Understanding Gen-Y & the Barnum (effect)

Understanding Gen-Y & the Barnum (effect)

Since starting my own career journey in the glossed halls of retail in 2008, I have had some compelling experiences. As a result, I am motivated to improve the experience of Gen Y in our workplaces.

As a paid employee and Intern/Volunteer, I have regularly witnessed and experienced (the) varying degrees of success in the workplace.

Generation Y are an information-saturated Generation, our interests are in no way limited by our chosen industry or study. I, personally orbit both the creative and the analytical (in no particular order): fashion, retail, social media, blogging, current affairs, politics, history and digital communication.

Contrast can be challenging for such a talented generation who are attempting to harness the benefits of this so early in our careers.

I would like to (rather honestly) acknowledge the two important oxymorons;

    1. Inexperience is an asset and a liability. It is the double edged sword on which Gen Y-s are tenuously balancing on at this stage in our lives.
      • we need experience to get more experience to get a job
      • and experience to continue to build character and knowledge.
      • we are expected to use and build a solid foundation knowledge, whilst remaining flexible and impressionable to new experiences
    2. There are palpable gaps which we learn to deal with as a result of the above, broadly:
      • Emotion – motivation, work ethic and finding the right emotional ‘distance’ from our work
      • Ability – confidence, knowledge and understanding of process; also developing our decision-making skills
      • Investment – this is multi-faceted; investing in ourselves (see Ability), attracting investment (I.e. employment and career progression), developing intuition and mobilsing through the power of mentors

In my opinion, it’s the Barnum effect.

Barnum effect


the tendency to accept as true types of information such as character assessments or horoscopes, even when the information is so vague as to be worthless.

It’s the standard ‘growing pains’ of balancing an expanding intellect with self-awareness; outward thinking and an inward focus. What are we to pay attention to, what do we focus on, while standing amidst an information tsunami?

I think for Gen Y, our most challenging dynamic is with ourselves – we’re balancing Barnum and character-building. We’re dropped, and drop ourselves squarely in the ‘no-mans land’ of enduring and enjoying, as we learn our limitations.

There is no spoon.

Originally published on Tangible.

About the Author:

Better known as Anna; frock enthusiast, fundraiser, lover of the written word, citizen of the Digital industry in Perth, politics nerd, twenty-something , Gen Y.

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