Sitting at my regular coffee shop recently (some enviously refer to it as ‘my office’) I overheard the manager interviewing a young man (he must have been around 18) who was obviously looking for a job. After the usual back-and-forth that didn’t deviate from the prescribed script, the manager comes up with this great question:
“Why should I hire you?”
Gen yA reasonable enough question I guess and certainly one that would put most players on the back foot.  However, what wasn’t expected (by neither the manager nor the eavesdropper) was the instantaneous and enthusiastic response of…
“Because I’m awesome!”
The bemused manager was left speechless and I, after recovering from choking on my coffee and trying to contain the smirk that threated my entire face, immediately reached for my iPad to record the moment for a time such as this.
Because I’m awesome. Indeed.
Gen Y is certainly not a generation lacking in confidence. The ‘Selfie’ generation (although I know a good few older ‘Selfie’ addicts!) are not shy to let everyone know that they are ‘awesome’. They come across as sociably confident – even brash, are quick to express an opinion and not afraid of challenging authority. This is just who they are and whilst it may have some rough edges in the more refined air of acceptable social nuances, there is essentially nothing wrong with their approach. Baby Boomers might well have come across in a similar manner back in the day and so they should be the least surprised when encountering this Gen Y engagement with the world. It is no accident that Gen Y has also occasionally been referred to as, ‘Echo Boomers’.
Recently I spent a day with a roomful of Gen Yers in a cadet attorney programme for a top law firm. I had been asked to present our ‘TIDES of Change’ framework with this bright-eyed and bushy-tailed group who were experiencing their fist week in the ‘real world’ of work. It is an annual event for me and I must admit, one I greatly enjoy given the energy, ‘innocence’, enthusiasm and learning (for me) that it represents. The one year, noticing the conspicuous absence of any smart phones and tablets I inquired of the group as to why this was the case. Their answer has been a story I have repeated often when it comes to the generational gap and the relationship between technology and information. I was told that the previous day, a senior partner had addressed them and noticing the presence of such technology on the tables had proceeded to warn them that they were to remove all evidence of such with immediate effect! He didn’t want to see any  ‘electronic devices’ on their desks. From thereon out my time with them could be labelled a ‘therapy session’!
This year another such story emerged. A young man recounted how on his first day he was delighted to be invited by a senior partner to attend a client-briefing meeting. He was tasked with recording the session and transcribing the conversation. Naturally he whipped out his smartphone to do the job. ‘What do you think you are doing?” he was asked. “Recording the meeting – this will ensure I do so accurately” he replied. Well let’s just say he was given much the same response as the earlier story (I don’t know if it was the same senior partner involved!) and he felt fortunate not to have had his phone confiscated! His bemusement as he recounted the story was obvious as was his residual confusion as to the logic behind the methodology insisted upon by the partner.
This generation see things differently. They are not always right of course but their starting point, as is ours, is to assume that they are (right). Understanding that we see the world differently is a good place to start before exploring all the subsequent derivatives that are sure to follow. The subsequent exploration will reveal a bunch of paradoxes and the shifts that rapid change brings about. The onus and responsibility to frame understandings and engage in helpful dialogue in such a context sits with you – the ‘interviewer’ and leader.
As I mused over the overheard coffee-shop conversation I thought that a good ‘next question’ to the awesome young interviewee might have been, “Can you please define ‘awesome’ for me?”
Now that is a question I would have loved to hear answered! And had it been, I certainly would have delayed calling for my bill and remained in my office just a little while longer!

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