What do we know about these young adults, otherwise known as the Millennials?

Wary of slapping labels on an entire generation—also called stereotyping (hugely annoying if you’re the one being labeled)—I decided to take a look at a recent study conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation, the 2007 Deloitte Volunteer Impact survey. The goal was to assist non-profit organizations that want to recruit or work with Gen Y by providing a clearer picture of what makes this generation tick. The study asked 1,000 people between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four about their volunteer practices and preferences, as well as socially-focused opportunities offered through their employers. Here are some of the findings:

Gen Y sees a job as more than a means to a paycheck. They expect support for their personal growth, and they want to know that they are making a difference. They care about what companies stand for and expect to see their leaders walk their talk. Boomers instilled the values of community involvement and social responsibility into their children. Gen Y says, “Let’s get it done, now.”

Gen Y has a keen “authenticity radar” capable of sniffing out phony communication created by self-serving marketing messages. This generation has seen about 400,000 TV commercials by their late teens and has zero tolerance for hype and shallow advertising. The worst thing you can do is communicate in a way that is not authentic or tout yourself as something you are not.

Gen Y defines “workplace” as anywhere with Internet service and struggles to imagine a world where people or information cannot be reached in thirty seconds or less. This has changed the definition of work-life balance. While Gen X was mainly concerned about free time (after work) and weekends off, Gen Y’s expect complete time flexibility, and thanks to their PDAs, they are able to create it.

Gen Y is the most entrepreneurial generation ever. They were taught they could do and be anything they want. They are more educated, better informed and more globally connected (as well as ethnically diverse) than any other generation. They thrive on having the space to explore different possibilities and pursue new challenges.

Gen Y is a generation that actually likes older people, because Gen Y’s have learned the value of team work and mentorship. They turn generation gaps into learning experiences through reverse mentoring, for example, with younger people teaching older people about technology.

Personal growth, time freedom, social responsibility, no-hype communication, entrepreneurship, team work… do you see what I see? When you find all these traits combined in one generation, this spells “opportunity” for networking professionals.

Gen Y wants to be empowered to do well while doing good. Let’s champion these young adults, soon to be our leaders.

DR. JOSEPHINE GROSS is Cofounder and Editor in Chief of Networking Times.