Jul 20 2012

Crashing the AC&E: (Positive) Peer Pressure and the Generation Gap

Crashers

Crashers chilling on the lawn at the opening reception.

Perhaps the most valuable part of my experience Crashing the AC&E was the opportunity to network with peers in my industry from credit unions of all sizes from all across the state. I have rarely had the privilege of being part of such a noteworthy group. These individuals represent the best of our generation: scary smart, caring, and fun loving.

Over the course of the days we were together, we became close. We had the opportunity to openly talk about our goals, our experiences, and our concerns and get feedback from people in similar situations but with varying areas of expertise. I appreciate their sincerity, their insight, and their desire to listen and help. If these young people represent the future of the credit union industry, rest assured it’s in good hands.

CrashersI was, however, disappointed to hear from a peer who attended an educational session on GenY (approximately 18-25 year-olds). The purpose of the session was to inform credit union execs and board members of GenY’s perspective and wants as a credit union member. How do they look at their relationship with the credit union? What services do they expect? One attendee expressed that GenYers haven’t had to work as hard as previous generations, that they suffer from a sense of entitlement (I paraphrase). Another voiced concerns about young people posting negative comments on the internet.

These comments represent what I believe to be miscommunication between generations. Most GenYers would probably argue that seeing their parents suffer from economic set backs in recent recession years, they’re actually more financially savvy and conservative than previous generations. Certainly less debt tolerant. They’ve also had to face the reality that when they graduate from college, jobs (especially those willing to take a chance on young people with little on-the-job experience) are few and far between. Call them “Generation Reality Check” instead. I imagine in the shoes of someone older and wiser, I might see GenY in a similar light considering the very different sets of challenges older generations have faced. That doesn’t mean we should discount each’s experience, but instead we should appreciate the unique perspective each generation offers.

The Crashers with Lee Wetherington of ProfitStars, the rock star of the conference!

One of the conference’s keynote speakers, Lee Wetherington of ProfitStars, spoke very dynamically and passionately about the future of credit union services and GenY’s role. The analogy he used for the potential of young professionals in any organization was particularly concise.

How’s your Greek mythology? Are you familiar with Cassandra? According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cassandra), the Greek god Apollo fell in love with Cassandra and gift her with prophecy. Angry that his love was unrequited, Apollo cursed her with incredulity. She could predict the future, but no one would ever believe her.

Lee’s point was that young people in professional organizations are often cursed with the same incredulity as Cassandra. Youth implies a lack of experience and wisdom, which often causes their opinions to lose credit. Or often we think it does, so we fail to voice opinions in fear of disbelief or rejection.

What’s the takeaway? Take a risk, whatever position you happen to be in. If you’re a more experienced, wiser professional, look to the young people in your organization as sources of innovative ideas and foresight about trends in technology and the expectations of GenY (a generation considerably larger than the influential Baby Boomers… imagine their effect as they enter the market and workforce). If you’re a young professional, look to your more seasoned counterparts for advice and mentorship. And take a risk. Voice an idea. Voice lots of ideas. Get rejected often. The worst thing you can be told is no. Rejection is unpleasant, but you’ll experience more victories and gain respect for your engagement and forward thinking along the way.

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