Connecting With the Emerging Generation

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For many kids, results have to come quickly or they may lose interest. For those who seek to influence them, this means we must connect quickly.

Here are some observations I’ve made about connecting with the emerging generation (the students born since 1990). I believe adults need to rethink the way we deliver our message to these kids that grew up online.

They want a guide on the side before they want a sage on the stage.

Keep in mind that young people today aren’t necessarily looking for experts, especially if they are plastic or untouchable. They would rather have someone authentic to come beside them. When students were recently asked about their heroes, for the first time in over twenty years they did not list an athlete at the top of the list. Their number one response was “Mom and Dad.” They hunger more for relationship than for information — even relevant information. They are accustomed to learning on a need-to-know basis — but their need-to-know will increase if a person they trust and know well is the one sharing the information. They’re looking for mentors — authentic mentors.

They want to play before they pay.

I find many characteristics of the emerging generation healthy and fascinating. However, this one may cause trouble for them later in life. Almost everything for students today comes instantly. They don’t like waiting for anything. Shows like American Idol are appealing to this generation because one of their peers gets to become famous overnight — and they get to determine the winner in a short amount of time. Usually, they love events but don’t enjoy the process of growth. The “pay now, play later” mentality tends to be foreign to them.

For these kids, in other words, results have to come quickly or they may lose interest. For those who seek to influence them, this means we must connect quickly. As communicators, we have to grab their attention up front, demonstrating swiftly that our content is relevant.

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