Everything is bound to change over time. Looking back through history, the workplace has been continuously evolving, forcing each generation to adapt. We hear stories from our parents and grandparents and get a glimpse of how things have evolved: Work environment, technology, communication, wages, and career growth. All of these factors have influenced every generation differently, Generation Y, included.
In many ways, we Gen Y’ers are different than the previous generations. We grew up with cell phones, texting, personal computers, IPods, GPS, and so many other inventions that past generations thought to be impossible. Basic technology has become second nature for Generation Y; it is everywhere. Typing and computer skills have become the equivalent of being able to read or add and subtract. No longer are young, Generation Y parents giving their children a rattle to play with. Instead, they hand them an Ipad so they can watch cartoons at any given moment.
As Generation Y’ers, we have so many resources at hand. Search engines and websites like Google and Yahoo open up a world of information to us that we can utilize on our own. Since we grew up learning this technology and these resources, they have become natural skills, often giving us a leg up on the competition.
And with the recent economic conditions, many of us have found ourselves competing for jobs with previous generations. My senior year of college, I found myself studying for finals in the James Madison University library next to a man about twenty years my senior. After talking for a few minutes, he explained that he lost his job in the recent recession and decided to go back to school. As I went back to studying, I watched him struggle with a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet on his laptop, and it occurred to me; he did not grow up learning this technology like I had. I began showing him a few tricks in excel, and it was interesting to see how someone from a previous generation attempted to learn the application. It was completely different from the way I learned and grasped information. This was a perfect example that still stands out in my mind of how our workplace has evolved and how our generation can be leveraged to teach older generations technological skills.
Still there are many aspects of the marketplace we can learn from past generations, making it vital to keep communication open and frequent. And perhaps this is the biggest workplace change of this generation: collaborative learning – that’s not just top down, but bottom up as well.
Written by: Mike O’Shaughnessy, Senior Consultant at IBM