As a new grad, there are many obstacles to overcome in a new workplace. One of these are expectations. Of course, the organization you work at will not be made up of students like what you may be used to in university. The beauty of having different generations working within a company is the diverse perspective and experiences that each individual brings.
So, what shapes a generation? According to an article from the Center of Generational Kinetics, there are three key trends that shape generations: parenting, technology, and economics. Technology is a large factor, especially when we compare the advances such as the rise of social media and the internet boom over the past 20 years.
Generation X (1965-1984):
Generation X is the generation of people born generally from 1965-1976. It is typically the generation that our parents would fall under. After speaking with my own parents and several co-workers, I found that many of them believe in putting in hard work and working up an organization's corporate ladder. Many of these Gen X’ers have worked in the same industry or company for a number of years and through that have gotten to where they are starting from the bottom up.
Because of all the time and work they put into building their careers, it’s easy to expect the same for new (younger) colleagues entering their work space.
Millennials (Generation Y): (1985-1996)
Ah yes. Millennials. The very hotly discussed generation. Research conducted from the Pew Research Center have shown that Millennials became the largest generation in the labour force in 2016. There are many factors that have shaped this generation to be what it is today. For example, the rise of technology. Technology has developed at a rapid pace and communication has changed dramatically since the creation of the internet blew up. Because of this, Millennials have characteristics such as being more tech-savvy, being well-connected, and being great multi-taskers. They strive for work-life balance, instant gratification, career advancement, transparency, and collaboration in the workplace.
Centennials (Generation Z): (1997-2012)
This is us. If you were born in 1997 onwards, this is your generational cohort. You may be thinking to yourself, well, what is the difference between me and a Millennial? From an article on Huffington Post, here is what the rest of the world thinks of us. Firstly, that we are less focused (but better multi-taskers) because of social media applications like Snapchat and Instagram that enable us to process information quickly. Millennials also generally care more about prices than Gen Z individuals, “arguably because they came of age during the recession.” Also, since we grew up with technology and so much information at our fingertips, we value individuality and thus, we are known to be early starters and pursue a less-traditional route to our careers.
What Does This Mean For You?
It’s easy to overlook the importance of knowing the history or major events of each generational cohort. However, when entering the workforce, there will be many expectations that other generational cohorts such as Millennials and Generation X’ers will have for you. The debate has always been that us Centennials are very entitled to our ideas and opinions of the world and won’t put in the time and work that our older generation counterparts have put in to rise to the top.
There are many articles surrounding what employers should expect before they hire us. In a post in Inc.com, the article details what to expect from Gen Z’ers such as competitiveness, overall job satisfaction, the need to customize the workplace experience, diversity, and fierce ambition. It’s important for us as Gen Z’ers or cusp Millennials to understand what employers think of us to prepare and conduct ourselves in a way that will earn the respect of people in older generations. Many of them view us as entitled-- and to a certain extent we are. To counteract these perceptions, we can put in the time and work to gather evidence that will back up our claims, ideas, and opinions.
We should also be coming from a place of empathy. By trying to understand the events and what has shaped the generations before us, we can see things from a different perspective when we face a misunderstanding or conflict in the workplace. Although we’ll never experience what it was like to live during the great recession or experience dial up internet, we can try to develop a mutual understanding. It’s important to respect the people who have worked a long time at an organization to get to where they are now.
Us Gen Z’ers are also known for being open-minded; understanding the workplace expectations is a great place to show that off.