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The adults of Generation Y are expected to earn upward of $3 trillion by 2017, even with a rocky economy messing up two or three of those years. These 70 million adults born between 1979 and 2000 want and need a variety of products and services from tattoos to technology. If you’re young — or young at heart — you can make some serious cash from these new kids on the block by planning and investing in a relationship with these young people now.

But what does Gen Y want?

The adults of Generation Y, also called millennials, are a potent and growing force in the economy. Even during a recession they are creating lucrative opportunities for almost everyone. But just because you were young once doesn’t mean you get them.

It’s important that you understand this group before they’ll hand over any of their cash. Generation Y is the most tech-savvy and diverse group in American history. You may have raised your own Gen Y kid and taught them that they can do everything and anything. These are the same kids we drove to soccer/dance/volleyball/karate and everything else under the sun. We told them they all were winners, so they’re not about to be losers now, no matter how bad the economy. They want and expect customized products and services to characterize their own unique styles. If you can figure out what they want — and give it to them — you’ll be ahead of the game.

How do you reach these young consumers? How do you catch their attention with your idea, invention, or career idea? Facebook. MySpace. Twitter. DIGG. YouTube. IM. Delicious.

If you don’t know what these are, you better learn fast before something else comes along. This generation lives in an age of information, but they don’t get their ideas or news from books, TV, or the news media. They get it from social networks. They get it from their friends. You want them to buy your products or hire you? Figure out how to catch their eye through these networks.

The young adults have different aspirations and characteristics from their Gen X predecessors. You need to hang out and listen to them. For the most part, these consumers are street-smart and savvy. They’ve already experienced some crazy things, including Sept. 11. Don’t try to fool them and, most of all, respect them.

Workplace Training

This is a time when young people are working alongside people old enough to be their grandparents. This creates both a clash of views and a necessary cooperation between generations. Generation Y workers do not want to be seen as children. Generation Yers think that they can show others a few things when it comes to work. Generational relations can be rough. Both sides of the generational spectrum are dismissive of the other’s abilities. This is where the tension is created. There can be a market for helping employers (and families) learn how to manage these highly connected, supremely tech-savvy young people.

This generation does not expect, accept, or understand the same rules and regulations as their predecessors. Being an expert in the field of educating employers on how to manage and benefit from young talent and programs that mentor young people to adapt to their workplace will be a key factor in profiting as an educator.

A Huntington Beach mother-and-son team created a successful consulting business to help companies retain their Generation Y employees and gain the most benefit from working with them. Forty-seven-year-old Terry Little was a former human resources executive living on her severance pay from a company that gave her the boot. Her 22-year-old son Hunter saved Terry’s emails asking for insights on what was making the young people quit and why the older employees resented them. Hunter came up with an idea.

“After hearing my mom’s complaints, it became clear that the two generations have totally different attitudes. They don’t get each other,” Hunter says. “After talking about it with my mom, I figured out a way to explain the differences. Then I invited her to start a consulting company with me.”

“It was a brilliant idea,” Terry says. She jumped on board with Hunter. They wrote grant proposals and received one that helped them launch an ad campaign geared toward companies that looked like they could follow success models like Google and Zappos, companies with a strong employee retention rate that are reaping the advantages of being led by Gen Y innovators.

“So much of upper management seems to underestimate the power of Generation Y’s youth and optimism,” Hunter says. “In my opinion, management can be losing out on the massive potential of a generation that’s confident and tech-savvy. My mom and I educate companies on how Generation Y can lead them into the future. They need to remember that an overly experienced person did not create Facebook, the most popular and revolutionary social networking site of our time. A 23-year-old did.”

Terry and Hunter are booked for the next 12 months educating clients on how to create a productive work environment where all three generations can happily co-exist.

So here’s the deal: don’t wait for times to get better, take this time to become a survivor, and a successful survivor at that. By keeping up with the latest Gen Y trends, you’ll have a leg up on all the other mainstream jobseekers, no matter what your age.

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