Many people you encounter during your career will initially associate you with your generational stereotype. If you are a baby boomer, for example, a GenX hiring manager may tend to begin your job interview with preconceived notions that may (or may not) be to your benefit.
My objective in this post is to heighten your awareness that your GenX, GenY, or baby boomer stereotype can affect your career and to motivate you to take positive action to improve your personal brand.
Here’s the good news: Regardless of your generation, you have not been sentenced to a life of conforming to that stereotype. You are a unique individual. You are free to be a non-conformist and shape your personal brand in ways that are more authentic and beneficial to you.
In the 20th century Jurassic Workplace, boomer pack leaders roamed the time-worn paths of Class A office spaces and herded youthful boomers into 8’ x 8’ x 64” cubicles. Within these 64 square foot oases, boomers-in-training found respite from the outside chaos and worked diligently to complete their assigned “work packages”. They gladly traded individualism and innovation for employment security and a sweet suite of benefits. If you are too young to relate to this, see www.dilbert.com.
Now, fast forward to today. Boomer leaders and managers are giving way to GenXers as the remaining boomer managers are increasingly required to manage non-boomers. The old (corporate) world order is being turned on its head as GenY workers flood in. This is feeding the environment I mention in chapter five of Fast Track Your Job Search (and Career!):
The obvious mismatched styles of boomers, GenXers, and GenYers continue to create unnecessary frictions and frustrations in the corporate workplace. Boomer managers who fail to connect with GenX and GenY motivations and priorities risk sowing the seeds of discontent every workday. These issues can be resolved, but few employers are committing serious resources toward fixing them.
So, what can you do to leverage the current situation? First, you can choose to become a more effective inter-generational communicator and increase your value to your employers. Second, you can improve your odds of job search success by leveraging the positive aspects of your generational stereotype and defusing any negative aspects.
To become an effective inter-generational communicator, you need to study the styles and motivations of all three generations. You can learn more about the generational differences here … or in my book. For example, a GenX survey highlighted in Sally Hogshead’s highly recommended book Radical Careering found that 81% of respondents preferred an entrepreneurial work environment versus 19% who preferred a more traditionally structured environment. Leveraging GenX preferences can make you a more effective intergenerational co-worker and leader, which will increase your brand value.
Likewise, you can succeed more quickly in your job searches by becoming more aware of the positive and negative characteristics of your generational stereotype. For the boomer interviewee mentioned earlier, they will typically do better in job interviews when they emphasize their strong work ethic and loyalty … while distancing themselves from the expectation that they are stuck in their ways and have outdated knowledge.
By studying your own stereotype and the stereotype of those you encounter on the job and during your job searches, you can create personalized strategies for presenting yourself more positively. You have a great opportunity to enhance your personal brand and advance your career faster/smarter/better while companies continue to struggle with three generations in the workplace. You can become more valuable and reap the rewards. I hope you will.
Richard Kirby is an executive career consultant, speaker on career strategies, and author of Fast Track Your Job Search (and Career!). Richard Kirby’s earlier experience includes managing engineering, human resources, marketing and sales teams for employers that ranged from a Fortune 100 to a VC-funded entrepreneurial startup. For the past 11 years at Executive Impact, Richard has helped hundreds of executives and professionals successfully navigate today’s transformed 21st century job market and achieve better employment for themselves. Richard’s expertise includes career assessments and goal setting, personal marketing/branding, resume enhancement, strategic networking and job interviewing, and “contrarian” job search methodologies. He is a Board Certified Coach (in career coaching) and a Certified Management Consultant (recognized by the ISO).