Of course, anyone who’s attended such a meeting knows that this familiar Hollywood trope is far more myth than reality.
And yet, there’s a kernel of truth buried underneath all that cinematic window dressing: young professionals have valuable skills and insight from which their more experienced colleagues can benefit. Below are seven things that seasoned professionals can learn from their younger counterparts.
KEEPING UP WITH TECHNOLOGY IS CRITICAL
Technology is a major stumbling block for many older professionals. Being unable or unwilling to leverage new technologies in the workplace may cause experienced professionals to feel inefficient, alienated, or even in danger of being let go.
Younger professionals, however, live in the perpetual glow of a digital screen. That makes them a valuable resource for helping their more experienced counterparts make sense of the constantly changing digital landscape. If you consider yourself tech savvy for being able to send a text message or download an attachment, it might be time to reach across the aisle and ask one of your younger counterparts for a quick tutorial.
BALANCING LIFE AND WORK IN THE DIGITAL ERA
Now that there’s a smartphone in every pocket, work never stops. If your boss sends an email at 10 p.m., he or she probably expects an answer by 10:15. Young professionals – frequently referred to as “millennials” – have never known anything different. Their more experienced colleagues, however, may remember a time when work stayed at work and didn’t intrude on dinner. The idea of being accessible 24/7 might sound terrifying, but many younger professionals are adept at balancing the new demands of digital communication and taking advantage of the efficiencies provided by a mobile lifestyle.
DIVERSITY IS GREAT FOR BUSINESS
Not long ago, business leaders fretted over how to make diversity work in their offices. But today’s young professionals see diversity not only as a given, but as an asset critical to business success. Different experiences and viewpoints can strengthen every facet of professional life. The next time you hold a strategy session or kick off a big project, consider tapping a younger colleague to help you incorporate new perspectives.
NOT TAKING RISKS IS INCREDIBLY RISKY
The business icons that millennials grew up with have one thing in common: they took a risk on an innovative idea or product and poured everything they had into it. Entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, and Elon Musk have hard-wired innovation and risk into the contemporary business landscape. If you catch yourself saying: “It’s too risky” or “There’s no precedent,” step back and try to see the market from the perspective of your younger colleagues.
STAYING HUNGRY FOR NEW SKILLS
When’s the last time you learned a new skill? If your answer is anything other than “recently,” it’s time to reevaluate the way you think about your skill set. Many older professionals, especially those who have stayed in the same company for many years, have never experienced a need for new skills. But in an economy driven by information, change comes early and often. Today’s young professionals are keenly aware that staying relevant means continuously refreshing their skills as the market changes.
CORPORATE LOYALTY IS A THING OF THE PAST
One reason why younger professionals are insatiable when it comes to learning is because they know they’ll need those skills in the near future. While more seasoned professionals came of age in an era where corporate loyalty was the order of the day, the idea of staying with a company for an entire career – or even just a decade – is an alien concept to millennials.
Younger professionals expect to change jobs frequently. In fact, the median tenure for professionals ages 25 to 34 is a little more than 3 years. The economy they inherited is one where the warm corporate hug of days past is just that – past. They keep their eye on the horizon and are ready to move as soon as the wind changes. You should be, too.
WE’RE ALL ENTREPRENEURS NOW
Millennials aren’t just hungry for new skills as a way to further their careers. They place a premium on workplace autonomy. They seek out projects where they can carve out a sense of ownership. This focus on internal entrepreneurship makes them fiercely competitive and extraordinarily driven. Many find the concept of being a ‘cog’ in a larger ‘corporate machine’ unappealing, and the business world is changing as a result.
Working in an inter-generational office can be stressful, but it’s also an exceptional opportunity for learning and growth. If you’re an experienced professional, remember that you have a lot to learn from your younger colleagues. And don’t forget that they have a lot to learn from you, too.