Fast Company

Why I Love My Gen Y Assistant

I recently hired a part-time assistant to help me get a bit more organized. As someone who studies generational relationships in the workplace, I was curious to learn how my personal experience as a Gen X-er managing a Gen Y-er would compare to other people's experiences. Though we've only worked together for a couple weeks, I couldn't be happier with the arrangement. Aside from the obvious advantages of working with someone younger (she tells me when I need to ramp up the cool factor in my speeches and blog posts), here are the top five reasons I love my Millennial employee:

1. She brings up things that never occur to me. As much as I study Gen Y and correspond with them frequently online, there's something completely different about having a Gen Y-er physically in my presence. Since she's fresh out of college, she brings a totally different perspective about my work and the world. By digging into her experiences and hearing those of her friends and peers, I widen my view of what's important to her generation. For my business and many other businesses today, Gen Y is either our entire customer base or a large and ever-growing percentage of it. No matter what your business, gathering Gen Y input is not only a good idea; it's become essential.

2. She's just tech-ier. Much of my day-to-day work involves staying on top of Twitter and leading webinars on LinkedIn. Even with my relatively good technical knowledge, I sit mesmerized as my assistant zooms around on her Mac, flips through her Google docs and takes advantage of all the Internet has to offer. Gen Y has a natural facility with technology that even many of us active in the digital space cannot beat. I didn't even know what I was missing in time-saving tech shortcuts until I watched my assistant.

3. She understands personal branding. As a speaker and writer, part of my job is selling myself and my skills. Gen Y understands the importance of personal branding, because they've been branding themselves since their middle school AIM profiles. In The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement, psychologist Jean Twenge says Gen Y's preoccupation with Facebook and other social networks demonstrates their high levels of narcissism. To me, it's not so much narcissism as it is generationally-appropriate personal branding. Whether you're a writer, speaker, entrepreneur or just working on your professional image, it's important to have someone who intimately understands personal publicity on your team.

4. She's not really into the 9 to 5. She's more of a 24/7 kind of girl. If I email my assistant at 11 p.m., she responds. If I unintentionally interrupt her dinner, she isn't caught off guard. She's attached to her iPhone, and as her employer, I reap the benefits. Sure, there are a few catches. For instance, when I say Sunday night deadline, that may mean a little after midnight or even 2 a.m. Monday morning. But overall, her 24-hour work schedule works to my advantage.

5. Her energy is phenomenal. Lately, my days have been filled to the brim with meetings, speaking events and other engagements. In fact, I'm surprised my TripIt app hasn't crashed from overuse. I naturally have a lot of energy and need every bit of it to keep up with my busy schedule. But when I do find myself running on empty, my young and savvy assistant swoops in with a burst of positive energy that jolts me back on track. Her eagerness and excitement are quite contagious, and I'm loving it.

Yes, those Gen Y-ers are a little different than the rest of us. But I assure you the benefits of having one (or more) by your side are well worth the difference.

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10 Comments

  • Edwin Culp

    Excellent article and I couldn't agree more.

    I just finished a "reconverión" (turnarount in English) of a very large construction company in Mexico and was fortunate enough to find about 15 gen-y in secondary middle management positions that I was able to transfer total responsibility for their areas and removed their boomer managers who were working as inefficient intermediaries, reducing costs and improving communication, efficiency and cash flow in just a couple of months. They are everything you say and more. I also found that the above was hard for boomers and even gen-x executives to understand and accept.

  • Paul Verberne

    I submit that any generation could have said that about any younger generation. I think it is less a Gen-Y thing so much as having the contrast of someone with a 20 year younger perspective and energy than your current one, or more likely, you were fortunate to hire a bright enthusiastic curious individual. The sweeping generalizations of the qualities of a generation aren't particularly useful - just another stereotype. Attributing the qualities of a great individual to a generation is no different than attributing qualities an individual because of their race or religion. It struck me as kind of undignified and patronizing. And as your assistant gets older and wiser and has responsibilities of family and community, they likely won't be answering your midnight emails as they fight to find balance in their lives.

  • Gihan Perera

    I don't think Lyndsey is suggesting that her assistant HAS to be on call 24/7; just that she's "not really into the 9 to 5". It's a really good example of the more flexible workplace, where 9-to-5 is outdated, and "always on" is the new mantra. After all, as long as goals are met, who cares when the work is done, and even how long it takes?

    Of course, this means you have to set suitable boundaries to create choice and respect. For example, Lyndsey says she e-mails her assistant at 11pm (which is respectful, because the assistant can choose when to read and respond), but I'm guessing she doesn't call her at that late hour (which could be intrusive). Equally, if the assistant decides to take a day off spending time with her friends, maybe she doesn't have to tell Lyndsey, but does check her iPhone more frequently than usual in case something urgent comes up.

    I love this idea. It's about getting over the idea that your work life and your personal life have to be completely separate parts of your life. Gen Y's already think this way; it's time for employers to catch up.

  • Lindsey Pollak

    Thank you for the comments. Interesting that some commenters jumped to the conclusion that I "make" my assistant work 24/7 or "make" her pull all-nighters. My assistant works 10 hours/week at quite a high hourly rate. She chooses her own working hours, which, I have observed, are rarely 9 to 5. Meeting a deadline "a little after midnight or even 2 a.m." is her decision, not mine. We regularly discuss our working relationship to make sure it is mutually beneficial.

  • Gareth Wong

    Acid test. how much are you paying him/her?

    as long as it is a value based relationship, i.e. they get experience/brands/linkages, and you pay him/her reasonably, not a problem, right?

    @GarethWong

  • Gareth Wong

    Acid test. how much are you paying him/her?

    as long as it is a value based relationship, i.e. they get experience/brands/linkages, and you pay him/her reasonably, not a problem, right?

    @GarethWong

  • Itsas Ecret

    Your comments regarding making your employee work 24/7 sicken me. This amounts to nothing but blatant exploitation and I find it appalling. I hope you get what's coming to you.

  • Gareth Wong

    Acid test. how much are you paying him/her?

    as long as it is a value based relationship, i.e. they get experience/brands/linkages, and you pay him/her reasonably, not a problem, right?

    @GarethWong

  • Brian Kung

    You speak as if your new assistant were some sort of high tech gadget toy. Furthermore, the fact that she has a great deal of energy probably has less to do with her generation than it does with the fact that she is young and motivated.

    As Jordan mentioned above, this seems to be slightly disruptive to her personal life, and eventually her personal life will take precedent over doing work.

    Overall, I feel somewhat disgusted by this article.

  • Jordan Mendenhall

    Wow, lot of spam on this one.

    4. She's not really into the 9 to 5. She's more of a 24/7 kind of girl. If I email my assistant at 11 p.m., she responds. If I unintentionally interrupt her dinner, she isn't caught off guard. She's attached to her iPhone, and as her employer, I reap the benefits. Sure, there are a few catches. For instance, when I say Sunday night deadline, that may mean a little after midnight or even 2 a.m. Monday morning. But overall, her 24-hour work schedule works to my advantage.

    Since you speak so highly of her, have you ever asked if maybe you're interfering with her personal life? I wonder what she and her friends might be saying about you when you do call at dinnertime (which I thought was basic etiquette not to do) or have her pull an all-nighter?