Working with Gen Y, Gen X and Boomers

I did a presentation today at Jeff Pulver’s Social Media Jungle in which I referenced how much I prefer working with Generation Y (Millenials, Digital Natives). Talk about a crowd response! In the spirit of practicing what I preach, let me share my philosophy behind it.

As the Baby Boomers begin exiting the work force, my generation, Generation X, finds ourselves in the unique sandwich position. Caught in the middle of two massive generations, we have operated largely ignored and uninhibited for quite some time. While the Baby Boomers have been running traditional corporations and operating in the pre-Web 2.0 world, my generation has been quietly building our own working world.

My generation is a generation that frequently operates best in a freelance environment. We like to have the freedom to work at home, often alone by default, and are not traditionally joiners. This means that I often know several Generation X colleagues I can tap for one project, and I often do bring them on board, but their network is often much smaller than I seek for an ongoing relationship. Sure, Gen X is on Twitter, for example, but generationaly often scoffs at the connectivity of social media even as they use it (or build it).

For that reason when it is time to consult on a project I turn to my colleagues in Generation Y first (personally, I prefer Digital Natives to Gen Y as a “label”). As a consultant, I don’t “hire” people for permanent staff, I collaborate on projects with other freelancers instead. For per project consulting, I find that Digital Natives, as a rule, are more in tune with quickly shifting trends and have larger trusted networks to use as the building blocks to future collaboration. This makes them ideally suited for social media projects.

Do I ignore my generation in favor of Generation Y? Absolutely not. I simply find that my generation is already self sufficient, set up to freelance, and we work better together on one-time projects and as a resource behind the scenes for each other. If you run a company and you have Generation Y on staff that you “don’t understand”, I recommend finding out more about them. You have a vast, untapped resource at your disposal.

  • nice job in explaining your position. Compliments your presentation well and explains Gen X nicely.

    Plug here for the book I mentioned. You (and your team) may like it: http://www.johnnybunko.com

  • nice job in explaining your position. Compliments your presentation well and explains Gen X nicely.

    Plug here for the book I mentioned. You (and your team) may like it: http://www.johnnybunko.com

  • “We like to have the freedom to work at home, often alone by default, and are not traditionally joiners.”

    I’m on the cusp (born in 1977), but that sentence describes me much better than “more in tune with quickly shifting trends and have larger trusted networks.” I guess I’m a genuine Gen Xer, after all.

    Anyway, interesting article. Found it via Jeff Pulver’s blog rather than through my RSS feed. Guess I must’ve missed it there.

    ecc1977s last blog post..Hard-Core Half-Blood Prince Tease

  • “We like to have the freedom to work at home, often alone by default, and are not traditionally joiners.”

    I’m on the cusp (born in 1977), but that sentence describes me much better than “more in tune with quickly shifting trends and have larger trusted networks.” I guess I’m a genuine Gen Xer, after all.

    Anyway, interesting article. Found it via Jeff Pulver’s blog rather than through my RSS feed. Guess I must’ve missed it there.

    ecc1977s last blog post..Hard-Core Half-Blood Prince Tease

  • I actually think that with the Baby Boomers retiring over the next few years it will provide an amazing opportunity for collaborative work between the generations. While I completely agree with you that Millennials (in general) have much better access to market trends, I think that they can sometimes get a little ahead of themselves. This is why a Gen Xer working with other Gen Ys to impart their wisdom and experience can create a dynamite team. As a more seasoned professional, Gen Xers have the ability to temper and direct the ambitions of the younger generation, and so I think we are definitely entering a very interesting time.

    Brett Hummels last blog post..Corporate Brain Drain: Millennials Are A Generation of Entrepreneurs

  • I actually think that with the Baby Boomers retiring over the next few years it will provide an amazing opportunity for collaborative work between the generations. While I completely agree with you that Millennials (in general) have much better access to market trends, I think that they can sometimes get a little ahead of themselves. This is why a Gen Xer working with other Gen Ys to impart their wisdom and experience can create a dynamite team. As a more seasoned professional, Gen Xers have the ability to temper and direct the ambitions of the younger generation, and so I think we are definitely entering a very interesting time.

    Brett Hummels last blog post..Corporate Brain Drain: Millennials Are A Generation of Entrepreneurs

  • ukjobs

    I'm sure those boomers don't speak for all of them, however, that's just my anecdotal experience.

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