People often look at the current presidential election and marvel at the groundswell of Gen Y support for Democratic nominee Barack Obama. Those attempting to understand his support and this new generation entering today’s workforce do not need to look any further than the three simple words he began with: “Yes We Can.”
Those words resonate so deeply with me and those I know that it is almost as if it is our generation’s rallying cry, especially in the workplace.
During the spring of my senior year, I interned at a company that I loved, and after three months had been offered a full-time position. Over the span of two weeks, I went from being solely on the receiving end of projects to being the one assigning them, and when the new group of interns arrived, I had one overarching goal: Do it better than those who came before me. Remembering what it was like on the other side, I set out to:
* give realistic deadlines
* minimize stress levels
* be firm, yet understanding
* be an unofficial advocate for the interns with senior staff
* teach them something that I wish I knew when I was in their shoes.
With all this in mind, I gladly jumped at the opportunity to join the team of intern coordinators that fall. At the first coordinators meeting, I was tasked with developing a final project for the incoming group. At that moment, I don’t think anyone, including myself, could have guessed that I would have come back to the table with the program I did.
I sat and thought about how we could really improve the internship experience. What I came up with was a professional development series that would help the interns get closer to mastering public relations basics, encourage them to start a dialogue about industry innovation and really prepare them for their first full-time position.
Gen Y’ers are often viewed as this overly idealistic group of people who think that we can and will change it all and we receive lots of criticism from those more senior than us because of it.
Honestly, I believe that there is a part of our rallying cry which goes unspoken. When we confidently go after that new position, that raise or the opportunity to manage the difficult account, we say “yes we can” and in our hearts, we follow that up with “at least we can try.”
I truly am glad that I was able to experiment in the workplace; I’m glad that I tried. My program was adopted and went so well that I was even approached by a senior VP interested in making the program company-wide.
I have since transitioned from that company to my second job, but I was pleased to learn that the program is still being carried on. Though it won’t be called the “James S. Walker Public Relations Professional Development Series” (it was company branded), I am very proud that at 21, I was able to conceive, successfully lobby for and spearhead a great program that will help other Gen Y’ers enter the industry, and ultimately, demonstrate to others the intelligence, insight and capabilities that our generation has to offer.
*This post is also featured at Creating Gen Y Magic.