Gen Y, Millennials, Twixters, YAdults, The Boomerang Generation – so many labels fabricated by marketers scrambling to understand our generation. Instead, how about learning the perspectives of members of the generation themselves? Saatchi & Saatchi asked our interns, a group of savvy college students from all over the country, to teach the agency something new about their generation. Together, they pooled their individual experiences, interviewed friends, and explained what the life of a “Millennial” is really all about. Being part of this generation myself, I’ve culminated their responses and my own personal perspective into this bi-weekly blog series, The Saatchi Y-Spot, to tell you everything you need to know about our generation.
Our generation has coined the 18-25 chapter of our lives as “The Age of Me,” a period of unbridled self-experimentation and self-exploration. For every generation, this life stage has always been shrouded with transition and uncertainty – switching college majors and career choices, falling in and out of love and relationships, forging new and diverse friendship circles, hunting for first jobs, and learning how to really be on your own for the first time. But our generation is driven by four inherent values – “The Four Cs” – that allow us to navigate this uncertain period with ease and enthusiasm.
Confidence is our greatest driver. We have been raised as the most child-centric generation, told by adoring parents since birth that we can conquer our dreams and succeed in doing whatever we put our minds to. We’ve had self-esteem boosting classes telling us we’re unique, special and winners. We’ve been given smiley-face stickers in class and shiny trophies in sports no matter our performance level. So once we reach the 18-24 life stage, we assume we’ll succeed – it’s just a matter of finding out what we really want to do in life. And if we make mistakes along the way? Our parents graciously offer us a safety-net waiting back at home with welcome, open arms.
Although we are confident of success, we are also aware that “what we really want to do” can and will change. That’s because change is another driving factor for our generation. We’ve grown up in an era marked by drastic cultural changes – globalization, the democratization of media technologies, 9/11, the Iraq (and Afghanistan) War, global warming, the financial bust, and of course, the election of Barack Obama. Witnessing these transformations our entire lives has affirmed that old Buddhist philosophy, “change is the only constant in life,” and taught us that you can’t count on anything to stay the same. There’s no telling what tomorrow brings. So we’ve adjusted to this constant state of flux by becoming masters at living in the present and adapting to whatever the moment holds.
Choice is another fundamental value of our generation. The digital world has endowed us with endless choices and opportunities at our fingertips. Through the instant global access of the internet, we discover people creating ideas and embarking on adventures that we never dreamed of being a possibility. We become inspired by the endless opportunities around us. As such, whereas previous generations may have conformed to traditions and expectations from their family and society, we feel that there is no limit to the prospects of our future. We have the freedom to choose whatever obscure path excites us, and even create something completely new for ourselves, be it a self-selected job title (like mine, the Strategic Storyteller of Saatchi & Saatchi!), or a new product/company for the world.
This brings us to the final “C” and our greatest asset for success – Creativity. Creativity is defined as “the generation of new ideas or concepts”. Creative thinking is the realization that there is no virtue to do things the way they’ve always been before; this is a principle that we live and breathe everyday. Perhaps the value of creativity is embraced by us so much because it’s becoming embraced by society as a whole; as the competition of the global economy grows fierce, 81% of corporate leaders in America have declared that “creativity is an essential skill for the 21st-century workforce.“ One-third of MBA programs now offer students courses on creativity and out-of-box thinking. Furthermore, the explosion of reality TV also promotes creativity as the route to success, with shows like American Idol, Design Stars and Project Runway demonstrating that pursuing your creative talent will lead you to exquisite fame and money. Thankfully, the democratization of new media technologies like Photoshop and iMovie have provided sophisticated tools for creativity for all of us (we can thank Apple for that!). These cultural expectations and creative tools have empowered us to become a generation of content creators, fueled by the belief that if we want to be successful in this world, we must unleash our inner creativity.
With the “Four Cs” driving us throughout our lives, what happens when we enter the unknown transitional period of the 18-25 years? Well, let’s take a step back and assess this timeframe in the overall context of our lifespan. While the 0-17 years were a relatively stable period during which we followed a set path established by our parents and school system, and the 25+ years mark a return to stability as we settle into our own families and careers, 18-25 is a wonderfully self-indulgent time bracket devoted wholly to ourselves. That’s why we call this period the “Age of Me”; with endless confidence and limitless choices, we feel free to embark on a collection of adventures during these years, exploring multiple versions of ourselves across multiple life experiences. This is our time to soul-search, experiment, learn, grow, and reinvent the wheel… all in the quest to create a unique lifestyle that’s on our own terms, in our own way.
We’ve identified five insights that we believe really define “The Age of Me,” and which this blog series will reveal to you in the upcoming months. “Slash/slash” explains how our generation approaches that age-old question, “What do you want to do with the rest of your life?”. “Digital Mirror” reveals how we craft and re-craft our digital identities. “Living Frugally” shows our clever abilities to work the system to get what we want in life (with little money). “Home Redefinition” shows how we create new versions of “home” for ourselves as we grapple with the tension between comfort and independence. And the “Party Production” reveals how our generation has transformed partying into an elaborate, five-act production, complete with a dress-rehearsal and critical review.
Stay tuned for the next post on The Saatchi Y-Spot, “Slash/Slash,” for a deeper look at our generation’s approach to constructing our life-path, and how your brands can play a role in the journey.
Nisha Gupta is a Youth Connection Strategic Storyteller at Saatchi & Saatchi New York.
Image source: chathri.wordpress.com