7 Things Generation Y Can Learn from their Elders

Feature image above made on Canva

We often talk about how different Generation Y’s are from their predecessors, Generation X and the Baby Boomers generation. As the years pass, we’re becoming more and more flexible, open-minded and quick to adapt to changes.

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Graphic made on Canva

As a millennial, or in other words, a member of Generation Y, I’ve always questioned – are we inherently better than the Baby Boomers and Generation X that raised us due simply to the environment we’ve grown up in, and in turn, are we being beaten out by our younger and possibly more intelligent members of Generation Z?

This gap between generations is more obvious than ever in our globalizing world. In a cosmopolitan city like Hong Kong, majority of our time is spent at school or in our workplace, where these differences in behaviors and attitudes are hard to be overlooked. A phenomenon titled ‘Hong Kong Kids’, or simply ‘Kong Kids’ (‘港孩’) has become the talking point referring to those born in the mid-1990s to privileged families that place them at the centre of attention, resulting in them being spoiled with a false sense of entitlement.

The phenomenon of ‘Kong Kids’ shows that such a hierarchy certainly isn’t fair to the older generations, who didn’t have the fortune of being around a level of wealth and stability that we often take for granted. In fact, here are some things that millennials, currently the largest generation in terms of population, can learn from their elders.


1. A strong sense of responsibility

Image from The Blue Diamond Gallery

Generation X was also known as the generation of the ‘latchkey kids’, coming home to an empty house after school because parents were busy at work. They know that more often than not there’s no one around to clean up any mess they make, so they don’t risk it. In Hong Kong, many Generation Ys hardly ever come home to an empty house – their domestic helper are always around to whip up a meal for them or do whatever is asked of them. When it comes to taking the initiative to be responsible, especially when it may not be for their own personal gain, Generation Y has much to improve upon.


2. An understanding of the value of non-virtual interaction

Image from ComNetwork

I say ‘non-virtual’ because damn, we millennials don’t even make phone calls anymore. Everyone is a text or an email away, and unsurprisingly, Generation Y tends to be less confident in expressing themselves to others in person. This New York Times article remarks that calling, once prominent in the workplace, is dying down, and when it does happen is usually preceded by an email asking ‘Is it okay if I call?’. Our elder counterparts, especially Baby Boomers for whom phones weren’t even a thing, had to physically see someone to converse with them. If we lived a little more like they did and a little less with our noses in our smartphones, we’d be a more eloquent breed.


3. Stronger family bonds

Image from Doorsway Arizona

Previous generations valued time with parents and distant relatives, honoring family traditions to a tee. No matter how big a family, celebrations and special occasions always manage to bring them all together. These kinds of relationships are hard to come by, especially when members of Generation Y move into their twenties – and out of their parents’ home. Baby Boomers and Generation X harp on about the importance of these relationships, and they just might be right.


4. How to be a good team player

Image from Brocku

Younger generations are less enthusiastic in working with others trying to achieve the same goal. Whereas everyone at every point in time valued, or rather, values, success, millennials prefer to reach it on their own. The less competitive, more supportive drive of Baby Boomers and Generation X allows them to form longer term, fewer touch-and-go relationships, something many millennials can’t say they have many of.


5. Patience and perseverance

Image from WhyLeadNow

Millennials’ interests and passions stretch far and wide, and while that’s not a bad thing, it may mean a lack of focus. Older generations tend to be more consistent, sticking with their goals despite hardship. For example, an article on Forbes mentions that ‘job hopping’ is so common among millennials that they are predicted to have 15-20 different jobs over the course of their working lives. A survey written about in an SCMP article on the working attitude of Millennials finds that 54% of millennials were unsatisfied with their current jobs, and 80% plan to find something new. Baby Boomers and Generation X on the contrary prefer to stick to one thing allowing them to build more concentrated expertise and establish stronger connections.


6. A grounded sense of reality

Image from Isaac Mark on DeviantArt

Generation Y is told they can be anyone and achieve anything. Baby Boomers and Generation X grew up knowing that ambitions are good to have, but don’t always work out – and that’s okay. In a world of unpredictability, millennials should learn from their more experienced generation that finding the crossroads between dreams and reality is the key to success.


7. Being open and accepting of criticism

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Image from Intern Queen

A Business Insider article cites that one reason millennials suffer career-wise is their inability to take criticism. To them, positive feedback makes them feel great about themselves, but any comment that is in the slightest way negative can be devastating. The problem is that these remarks come from someone who’s been around much longer than they have, and they mean well. The older generations – usually the ones doling out this not-so-positive feedback – are used to constructive criticism and accept it as part of the learning process, and it’s time we millennials do the same.


Information adapted from:

Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy
Gen Z, Gen Y, Baby Boomers – A Guide to the Generations
Millennials v.s. Baby Boomers: Who Would You Rather Hire?



2 thoughts on “7 Things Generation Y Can Learn from their Elders

  1. Thanks for linking to my post on latchkey kids. This is a wonderful article that can be applied to all generations – I do think it’s so important to listen to the generations who’ve gone before us – and the older I get the fewer there are and I see that I’ve missed many opportunities to learn.


    1. Thank you for your positive comment! I agree – and as a millennial I’m sick of hearing how much more versatile and accepting we are, especially in the workplace, and why it’s a ‘good idea’ for the older generations to hear us out. We may think in a different way and have a different attitude, but it’s not in any way better. We’ve got our flaws too.


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