The gap – not just a place to buy khakis.


We hear about generation gaps all the time.  What I’m hearing even more often these days, however, is about the gap in the workforce generations – Baby Boomers, Gen X’ers, and Gen Y, now being called the Millenials.  Here’s just a few samples:

Recruitnik talks about us poor, left-out generation X’ers.

Penelope’s guest blogger talks about Gen X vs. Gen Y.

Then there’s this, which starts out:

 “Which of the following means the most to you?

  • Elvis joins the Army.
  • Jimi Hendrix dies
  • MTV debuts.
  • Kurt Cobain dies. “

People, this article is three years old, yet it still hits it right on the head.  It was maybe ahead of its time.  We’re seeing it now in candidates, and employers are seeing it in interviews and new employees.  Even the director of my youngest son’s preschool tells me she has just as many meetings with parents of her staff as she does parents of students!  Helicopter Parents are becoming a household phrase, and their kids are entering the workforce, smarter but more naïve, and with much higher expectations than ever before. 

As the good people over at Versent Solutions note:

  • Millennials view their career as an opportunity to contribute to a greater good.
  • Their ideas and solutions are often technology-oriented.
  • They have a strong sense of social responsibility and seek out employers who give back to the community.
  • Millennials do not define themselves by their jobs; they want to do excellent work, but their life is not about their work. Work-life balance is very important to them.
  • They want to be connected and know how they fit into the bigger picture. They are team-oriented.
  • Now, when I graduated college in the mid-nineties, we were told that we shouldn’t expect to start working for a company and retire for that company.  In fact, we were told to expect to have 3-4 different careers, not just jobs, and to look at our overall career plan as each step is temporary and use it in the best way possible to get where you want to be in the end.  Of course, us Gen X’ers were also told we would have to pay our dues in the workforce.  We would have to bear the brunt of entry-level jobs where we answered phones and sent faxes and ran reports on giant, desk-sized Xerox machines, and entered data.  The goal was to get through that, prove your worth, and get promoted to a point where you could start demanding more in line with your overall career goals. 

    Many GenY’ers have never even seen a copier as big as a desk, much less tried to change the toner on one.  Last year’s Forrester Report even shows they spend more time online than watching TV.  GenX’ers were told, its a Boomers world, just work with it.  GenY’ers were told its your world, take and make it what you want.  They approach everything differently.

    GenY was never told they would have to pay their dues.  They’ve been told they are smarter and better than that.  They’ve been told careers don’t matter, life matters.  In fact, they don’t even plan their careers.  They plan their life, and their career is a means to an end.

     As Steve Lamb points out, in a podcast with Darren Strange of Microsoft, millenials will bring a complete shift to the workforce:

    “Work being something you do, not a place you go”
    “a millenial is not interested in selling their soul to a company, they don’t see a job as a career, they see a job as a job and as a way to get to their own personal goals”
    “very relational. they like to work with their friends”

    I’m not sharing anything new here.  This conversation has been going on for years.  But we are starting to hear about it on a more constant basis.  Progressive companies started raising the question of how to work with the millenial generation several years ago, and most companies didn’t start listening until just now – as the boomers start looking at retirement and us GenX’ers just aren’t going to provide enough bodies to the overall workforce.  Now that this group is out of college, had their first job and is now moving into position to begin taking leadership positions, the view really begins to change.

    The one constant in life is change, of course.  My seven year old son can already work a computer keyboard and mouse like its second nature, he will never take a typing class as I did, or probably even a basic computer class.  By the time he enters the workforce, he probably won’t even use that much email, everything will be IM.


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    One Response to “The gap – not just a place to buy khakis.”

    1. Heartburn Home Remedy Says:

      I noticed that this is not the first time at all that you write about this topic. Why have you chosen it again?

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