As I coach and manage professionals in our Talent Management business and was thinking about the role of each generation and the impact it will have on history. Clearly we have almost an infatuation with Millennials and how distinctly different they approach their careers (and life for that matter!). Boomers have a reputation for enjoying years of post war prosperity and also for being inflexible or slow to adopt change. I think it's the X'ers that sometimes are completely overlooked role the role they play and their burden to be sandwiched between two such idealistic generations.
First, a couple words about the unfair labels attached to Millennials. I'm not a psychologist, or sociologist, or even a certified life/career coach. I have however coached, mentored, and managed literally dozens and dozens of Millennial professionals in more than 10 different industries. In my practice we form very tight relationships, we partner in career development. I work as closely with these young talented professionals as any manager they've ever had. I'm also the father of two Millennial men so I completely understand the challenges both personally and professionally. Millennial age professionals make up nearly 35% of the workforce today Here's what I think gets missed in the label "Millennial":
Regardless of generation, when you are in your twenties and early thirties you bear the same burdens of every generation before you. You start to take on debt, have children, face some challenges and see roadblocks in your career for the first time. This is not distinctive to Millennial's, this is distinctive to being in your 20's and 30's.
The professionals I have worked with are serious about what they do. Prosperity is not assumed and is largely due to a brutal recession that left a lasting impression on them in some very informative years. They have seen hardship and are serious about their approach. Some have labeled this "attitude" with a negative connotation. This is not a generation that lived in post-war prosperity in their teens and early twenties.
I've heard managers and professionals talk about their 'lack of focus'. My observations are that this isn't a lack of focus, it's the ability to constantly adjust to build out a portfolio of transferable experience and skills. The traditional 1980's or 90's march up the corporate ladder doesn't exist anymore. I've never seen a generation so willing to move laterally to make themselves more marketable.
If you are a Millennial, you should:
Make sure you understand how institutions work, how resources are distributed and managed. You should understand banking in particular. Industries change and banking will change too but if you understand principals of borrowing and valuation, you can leverage your generational differentiators in an amazing way.
Focus on your interpersonal skills and not your phone. People don't do business with snaps, meme's, emoji's and avatars. If you can't sell yourself face-to-face or better yet, in a large live audience, you won't get your share of the pie (see Boomers below).
Continue to live with less and within or below your means. Reduce the temptation to take on that big car lease or a new $1,100 phone every 2-3 years. Financial flexibility will open up opportunity and it may take one or two interim moves before you get on a good track.
I think my Generation X clients are in an amazing position that they rarely take advantage of. They are often referred to as the "latchkey or MTV Generation". Divorce rates were peaking and focus, spending and social services began to shift from children to the ballooning senior population. I've found it important to remember Some observations from working with X'ers which happen to make up 75% of our client portfolio:
They got the rug pulled out from under them. They watched their parents and other Boomers follow a very traditional path up a corporate ladder. Organization started to become flatter and opportunities dried up. It literally is a game of "who moved my cheese".
They are in their "tired thirties and forties" as my wife has labeled them. Big mortgages, car payments, young children with extracurricular activities after a full day of daycare or school. Lives are filled with social pressures and responsibilities. Identities, acquaintances, friends and social circles are driven by their children's school and activities.
They introduced Boomers and the world to technology and the internet. They are independent and pioneers. Their focus is inward, constantly looking for self development and questioning their self-awareness.
If you are a Gen X'er, you should:
Consider how you leverage your unique position as a connector. You sit between two generations that have significant communication challenges. You are a translator because of your ability to connect with your Boomer mentors, coaches and managers and hungry Millennials.
Begin to think about how your skills and experience can be an outlet for a side hustle. You have built a terrific toolbox of cross function experiences. Because the workforce has been flattening your entire career, your network is probably more valuable than you think because it stretches across functions, companies, and industries. Even if you have spent your entire career in broadcast news, the collection of your three year agreements is extremely valuable because of your diverse multiple market and management experiences.
To some extend, begin to reduce debt load. You'll need flexibility to adapt and move later in your career. The more diverse experience and living debt free will give you incredible opportunities.
Finally, it's the Boomers who in most circles remain in the drivers seat. They hold the majority of senior management positions and board seats in most industries. They control the wealth that could enable the dreams and aspirations on Millennials and X'er.
Baby Boomers have amassed more than $30 TRILLION dollars in wealth that will be transferred to their heirs and other social causes. If you are looking for investors, this is the group to pitch.
They are the 'Me' generation. They have benefited from post-war prosperity but they have also seen: Korean and Vietnam wars (including a mandatory military draft, man land on the moon, Kennedy, MLK assassinations, fall of the Berlin Wall, and they had to explain 9/11 to their children.
They can be rigid in their beliefs about career management but they are also prolific networkers. They had to develop excellent interpersonal skills because the internet didn't exist until later in their lives. Socialization was everything and these folks are masters at push and pull management in the workplace.
If you are a Boomer, you should:
Work diligently at paying off your debt now. Your earning potential will drop significantly if it hasn't already. You will likely be timed out, especially if you are working in multimedia. You will need 8x your annual salary to officially retire.
Give back. Give your time if you have limited resources. Informally adopt a cause, a school, a community service center. The rewards you receive will pay off ten fold and will give you a new sense of purpose.
If you are in the position to do so, start a pro bono service organization. As Arthur Ashe said - start where you are, use what you have, do what you can. Contact me directly if you want more information on this.
In summary, I don't find Millennials lazy or Boomers selfish and rigid. These are labels, not people. We all find ourselves in different seasons of our careers and it's critical to recognize and appreciate position and perspective. The two things you need to continue to do regardless of age; reduce your debt so you have options and understand how your skills are transferable to other industries and organizations. YOU WILL time-out in the job you are in today. Get ready, you will see Winter in your career.
Be Bold. Be Great. Be Timeless. #MondayMotivation
About Mike McNamara:
Mike has held C-Suite, Executive and Senior Sales, Marketing, Business Development, and General Management roles with Equifax, Cox Enterprises, WW Grainger, and Federal-Mogul Corporation. Mike has led sales, service and operations organizations of over 1,500 associates and accountable for P&L responsibility in excess of $250M.
Dedicated to giving back, Mike formed The MBAR Group in 2009 with the sole intent of providing pro bono career and business consulting services to the underprivileged and underserved. Today as founder and CEO of TalentBlvd, he coaches a number of high profile business and media personalities as well as holding advisory board positions guiding a number of multimedia and small business startups.
Mike earned his MBA from the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University and holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Michigan State University. He is a past chapter President of the American Marketing Association. Mike and family split time between their adopted state of Missouri and family home in NW Michigan where their philanthropic causes include The Kingdom House – St Louis, BACN in Benzonia, MI., and Samaritan’s Purse, Boone NC.