Witnessing a Cultural Shift

May 1, 2012

Youth is a state of mind. That was the perspective we had, in late 2006, when we began talking about the possibilities for a Young Professionals Network. It was never about age, per se. Looking at the applications to our “30 Under 30” program, it seemed that many of the young people who sought recognition, while respectful of their mentors, were bristling to bring their own life experiences to the job.

Roughly five years later, in trying to account for YPN’s explosive growth, I sought out the man who brought those observations into focus—author, speaker, and futurist Marc Prensky. Back in 2001, Prensky coined the terms “digital native” and “digital immigrant” to describe the cultural phenomenon that he was experiencing both at home and as a teacher. “In talking about digital natives,” Prensky told me, “I’m talking about people who grew up in a digital world, who feel comfortable with it—people like my son, who can teach me things.”

That rang a bell with me. At one of the first educational events we hosted—a social networking session taught by YPN members at the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Midyear Meetings—I observed a room full of successful practitioners asking questions of their younger peers. That’s when I felt certain that YPN was more than a way for young people to connect. It was a cultural shift.

I’m a digital immigrant. When I was in college, there was a computer center where you’d use your student ID to access one of the early Macintosh PCs. I spent some time there, but most of my papers were typed on an IBM Selectric, and my social networking was the Thursday night pub crawl.

In his 2001 article, “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants” (available at marcprensky.com), Prensky says immigrants like me—as much as we may adapt—never really lose our accent, i.e., our foot in the past. His mission isn’t to criticize but to show how challenging it can be for us to transfer our knowledge to—and in turn learn from—people who have spent their lives in a faster-paced digital setting.

In the 11 years since Prensky’s article and the five years since YPN’s founding, I’ve observed a coming together. YPN has helped to give younger practitioners a deeper understanding of the industry and the importance of organized real estate—and they, in turn, have brought fresh eyes to the business. In this issue, we celebrate the “fast forwarding” of real estate with our 2012 class of 30 Under 30 (page 22) and a look at the impact of digital natives (page 30). And we hail the mentors who are helping colleagues—of all ages—acquire the habits of success (page 34).

Stacey Moncrieff

Stacey is director of content strategy for the National Association of REALTORS® and editor-in-chief of REALTOR® Magazine. In addition, she oversees the quarterly REALTOR® Association Executive magazine and manages a variety of e-communications for REALTORS® and REALTOR® association executives. She has been with the NAR for more 30 years, starting as an associate editor with Real Estate Today magazine, where she covered sales and finance topics.