Having worked in nonprofits, local government, and enterprise tech, I’ve always been surrounded by coworkers from all across the demographic spectrum.
My mentors, allies, and friends — the people nearest and dearest to my heart — are all millennials, boomers and Gen X’ers. We’ve had our generational quarrels, but at the end of the day, our differences are a speck in the dust compared to the admiration that we share for one another.
That’s why topics like generation bashing and age discrimination feel like a punch to the gut. When I hear the stereotype of ‘younger people are smarter‘ or ‘more tech savvy,’ I’m inclined to disagree — strongly. (Sorry, Mark Zuckerberg).
With three generations currently active in the workplace, we’re in a unique position to learn from each other’s strengths and complement one another’s weaknesses. Unfortunately, I’ve seen my fellow millennials sometimes take a polar opposite approach — mocking their baby boomer bosses for not knowing the ins and outs of Microsoft Excel, for instance.
We need to put an end to this attitude by focusing on the strengths that each person brings to the table — regardless of generation. From my personal, millennial perspective, here are some amazing ways that the baby boomer legacy has changed the world of work:
BOOMERS WERE THE ORIGINAL TECH INNOVATORS
Boomers are responsible for making entrepreneurial ecosystems like Silicon Valley what they are today.
Having spent more than two decades in Silicon Valley, I’ve seen this ecosystem give birth to companies like Facebook, LinkedIn, Google and many others. And I’ve watched boomers — like my father — create this environment from the ground up in building transformative companies from nothing.
Now, I am an early-stage entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, and what I’m learning is that building a business is exhausting, grueling, and confidence-shattering — all at the same time. And yet, I persist — thanks to the people who have been right where I am now, generations before me.
Thanks to the boomers who were once me.
My boomer mentors taught me to be patient and to realize that there are decades of unknowns in front of me. My life can be anything, and it’s the stories of Silicon Valley’s boomers that help me stay optimistic when I simply want to quit.
BOOMERS UNDERSTOOD DISRUPTION — AND THE VALUE OF PATIENCE
By 2015, most boomers will have been through so much in life — raising families, buying homes, traveling the world and even becoming grandparents. And they have come of age during an incredibly turbulent time in history, which has inevitably shaped their thinking and approach to the workplace.
It’s no surprise that, as a result, they have changed how we approach work/life balance, reminding us of the holistic perspective: Business is, ultimately, a means to an end.
One of the most valuable skills that I’ve learned from my boomer mentors is to be more patient. I firmly believe that practicing this skill is what has helped me generate some of my biggest successes as a leader and manager to date. And, if I’m being honest, without this guidance, I would have probably driven myself crazy.
BOOMERS INVENTED CLIENT SERVICE
The boomers who have helped shape my career are great salespeople because they are cool, calm and collected. They are polite; they are fully present in client conversations; and they are always listening with an inquisitive mind.
As an entrepreneur, I am also a salesperson — a role in which basic manners go a long way. Thanks to some cues from my boomer mentors, I’ve learned a number of what today we call ‘hacks’ — things as simple as turning off my phone during meetings so that I am fully present, listen before speaking and making recommendations, and owning up to my mistakes. Boomers have taught me business tactics that should be obvious, but are not always the easiest to do.
The reality is that the ‘always on’ and ‘get things done’ attitude that millennials have can be quite abrasive — to anyone, in any generation.
What I’ve learned from boomers is to always be fully attentive.
THE BABY BOOMER LEGACY IN BUSINESS
Boomers are the tech world’s original innovators —they’re responsible for making the world of work what it is today. These masters of patience can help us millennials stay grounded as we forge our own paths in life. Yes, work cultures are evolving and yes, we’re witnessing radical transformations in the workspace. But that doesn’t mean that boomers have nothing to offer in shaping the new world of work. We’re in a great position to learn as much as we can, across the generations.
For a different take, be sure to check out this Gen X perspective on the baby boomer legacy.
Boomers can help mentor millennials in the workplace — for the enrichment of both. Find out how.