A new generation is ready to upgrade your business

It’s a miserably rainy Vancouver morning. The kind of day you can be thankful that your midterms are done and you can technically sleep in until your next class starts. Michael Bernard doesn’t know that feeling of comfort. Since he lost his Public Relations job in September, every day has become a workday, as well as a learning experience.

Mike is one of many who lost their jobs because of downsizing and merging during the economic downturn. He’s also one of many baby boomers who found themselves thrust into a very changed job market. “The nature of Journalism and PR has changed. Nowadays, people [who are] hiring are looking for someone to bring their company into the information age, if you can’t show them how to Twitter or Facebook Group their press releases, you’re at a major disadvantage".

Mike experiences the angst of breaking into a young person’s working world. He grew up surrounded by the belief that hard work and punctuality would guarantee workers a lifetime career and a gold watch at 55. His experience is typical of many people who found that ideal dashed as the recession caused companies to reduce their costs by cutting the expensive senior members of their teams in favor of a younger, cheaper and more tech-savvy generation.

What does the working world look like for those of us born after 1980? Marketers have tagged us as “Millennials”. They also tell us that we are technologically oriented, informal and skeptical. Millennials grew up in an environment where we are encouraged to challenge authority without fear of repercussion, and be given respect by our authority figures. Given that background, how then can we be expected to work under the harsh demanding rule of the 'Baby Boomers' (43 to 62 years old) who typically hold the highest positions in today’s organizations?

Our post-secondary experience teaches us to re-think processes and develop revolutionary new ideas in order to crush the business world. Effectively, telling the old guard that their favorite ways of doing things are outdated and inefficient. This may be a major reason why recently career search site JobFox found that only 20% of the recruiters classified their recently hired Millennials as "Generally great performers". That number may appear to be a bit disappointing at first, until you see how badly we’re getting killed by the older generations: 63% of Baby Boomers and 58% of Gen Xers (29 to 42) were tagged as great. Clearly there is a disconnection between the Boomers and Millennials. Despite their experience, 43+ workers are not 200% smarter, faster or greater than those of us under 29. What they do much better than us is speak the boss’ language.

Fortunately for us, many organizations have begun to recognize the value that a critically thinking, technically adept young professional can bring to the workplace. I had a chance to sit down with HR professional Vicki Clarke, a boomer who has hired and helped to develop hundreds of Millennials, to discuss ways that we can maximize our chances for success. She shared some tips, which I've included in the sidebar. With her advice, in combination with your natural ability to re-think processes and generate new ideas, you will be able to effectively position yourself as a powerful force in the current business environment that is desperately in need of young talent. As Michael Bernard testifies, “the job market is changing” and it's a young person's world now. The trick lies in helping your boss come to that realization. 

//Conner Galway

Vicki Clarke’s Tips for Millennials:

Learn your boss’ objective. Find out what they value most from the business and what the most successful employees do best. Barring that, find out what they measure. If punctuality is their most important metric, be early every day. If it’s volume of work, produce a ton of material.

Listen and make notes when you receive feedback. If the feedback is unclear, ask for specifics. Use those points as a cheat-sheet for success.

Pick your battles to win the war. When you have a great idea, make a note of it. There will be an opportunity to present it, but boomers may not always appreciate unsolicited suggestions.

Don’t work for a boss you don’t learn from. Sometimes the best bosses to learn from are also the most frustrating – suck it up and be professional. If the situation is not helping you develop yourself, look for something better but have the next one lined up before you leave.

Enjoy it? Share this on Facebook


© 2011 The Capilano Courier. phone: 604.984.4949 fax: 604.984.1787 email: