Millennial-bashing seems to have been taken one step further this year with the introduction of the intended-derogatory term ‘Generation Snowflake’.
The group at the tail end of the Millennial generation, those that are currently in their early 20s, has been labelled as even more fragile, emotional, politically-correct, easily offended, and thin-skinned than those that came before them. They are ‘genuinely distressed by ideas that run contrary to their worldview’, their ‘hypersensitivity is often combined with an almost belligerent sense of entitlement’ and they ‘believe it’s their right to be protected from anything they might find unpalatable’. I suspect what’s being labelled here as this ‘snowflake’-group may be the start of a generation coming up behind the Millennials, widely referred as ‘Generation Z’.
So if you believe the rumours, we as a society have created what’s predicted to become an entire generation void of one of the most desirable indicators of high potential and high performance in the workplace; resilience.
Resilience is an ability to cope with pressure, an openness to change and the capability to respond to it quickly, emotional control, adaptability and flexibility. Resilient people don’t think of themselves as victims and instead focus their time and effort on changing the things they have control over. They have the backbone needed to put themselves out there, take risks and make difficult and critical business decisions.
As with all generational stereotypes, it is near impossible that an entire age-group could be lacking one quality – there are in fact ample resilient early-twenty-year-olds out there, and I’m glad to say I meet them on a regular basis. Nonetheless, I think it’s important for recent and soon-to-be graduates to be aware of this reputation in an application process. Be prepared to acknowledge the importance of resilience and talk about the things that prove you’ve got it. In a time when resilience is perceived as lacking in the graduate market, you’d be wise to use having this quality to your advantage.
I should add that I’d be lying if I said I haven’t seen some truth to the snowflake rumours – but equally I’d be lying if I didn’t admit there are elements of the snowflake-nature that I think are extremely positive and really wouldn’t want to see our Millennials lose. Take the ‘emotional’ labelling, for example. The 22 year olds I have the pleasure of working with are incredibly emotionally astute, much more natural readers of what’s going on between the lines than the older Millennials I’ve worked with in previous years – and isn’t EQ one of the most widely recognised important attributes for the workplace? They might be what some people would label ‘overly’ politically-correct, or cautious, but they’re also refreshingly open minded, keen to hear the views of all, without any trace of prejudice or biases towards those of a different race, gender, sexual orientation to themselves - and might this not be useful in a world where we’re all starkly aware of the business-case for speeding up the journey towards a more diverse professional workforce? Sometimes I think it’s a shame the media can’t bring themselves to analyse the potential benefits this generation’s attitudes could bring, before (or alongside at the very least) jumping at the opportunity to slate yet another generational group that’s barely yet begun to have a chance to prove themselves.