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Why You Don’t Understand Those Young’uns

“When I was your age I used to walk to school five miles through three feet of snow uphill both ways.” How many of you have a statement similar to this from someone of an older generation?

“When I was your age I used to walk to school five miles through three feet of snow uphill both ways.” How many of you have a statement similar to this from someone of an older generation?

We like to laugh about this statement but there’s a bit of truth to it. Every generation feels the next generation is softer and more pampered. We also misremember the past, framing the events in our minds as either much better than or much worse than they really were. For these reasons, drawing on your young member or young professional experiences won’t help you to meet young members needs.

Here’s why:

TIMES ARE A CHANGIN’

Technology has changed everything. From the way we communicate to the way we consume information. From the proliferation of new jobs that didn’t exist five years ago to the way we do our jobs. The time we stay at our jobs is different as well. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics employee tenure varied dramatically by age. Employees ages 65 and older have been at their jobs for 10.3 years while younger works (between the ages of 25-34) are at their jobs 3.2 years.

For those of us who started our careers when much of our work wasn’t even done on computers, times have changed! This generation’s early career work is quite a bit different than the early career work of a Boomer or even a Generation Xer.

MEMORIES ARE FLAWED

An article from the American Psychological Association says of traumatic events, “we forget or falsely remember much more than we realize; we get facts wrong, for example, or misremember our emotional reactions.” Imagine then how we get the facts, feelings and issues wrong with easily forgettable, everyday life?

KITCHEN TABLE RESEARCH

I used to work for a well-known kids arts and crafts company. We marketers would cringe when someone took a prototype home for their kids to play with. The next day they would come into the office and declare that their kids loved it so it would be a hit or, worse, their kids hated it so it was doomed to fail. Everyone is an individual so what you like or what your co-worker likes or what one member likes is not representative of the group.

Are you looking to serve young professionals or grow membership with the younger generations? Don’t use your past experience to try to frame the product, experience or marketing message. Instead talk to these young professionals. Find out what their biggest challenges are. What are their goals? What are the barriers to reaching their goals? The more you can objectively listen to them without coloring their response with your own experience the better you can serve the younger generation.

Take the first step towards your future.

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