Densmore Typewriter courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The words and expressions you use may be giving away your age more than any wrinkles.  Phases such as “he sounds like a broken record,” make perfect sense to anyone born before CDs or the iPod, but not to the Gen Y or Millennial Generation now in college and entering the workplace. This is the generation that has never dialed a telephone, used a typewriter, smelled a fresh mimeograph copy or scrolled through a microfiche record.

Born after 1981 and before 1998, there are over 75 million in this generation so they are worth your attention as an employer and as a service provider.

Forget about email … it’s all about texting. They are 24/7 and high tech.  They take notes digitally so don’t expect to see a notepad during a meeting.  You are apt to be given a strange look when you ask a Gen Y for a hard copy … and a puzzled look when you attempt to hand them one.

They are highly diverse so don’t even think about making comments with racial or ethnic overtones.  They notice a lack of diversity in organizations and in retailers.

They grew up with choices … cable channels, websites, online shopping, school assignments, food courts, and afterschool activities.  They bring this expectation of choices to the workplace and can interpret a lack of options as a sign of disrespect.

For the most part, they like their parents and may want to have you meet them before accepting a job offer or making a final decision on a large purchase.  They trust their parents and see this as an extension of the advice they offered most of their lives.

As they grew up, everyone got a trophy so positive encouragement is expected. They want frequent feedback and meaningful work.  They work to live and life balance is very important.

Want to know more?  Since 1998, Beloit College has published an annual Mindset List depicting the worldview of each new class.  Their first list described the class of 2002, born in 1980.  If you have a bit more time, pick up the newly published The Mindset Lists of American History: From Typewriters to Text Messages, What Ten Generations of Americans Think Is Normal.  It may make you feel old, but it will also provide some wonderful insights.

Here is today’s final exam on Gen Y:  RUN@4?

[ANSWER: Are you in at 4:00?]