My son started graduate school this month, and I couldn’t be more elated and proud. It’s another milestone in his career and for me, a full circle moment. You see that’s him climbing the walls at my own college graduation. Even then, he knew there was more out there, and he was aiming to get it, just like me.
At times our lives seem so similar, even though on many things we completely disagree. I’m sure some of it is age and experience – I’m convinced he’ll see my way in due season – while other times it is the gender divide. Men and women, no matter how well we communicate, will sometimes see things differently.
Lately, our most fascinating debates have been about the work place. Prior to starting this latest round of school, he spent three years working for an investment bank. As with most things in life, it wasn’t exactly what he thought it would be. His idealistic expectations of a first job went up in flames sometime within the first week. Still, after he had time to reflect, he was humbled and grateful for the opportunity.
I recently asked him what he’d learned from the experience. I was curious for two reasons. First, young people always ask me for career advice, but I find that they rarely ask people just a few steps ahead. To me, that’s unfortunate because people who are not too far in front of you can explain what’s going on from a perspective that you can understand. They can also point out the fresh land mines on the path.
Second, I asked because I was curious if his viewpoints would mirror my own, or if there really is that big a difference between generational perspectives.
Check out his list of 7 lessons, along with this Gen X’s observations, to see where we netted out.
You don’t know everything. Yeah, I imagine this was a real disappointment, given that shiny new degree and all. But you are so right – you do not nor will you ever know everything, and neither does anyone else. In spite of that, here’s the great news – you’re smart. Whatever you don’t know, you can figure out, or hire someone else who can. Either way, you win.
You can’t be so thin-skinned. Hmm…I can see how this may have been a problem. After all, we – meaning your well-meaning baby boomer and generation x parents – introduced you to the concept that everybody is a winner. Now you’re at work, and finding out that it’s not that way. In the real world, under performers get cut, and unfortunately since we removed many of the lessons around disappointment, you have to learn these coping skills as you go. It’s unfair, I know. But look on the bright side – our parents taught us if you work hard, and stay loyal to the company, they would be loyal to you. That wasn’t true either, but we survived.
You can’t be so defensive. Most people are just trying to help you and make the work environment better. Definitely agree on the first part. In my 20’s and early 30’s I used to be quick to defend myself, determined to have my opinion heard. That’s why I’m so grateful for mentors, who pulled me to the side, and taught me how to better pick my battles. They also taught me how to listen more and speak less, making sure that I try and understand words and intentions before I respond.
Speak to your coworkers, ESPECIALLY your superiors. Umm… used to be that was just called “good manners”. I could go on a tangent about how technology has eroded our communication skills, but instead I’ll just offer a piece of advice – Speak to everyone. Be kind. Train yourself to really see people, and appreciate their value. Not only is it the right thing to do, it’s also a smart strategy for your future. About half of my consulting clients are former colleagues, and they weren’t my superiors.
Know that each piece of advice you get from a co-worker can be used in one way or another. Well, we agree on one thing, everyone can teach you something. Whether that’s a lesson we need, want or are interested in learning determines whether it becomes advice. And it’s only good advice if it supports our growth. Otherwise, it should be discarded immediately, before we’re tempted to accept it as our personal truth.
Work on building strong connections with people who can defend you behind the closed door. Amen, Amen, Amen. Most of the decisions that impact your career will be made outside of your presence. They happen during meetings you won’t know are taking place, with people that you would never guess. That’s why it’s so important to develop relationships across organizations and industries. We all need people who will ensure our good work does not go unnoticed. And here’s a tip – it’s not always going to be your supervisor.
Give yourself time to get acclimated to a place. You can’t get the temperature in a new place as a young person in 2 months. Honey, you can’t get a feel for a place in 2 months if you’re an older person either. Getting to know people takes time. In my experience, here’s how it generally goes.
First 3 months: A person’s representative does all the talking.
Second 3 months: The real person starts sneaking out behind the reps back.
Third 3 months: The real person moves to the forefront, and you start getting the full picture.
Fourth 3 months: Now, it’s on you. They’ve shown you who they really are. It’s up to you to believe them.
So what do you think? Is he ready to go out on the speaking circuit?!? 🙂
I think he’s on the right path, but we’d both love for you to share your advice, life lessons, and general perspective on surviving and thriving in the workplace.
Leave us a comment below, and if it suits you, let us know whether you’re in the Silent Generation, a Baby Boomer, Generation X, a Millennial, or Generation Y.
We can’t wait to hear from you.
Loving on Me as I Love You! ❤