There are five, yes FIVE, generations in today’s workplace, ranging from their early 20s through their 80s. The expansive nature of this age range makes for a fascinating confluence of opportunities and challenges, which Lindsey Pollak, captures so well in her book, REMIX: How to Lead and Succeed in the Multigenerational Workforce.
According to Pollak, who is a corporate trainer and former ambassador for LinkedIn, some 30 percent of Americans report to a boss that’s younger than they are. She says technology has made it easier for younger people to have a skill set that puts them into leadership positions faster.
That fact alone is what she calls a “massive situation” if you’ve been out of the workforce. Not only are you adjusting to all the ways the workplace has changed, you may be reporting to someone younger. Enter REMIX, which is a nod to DJs who entertain many age groups at say a wedding by taking a classic tune and mixing it with modern element. “Classic has a ton of value but modern elements add new value,” Pollak explains.
We asked Pollak for advice specific to returning to work, job searching, and thriving in this multigenerational workplace:
1. Should women returning to the workforce seek a younger mentor?
Yes. I call this “reverse mentoring.” To succeed today, you have to understand the mindset of every generation. You should still have an older mentor, but it’s critical to have younger ones, too. I tell people all the time to sit at the kids table at Thanksgiving. Interestingly, it’s really uncommon to have friends 10 years older or younger. Consciously expand your network to people outside of your generation. At networking events, walk up and talk to people not of your generation. Don’t make fun of your age. Be proud of your position. I think that is the secret sauce for someone returning to the workforce — have genuine connections with other generations.
2. For women returning to the workforce, what are three things they can do to prepare for success in the multigenerational workforce.
- Follow your desired employers on social media — we live so heavily in the information economy and you want to speak their jargon. Companies spend millions of dollars to put out what they think, and you can speak a company’s language before an interview by following them on social. Being able to say, “I’ve been following you is a critical piece.” Particularly if you’re going to work for a high tech company or one that skews millennial.
- Make sure that you’re conversant in the technologies that companies use to communicate with. Be comfortable with Slack, Zoom, Salesforce.
- Don’t be afraid to ask. It’s important to ask about how someone prefers to communicate. The rules have really changed in terms of dress and communication. Mailing thank you’s is slow. Email your thank you. Ask the recruiter what is the dress? What’s the best way to get in touch with you, I’d like to follow up. You can’t make assumptions that the way you communicate is the way someone else communicates. You need to be a chameleon. And it’s totally, 1000 percent appropriate to ask. Just be prepared if they say, “it’s best if you slide into my DM!”
3. What’s another great piece of advice for job seekers wanting to make it work in a multigenerational workplace?
There’s always a must-read book or podcast. What is it that everyone is reading or listening to or watching — find out and have an opinion. The goal for me for all of this is that no one wants to feel like an outsider, that you don’t want to seem out of the loop. So how do you find connections? Anyone of any generation can listen to a podcast and communication. Focus on the similarities not the differences.