New Graduates: Aging Boomers and What That Means for You

Leonard Nimoy (original Spock) & Zachary Quinto (young Spock)

By Scott Neverett (@scottneverett)

Its summer. Graduates, sheepskin in hand, are seeking out new challenges, personal growth opportunities and meaningful careers. However, finding employment may not be as easy as they think, particularly as Baby Boomers stay longer in the workforce.

Many Baby Boomers are realizing they have more to contribute and, with increased economic pressures, are delaying retirement. Because theyre staying longer, this may quash job opportunities or delay promotions for new graduates.

At the same time, while people are certainly working longer, labor statistics predict that nearly 80 million Baby Boomers will exit the workforce over the next decade. Companies will face a talent gap, so theyll need to recruit young talent.

There is opportunity amid a competitive climate for younger workers. The bad news: Its not a road without challenges.

With older workers staying longer, younger workers may have to do things their way. Theyll bring big ideas or enthusiasm about a new technology, only to be told “thats not how we do it here. Organizations take years to develop their culture and while an influx of new workers may produce a small shift, the reality is that culture tends to remain static. New graduates will have to assimilate. Theyll need to know who makes decisions, how to get things done and if there are certain protocols or procedures that need to be followed or if there is room for flexibility.

Theyll also have to adapt their communication style when communicating with Boomer colleagues. Sure, Baby Boomers are using social media in greater numbers, but this generation wasnt born with email, laptops, Blackberry devices and other technology tools. That means some younger workers may need to forgo texting and wall postings and favor more traditional forms of communication. For any age demographic, you dont want to overlook the value of face-to-face interpersonal communication. Theres something about grabbing a cup of coffee with a colleague or supervisor that an instant message cant replace.

Settling in with the old regime does have its benefits. Baby Boomers in leadership positions may help graduates learn the ropes and prepare for future career advancement. Boomers have the know-how, knowledge and networks that create progress and maintain business momentum. Take advantage of that history rather than resist it.

Understand too that while an exodus of Baby Boomers may offer promotion opportunities or bring a greater depth of responsibility, it may be at a high cost to the company. Without having senior leadership to learn from, younger workers may find they dont have the relevant experiences or appropriate guidance to succeed. Each generation adds value to the business and mentoring can bring a powerful release of sharing, learning and performance.

New graduates may be thinking “I dont need to learn from a Boomer; I have Google. But there are some things Google cannot teach. Baby Boomers have more experience working with teams, leading negotiations, embracing business values and can help younger workers increase their knowledge and skills.

Its a two-way street; both generations have a lot to learn from each other. New graduates can bring their enthusiasm, ideas and vision for using new technologies, but should be open-minded to learning from Boomer coworkers.

To new graduates: As technology increases the number of virtual work environments, the opportunity to learn firsthand from older people with real experiences is declining. If you have the opportunity to learn from a seasoned colleague, take advantage of it to grow your skills and ensure youre prepared for future jobs.



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