In response to the recent barrage of articles about GenY’s work ethic (or lack thereof), I began to wonder — what do Gen Yers bring to the workplace? Yes, of course, we are the generation that understands Facebook and Twitter without a direction manual. But, beyond social media and knowledge of the digital era, what skills do we have that are valuable in today’s market? Put simply — we know how to write clearly and concisely, because in our world, we have no other choice.
In the world of micro-blogging and “Twitter speak,” we have no choice except to fit our thoughts into 140-characters or less. This forces us to do a quick mental outline of what we want to say, how we want to say it, and what information is most essential. Is it more important to add another two words or insert a hashtag so that our single tweet will likely garner more attention? This choice helps us develop the important skill of synthesizing information and deciding what our audience needs to know most.
The idea that “the longer you write, the less you hold your reader’s interest” is nothing new. In the past, we were able to manipulate margins, fonts, and headers to force our two-page press release onto one. However, there are no margins on the Internet, and your SEO doesn’t increase simply because you have more words in your press release. It’s the value of your words and how you present your ideas that matter. Consequently, people’s attention spans are shorter, and they want the most important information up front. (Just call them “informavores.”) If they can’t find what they’re looking for in the first paragraph, they’ll Google something else and find it on your competitor’s page.
We understand that a picture (or rather, a YouTube video) says a thousand words, and we’re not afraid to integrate our copy with multimedia to make our message stronger. We love making lists, so we’ll put important information in bullet form, not because we’re lazy but because we know people will read it that way. We’ll link to an article within our press release/blog/e-mail, not because we don’t want to spend the time paraphrasing it, but because we don’t mind giving other people credit for their work. (We’re not quite as self-entitled as some like to assert.)
Samuel Johnson once said, “I did not have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one instead.” I wonder how Mr. Johnson would feel about writing a letter in 140-characters or less? For the Millennial generation, we want to be able to read what we write on our iPhone or Blackberry — so, we’ll opt for a short letter over a long one any day.