Recently I addressed an alumni group about navigating the multigenerational workforce and creating a satisfying career. The overall age of the audience is somewhat younger than the groups I generally present to—most of them were at or close to a decade in the workforce. This provided a great opportunity to learn how the work experience differed than what they expected in college. I also asked what the audience thought they might be doing if talked again in ten years.
Their responses were surprising. Over half the audience had aspirations to own a business. Now maybe it was because the audience was young, intelligent and ambitious (they were spending a Saturday morning at an alumni networking breakfast) or maybe this audience viewed their roles at work much differently than the 40+ worker.
I’m guessing it is the latter. Of the twelve participants that planned to evolve into entrepreneurs, all of them are currently employed by large business and many are already promoted into supervisory roles with direct reports. Three of the young 30-somethings had impressive budget responsibility and large organizations reporting to them. Rather than look at their current companies as a place to make the proverbial climb into the corner office with plush carpet, a gatekeeper in front of their door and other discreet executive perks; they appeared to view their jobs as an extension of their education. Their income was being used to pay off student loan debt, but what company’s name was on the business card could not have matter less. Emergency in the employee engagement aisle!
Employees joining the workforce in the 1970s and 1980s, came of age in more of a “carrot and stick” management style. The carrot was the first promotion. If Bob performed well as a technician II; then Bob become a technician III or (gasp)—a Senior Technician. That changed for many Fortune 500 companies in the mid-1990s as they dabbled in “Broadbanding”. If you worked for a company that missed the Broadbanding bus (lucky you)—it is when a company flattens the hierarchy, eliminates levels of management, makes it really difficult to get a promotional title change and replaces a large number of salary levels with a small number of salary grades with broad pay ranges. That is as simple as I can make it sound. It would take a highly paid consulting practice leader to make Broadbanding sound logical today. In the era of mergers/acquisitions that was the 1990s, a suave HR consultant could spin it to make sense. My audience impatiently expects titles and pay increases now--or they are leaving even with 8% unemployment.
The 40+ worker believed their company was the beginning and the end while this cohort of twenty-five to thirty-two year olds view their work as a means to an end. They were much more interested in my four years of entrepreneurship and how I build blog traffic than an audience of their peers a decade or two older. They appeared to be simultaneously engaged in their jobs today and could fire off a text with their resignation tomorrow. Corporate loyalty? They snickered as if my AARP card had fallen out of my wallet.
Over dinner, I was discussing this event with friends for their assessment. One astute observation was that my audience included children of Baby Boomers. They lived through their parent’s being laid off in corporate downsizings; they were relocated as children when their parents moved to start new jobs and they understand that for as much as a company provides their payroll direct deposit today—these young people think like freelancers or 1099-workers. More experienced workers have additional considerations including aging parents, health issues, young adult children or in some cases second families with young children---adopting the mindset of a younger generation where it makes sense, could be your ticket to increased career satisfaction.