Embracing your Gen Y Status: SXSWi Edition

One of the SXSW interactive panel sessions (and discussions) I attended this week was called “Why Gen Y Wants to Work ‘With’ You, Not ‘For’ You.” The five panelists were all Gen Y employees who shared their personal experiences and tried to dispel some myths and stereotypes placed on their generation. The audience did a great job of sharing their opinions and interacting with the panel. They also had a screen with the live twitter feed projected for people to follow along both from the session and online. Check out the comments by searching #sxgeny

At times it seems unfair to stereotype an entire generation, so we crave to be individuals. I especially feel that when the negative attributes of our generation come up, people are quick to dismiss a collective Gen Y status. However if you are talking about hiring Gen Y employees because there are tech savvy and eager to grow, then yes, “I am Gen Y, please hire me.” Sometimes I feel that I switch my generation status on and off depending on the company I’m with, always trying to have the best of both worlds. I don’t want a label stuck on my forehead but that same label can empower me in some situations.

I felt this same divide during SXSW interactive and the Gen Y panel. Before I arrived I was proud to label myself a Gen Y or millennial. I wanted to be classified with that group. As the discussion heated up I started to squirm in my seat a little. I started to wonder if I’m better off being Hannah-non-generation-specific rather than Hannah a Gen Y-er. I didn’t like the idea of embracing that status if older generations were going to view it negatively.

In the end we often can help the labels placed on us anyway. We can’t help the year we were born or hide our obvious ages, but I do still struggle with the labels I give myself. I want to be an individual first, but I want to be part of the next great generation as well.

Do you own up to your Gen Y or millennial status all the time, or just when it’s convenient?

Photo Credit: davidgiesberg

Hannah DeMilta I'm originally from Cleveland, Ohio but recently moved to beautiful Sydney, Australia. I'm a Social Media Specialist at digital agency, Switched On Media here in Sydney. I'm a graduate of Otterbein College where I studied Public Relations with a Deaf Culture/Language minor. I'm passionate about community service, tennis, travel and helping people. Feel free to send me a tweet and say "hi" - I love meeting new people: @HannahDeMilta

View all posts by Hannah DeMilta

7 Responses to “Embracing your Gen Y Status: SXSWi Edition”

  1. Kristin Dziadul

    I completely agree with this post. I find that I am very flexible with how I work with a company, but in general I would rather feel as a valued member of a team and work with everyone, rather than just work under someone. I study a lot of Gen Y topics (as I am one myself and my own blog focuses on it) and have found that we do like to be noticed and not settle for the status quo (ie. a corporate job, 9-5 desk job, etc.) we want to make a difference in the world.

  2. Angela Stefano

    Agreed. I've had both experiences — being treated as an important part of the company, and being told that what I'm doing is important, versus sitting at a desk doing nothing until my boss gives me something to do, essentially, because she doesn't want to do it herself. I'd much rather feel like I'm doing something important than feel like someone's personal assistant.

  3. bensmithee

    Hey Hannah!
    First, thanks for attending the panel! We really appreciate your support!
    It was great meeting you down in Austin, and I hope to stay in touch with you!

    Great article! I think it is definitely something every generation or stereotype considers…for example, senior citizens may scoff at the term, until they go for the discounted movie tickets :)

    One of the great takeaways from the panel in my opinion was the urge to break down barriers and labels and start dealing with people on the people and individual levels. I think that is where we need to go both in and out of the workplace!

    Talk soon!

  4. tylerjdurbin


    As you know, I'm big on the whole Gen-Y thing and I've been thinking about this quite a bit in the last week…great timing for your post.

    I'm not ashamed to be part of Gen-Y…just because anonymous people assume that I'm an entitled, always bored brat doesn't mean I'm going to dismiss the title (I'm sure I've been called much worse, by close friends, to my face). In a business sense, I like to look at 20-somethings as young professionals. I feel it's much more appropriate when you are talking about Gen-Y's impact in the workplace. My abilities in the workplace have nothing to do with the iPod wearing, MTV watching stereotypes of a broad group of people aged 16-30 y.o. Is the new batch of young professionals different than their managers, supervisors, etc? Sure are….just like they were different when they entered the workforce and the 100's of generations that came before them. My point: It has nothing to do with what my generation is called. A title doesn't define me.

  5. Andreana Drencheva

    I think it really depends how you are treated and how willing to adapt to your needs are the people you work with/work for.

    I've heard great things about working with us, but these great comments come from open-minded people who take the time to get to know us as individuals and find out what motivates us. These people have figured out that if you give Gen Y flexibility and room for creativity and make us passionate about a project, we can do amazing things. These are people who inspire us and help us be the best we can and at the same time they achieve their objectives. It is a mutually beneficial relationship.

    Of course, I also hear comments from people who claim that Gen Y-ers are lazy, entitled, don't know how to follow directions, are slackers, etc. Most of these comments come from Gen X-ers who don't realize that the things that motive them are different from the things that motivate us.

    With that said, I am proud to be a Millennial!


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