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By Don Kottick

RISMEDIA, Jan. 4, 2008-So, you want to know about the demographic segment of our population known as Generation Y — the Internet Generation or the Millennials. You also want to know how to recruit them into your real estate brokerage. The first step in answering these questions requires that we develop a better understanding of this unique segment of our society.

According to popular definitions, this demographic segment was born after the year 1977 and they follow the group known as Generation X (born between 1965 and 1976). Statistics state that there are approximately 78 million Gen Yers and they make up the largest pool of young people in the job market today. Relatively speaking, they are a very diverse group both racially and ethnically, with one in three classified as belonging to a minority group.

Generalized personality traits and related attributes for the Gen Y quite often include the following: independent thinking (with many living through divorce, life in daycare or a latchkey existence); anti-establishment; tech savvy (grew up with Internet); heavily pampered and nurtured as children; socially conscious with a strong sense of community; idealistic; high-maintenance individuals with a tendency toward high performance.

Their work mandate is to “work faster and better,” and ultimately make an impact their first day on the job. Remember, as children, many of these individuals participated in a multitude of after-school activities, such as swimming, karate, ballet, piano lessons, baseball, soccer, special tutoring, just to name a few. It is no wonder that they excel at multitasking and tend to be the fastest one-finger typists in existence.

Many Gen Yers grew up watching MTV and TV shows such as “The O.C.” and “Beverly Hills, 90210.” The common denominator: that the life of affluence is the norm. Many of these popular TV shows focus on the rich and famous lifestyle; therefore, it is only natural that many Gen Yers feel that this standard of living is the norm throughout society as a whole.

Surprisingly, many Baby Boomers now question why their kids have this great sense of entitlement. Gen Yers tend to have a positive attitude about the future, supplemented by an inherent sense of security derived from substantial parental involvement in their lives. In the back of their minds, this generation knows that they can always go home if things don’t work out.

In entering the workforce, Gen Yers tend to gravitate toward “fun” work environments; they look for jobs with attractive remuneration packages (benefits are important) and flexible work hours; they want diversity in their work responsibilities.

To retain a Gen Yer, it is wise to provide lots of positive feedback; don’t wait for an annual review-that is far too long for him or her to wait. These individuals have a tendency to be impatient and they don’t want to wait for the rewards. As a highly educated group, Gen Yers want to keep learning and they want to continually make progress in their career path. Gen Yers want their ideas heard, as they quite often had someone listen to them as they grew up and voiced their opinions and thoughts.

As a real estate recruiter, the good news is that the evolution of our industry bodes well for the recruitment of the Millennials. Real estate is now recognized as a technology-driven business that offers the ability to be entrepreneurial accompanied by substantial income potential. Surveys indicate that many of the Millennials want to be self-employed, but business start-up costs are a deterrent for many. Real estate gives them the best of both worlds, the ability to be entrepreneurial without the risk of incurring substantial costs to create the business.

The bad news around this segment is that the Gen Yers saw the dotcom bust and the Enron debacle, amongst other corporate disasters, and as a result, corporate loyalty does not rank high on their list of identifiable characteristics.

So, the challenge will be to keep this group from moving on. Remember that communication is the key; let them have a voice and become their sounding board.

Once you have successfully integrated some Gen Yers into your organization, possibly develop a referral reward system to encourage them to attract some of their friends into your firm. You may even want to develop some incentives for them based on the longevity of their stay at your firm. “Moss never grows on a rolling stone” is the Gen Y anthem.

When interviewing a prospective Gen Yer, you may want to include an incumbent Gen Yer in the discussions, especially if a generational gap exists with the candidate.

New Gen Y recruits need to know what your expectations are for the job, so possibly include a job description and let them know about the support systems in place to help them.

Remember that environment and culture is very important to them. Make sure your culture provides them with the necessary support and positive energy for them to thrive. The concept of work-life balance is very important to them, so they in turn need to know that this is important to you and your organization.

Mentoring a new Gen Y hire with someone who is concerned about their success, but who is from a different generation is a great way to bridge gaps and build understanding. The recent shift to teams in real estate also bodes well as you can match the individuals up with synergistic individuals.

If you are looking to source Gen Y recruits, try creative advertising on sites such as Craigslist. Communicate your unique employment experience stressing the fun environment, the income potential and your high tech surroundings. Let them know that your firm cares and is active in your local community.

Implement a strategy to develop an online profile on some of the social networking sites, such as MySpace or Facebook. Create an online presence showing pictures of your office with people having fun in their work environment. Online dating sites are very popular with this group and could be a great location for some of your ad dollars.

Remember that there is no better advertising vehicle for a business than a direct referral from another employee. Make sure everyone in your company, especially the incumbent Gen Yer, knows that you are actively recruiting.

Your brokerage’s attendance at university or college job fairs is a great way to capture their attention. Advertising in the local school newspaper is a great way to reach this segment of the population as well. Any advertisements should showcase how your real estate firm is different and is well suited for the requirements of this recruit.

The impact of the Generation Y demographic on the North American economy will be huge as estimates place them at 20% of our current workforce, and they represent the largest generation since the Baby Boomers.

Generally speaking, the Gen Y drive, determination and tech-savvy nature are ideally suited to successful careers in real estate. Generation Y is the workforce of the future, and therefore it is imperative that we understand the values and special qualities of this segment of our society.

Don Kottick is vice president, Products & Services for AlignMark Inc.

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