Welcome to the age of the generation gap career. Whether you’re an experienced workforce veteran, a newly arriving employee or somewhere between, the generation gap is part of today’s workplace reality.
The 1958 Broadway musical, “Flower Drum Song,” features a song in which the elder and younger generations each agonize, “What are we going to do about the other generation? How will we ever communicate, without communication?” And sixty years later, in business, we’re still searching for the same answer. Intergenerational communication is perennially elusive, and never more so than in today’s business world.
We need to communicate, and develop systems to work together to maximize results. Frustration with the “other generation” is counterproductive, but insidious.
Bridging the generation gap can be a challenge. Even straightforward concepts can be open to interpretation. Standing in our way are stereotypes, assumptions, and a hint of an almost adversarial relationship. Yet all generations have the same basic goals – we want business to succeed, and we want career success, however we may define it. And even though we sometimes forget, the “other generation” can be instrumental in our success. So how can you build a career to communicate and engage with all generations in the workplace?
Creating Your Generation Gap Career
- First, recognize that the “other generation”can be a valuable resource. Different perspectives, skill sets, experiences and even motivations can provide insights and synergies to boost your career as well as accelerate the organization.
- Second, reach out, across the divide. Connect. Invite the “other generation” to coffee. Explore the tough questions, and be ready to answer them honestly and constructively. Some questions to start:
- What do I do that you don’t understand?
- In what ways do I meet your expectations, exceed them, or fall short?
- What is important to you?
- Where do you see your career in 5 years? In 10 years?
- What changes do you see coming for our industry?
- Third compare your answers. Find areas of agreement, and those that are not. Be open to discussion. The perspectives, values and priorities offered by others might not be yours, and that’s good. Stretch your horizons.
- Finally, seek understanding. Be willing to modify your world view and acknowledge that the “other generation” just might have some things right. Incorporate a few new concepts into your thinking. Use the dialogue to grow personally and professionally. Take advantage of the possibilities offered by the “other generation.”
In every challenge there is an opportunity. Take advantage of the differing perspectives, skills and opinions of the “other generation,” expand your horizons and position yourself for a successful generation gap career.