Be patient, use words like “best practices” and get really good at explaining and simplifying processes. E.g. When you post an update to your status on Facebook, it not only is posted on your personal wall, it becomes part of a live feed of information your friends’ Facebook home pages. Even if it’s clearing a jump drive of pesky hidden trash files or synching a BlackBerry, you can be the expert, even if you’re the entry level peon at the office.
2. Take the opportunity to learn a new skill. One major complaint of Gen Y-ers on the job is that the essential learning quotient that keeps us energized and engaged in our job dramatically decreases the longer you stay in a certain position. Volunteer to test new technology that could solve a problem occurring in your workplace. Whether it’s using Skype to eliminate long distance charges, starting everyone on an internal IM system, or testing Google Forms to simplify informal information-gathering, it will keep your learning factor high. Plus, you’ll present presenting yourself as a dedicated problem-solver, even if you had no idea how to use the technology in the beginning, either.
3. Use Your Social Networking Skills to Make Your Company Look Good. Represent in online networking activities just like you do at live industry and community events. It’s increasingly common for companies to need brand evangelizers to talk about good things in a public way. As marketing and advertising dollars shrink, others within a company are being tapped to help.
You can post on your Facebook status that you’re going with a group from your company to a local non-profit’s 5k. Tweet your excitement about working with a new client or satisfaction with a successful new business pitch. Post and tag photos on Flickr of culture- or teamwork-building activities with your company’s name and website.
However, if your colleagues are doing any of the following, it’s okay to claim temporary dumbness:
- Frantically clicking on Jennie The Hot Intern’s vacay photos on Flickr
- Wondering why no one is following tweets that consist of “Trying to learn how to Twitter this thing,” and “Going to another meeting.”
- Posting “hit lists” of people who are “slamming” your industry in the media on Facebook
- E-mailing inane YouTube videos to the whole staff
It’s okay to pick your battles. Walk away, prepare a carefully-worded, respectful Top 10 Tech Tips memo, and check back next week.
Quote of the Moment
“Looking at Occupy Wall Street and the civil rights movements of the 60s, Malcolm Gladwell has noticed a fundamental difference in the generations — Millennials don't follow a heirarchy. The Occupy efforts were like a general assembly, with no defined leaders. That will have a big impact on businesses, which have been built on organizational heirarchy, as Millennials enter the workforce. "
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