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THE VALUE OF BOOMER ENTREPRENEURISM

Despite the media attention that may lead to the assumption that most successful entrepreneurs are under age 35, Whitney Johnson’s HBR blog post “Entrepreneurs Get Better with Age” presents an impressive amount of research finding that most successful entrepreneurs are several decades older. Giving several examples – many of them women, Johnson concludes:

 “As individuals move into [developmental psychologist} Erikson's seventh developmental stage [around age 40-64] creating something new isn't just a "nice thing to do" — it is a psychological imperative. The urge to create, to generate a life that counts impels people to innovate, even when it's lonely and scary. Data notwithstanding, some of the companies among us will continue to allow these individuals to fall into the arms of independent work, if we don't give them the boot first.”

The statistics and their implications suggest to me that

  • There is good reason for Boomers to relish their continually unfolding career/lives making creative contributions.
  • There is reason to hope for solutions to issues that matter beyond technology as Boomers will want to tackle them and may be best suited to do so.
  • The desire and ability to leave a legacy is a strong motivation.
  • Boomers may be more motivated to mentor or help in other ways members of younger generations.
  • With less pressure to “keep score” and to please other people rather than themselves at that stage of life, Boomers may actually work harder for what they decide they want to achieve.

What do you think? Please comment.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot   www.pdcounsel.com

 

ANOTHER GENERATIONAL TUG O’ WAR – OVER CITIES?

This week Maria Bartiromo’s “On the Money” (CNBC, 6/23/13) had a feature on where the Baby Boomers are moving in retirement or whatever passes for their version of the next phase of life with guest Richard Florida, co-founder of “The Atlantic Cities,” reporting on their study. The Boomers’ choices seem like great ones to me and not really surprising given their desire to stay part of the action and pursue continuous learning. The questions center around the impact on Gen Y/Millennials.

The study findings indicate a definite trend of Boomers moving to large cities (New York, San Francisco, and other urban areas such as Portland, Seattle and others). The other growing choice is college towns. Madison WI, Ithaca NY and Ann Arbor MI were cited.

In addition to intellectual stimulation, the Boomers making or contemplating moves are looking for good restaurants, good health care and to be near the action. They also want to be near where their adult children are located to maintain those ties and spend time with grandchildren. And their kids are attracted to big cities where things are happening.

The potential problem for the Gen Yers, who are not trying to get away from their parents in large numbers and also want to maintain close ties, is the economics of this trend. With the usually better economically endowed Boomers buying or renting housing in those desirable urban areas and depleting the supply, the younger generation can have a difficult time affording housing where they want to go for work and an active life.

So will this turn out to be another financial obstacle for the Gen Y/Millennials that threatens the future they seek? Or is it an opportunity for the generations living in densely populated areas with so many opportunities to work together on urban issues and create more manageable lives with less commuting and the need to own cars and possessions that are readily available to the public in these areas?

As not only a congenital optimist but also a former urban planner, I am hoping for the latter. Please comment with your thoughts.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot   www.pdcounsel.com

(WORKFORCE) DISENGAGEMENT BELLS ARE RINGING

What if they all stayed – those 52% of all full-time U.S. workers who said in a new Gallup poll that they are not involved, enthusiastic or committed to their work? And worse, the 18% who are actively disengaged? What if they conveyed their attitude to customers/clients? What if their frustrations caused by differences with managers and work colleagues of different generations meant they had checked out mentally or even undermined their colleagues’ and team’s work?

Obviously that’s bad for morale, but what does it cost? Gallup estimates that due to declines in quality control, lost productivity, turnover and high absenteeism, actively unhappy workers cost the U.S. $450 billion to $550 billion a year. Those are difficult numbers to relate to, but each organization with disengaged workers is likely to be leaving a substantial chunk of change on the table. 

The Gallup stats indicate that women, managers and new hires record higher levels of engagement than other segments of the workforce. Company and team size looks to be one of the best predictors of engagement. Small firms and teams of fewer than 10 people report the most engagement. (Note: Other studies have come to different conclusions about who is more engaged.)

Though age diversity tension factors were not studied in this poll, we’ve observed that inter-generational dynamics are a significant factor too. Differences in attitudes by generation - how one approaches work, demeanor, communication styles and media, perceived work ethic, definitions of teamwork and work-life flexibility  - can and do reduce engagement and productivity in many organizations if not diagnosed and addresse

In fact many polls and studies confirm that generational influences underlie and inform attitudes and opinions on other aspects of diversity and cultural conflict.  Organizations and managers who recognize that, surface the tensions and gaps and adapt workforce friendly methods that facilitate cross-generational conversation and collaboration can emerge as the frontrunners for talent recruitment and retention and great customer relations.  

Wouldn’t you want yours to be one of them?      Please comment.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot    www.pdcounsel.com

DID BOOMERS MISS THE PASSION TRAIN? Time to reinvent?

This post is a follow up to one I wrote on October 5th titled Follow a Passion to Your Next Destination?

Did the Baby Boomer generation miss the passion train in the first half (at least) of their career life? Is that why they’ve been telling their children, mentees, students and coachees to “follow their passion”? Why was career passion not a central theme for the Boomers even though work has been a driving force in so many of their lives that one of the generation’s notable characteristics is “workaholism. 

Many of the Boomers’ parents lived through the Great Depression and because risk-averse. So they urged their Boomer children to go into respectable and seemingly secure professions or work for big companies that were expected to last and take care of their employees. Boomers may have taken risks in their personal lives (“drugs, sex and rock & roll”) in their youth, but less so in their career choices. And Boomers didn’t typically have mentors and coaches in early career to urge and guide them to follow a passion.

Further, once they made a comfortable living, given adult responsibilities, it was hard to give up the money and status.

In addition to these factors, Marc Miller of Career Pivot, a Boomer in his mid-50s who has found his work passion, cites less than supportive family structures and dysfunction. I don’t know that there were more dysfunctional families when Boomers were growing up, and the divorce rate was lower than today ori n the Gen Xers’ and Yers’ formative years. But it is true that parents were not as child-centric as today.

He also thinks that Boomers were more random in the degrees they sought, rather than strongly driven to a particular career other than what was expected of them. Many of them in college and graduate school had the goal of avoiding serving in the Vietnam War (there was a draft), which pursuing education at least helped delay.

After years in a career and perhaps delayed gratification, many Boomers have found their passion in work or are following a passion now to reinvent themselves in a new career.  Perhaps this reinforces Cal Newport’s point as expressed in my earlier blog post Follow Your Passion to Your Next Destination that you find your passion after working at something and finding you are really good at it.

If that has happened to you, please comment and share your story.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot     www.pdcounsel.com

CAREER ENTREPRENEURSHIP

 How to make members of each generation see they are owners/masters of their career enterprise is a challenge in many organizations. It’s what I call “career entrepreneurship,” and the need for it won’t disappear with an economic upturn. I wrote about it (recently) from a Baby Boomer perspective for Next Avenue.

You need to start learning to ask yourself some foresighted questions such as:

  • What trends are likely to affect my opportunities and roles?
  • What will become obsolete and will require me to change?
  • What do I need to learn and do to keep increasing my relevance?

Beverly Kaye wrote about that change in perspective and approach in her book “Help Them, Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Employees Want to Have” (BK Business, 2012). Individuals need to think about role shifts that require mind shifts, and employers need to support this more entrepreneurial thinking as positive for them as well. Some mind shifts include:

  • The goal doesn’t have to be the top position. And if you’re at the top, there are future role shifts that can be satisfying and creative.
  • There are alternate paths for different people at different times.
  • You can choose riskier or safer moves and shift from one to the otherover a career span for what feels right at the time.

In any case, don’t put artificial limits on yourself.

Work has changed. Job discussions and requirements have changed, and training has not kept up. You may have to re-invent yourself – or not. But the concept of what I call career entrepreneurship, taking charge of your own career development, is a winning strategy for anyone determined to succeed.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot   www.pdcounsel.com

FOLLOW A PASSION TO YOUR NEXT DESTINATION?

In almost every group discussion I’ve participated in with college students and young alums as a mentor, cross-generational networker, coach or friend, the question of following or having a passion in one’s work comes up. It’s become gospel that “passion” is necessary to succeed or be happy in or at work. And at networking meetings we are frequently asked to mention our passions to build relationships. In a discussion at a dinner meeting of students and alumni of the Cornell Women’s Network this summer, I took the opportunity to speak up for those who haven’t identified a passion (yet) or maybe don’t know what passion is for them.

So I was delighted to read a Gen Y/Millennial contribution to the New York Times “Preoccupations” column (9/30/12) titled “Follow a Passion? Let It Follow You.” He explains and explores the myth and relates his own experience. It also helps to explain the new label “Hesitation Generation.”

Cal Newport, age 29, now a computer science professor at Georgetown University, wrote of his generation, ”Growing up we were told by guidance counselors, career advice books, the news media and others to ‘follow our passion.’ This advice assumes that we all have a pre-existing passion waiting to be discovered.

This only makes sense for a small group of people who by their late teens have had a clear passion in sight. (And in my consulting and coaching experience, many of those discover by their 40s that the passion has died for them and their strong focus on it with blinders to other broadening interests has left them ill-prepared for career and life transitions.) For anyone else, the pressure to follow a passion they have identified may be intense and even cause anxiety among those with a passion that they have actually chosen the right thing. Every time Gen Yers’ work is hard or lacking total pleasure they want to job-hop to find a better right choice – not sticking it out long enough to succeed. The Hesitation Generation.

Newport summarizes, and cites Daniel Pink’s book “Drive” for details, the traits that lead people to love their work: a sense of autonomy, feeling you are good at what you do, and feeling you are having an impact on the world, whatever the job is. He says these elements need to be earned and take time (my emphasis).

Newport concludes offering this advice: “Passion is not something you follow. It is something that will follow you as you put in hard work to become valuable in the world.”

Very savvy and perceptive for a 20-something. And good insight for a member of any generation with anxiety that they have/had no passion to follow.

Has this changed your mind about the “follow your passion” gospel? Has it reduced your stress if you have not identified a passion or worry that your choice may prove less than perfect? Please share your thoughts.

Phyllls Weiss Haserot     www.pdcounsel.com

PEOPLE WANT TO SEE A PURPOSE IN WORK

A new survey of 4,200 people in the US, UK and Germany by Calling Brands consultancy found a high level of desire to work for an employer organization with an underlying spirit that goes beyond commercial and operational goals. The study consisted of interviews with HR and Communications chiefs from major multinational organizations. In reporting on the findings, it was said that this is a change in attitude. No demographics were given except the country of residence.

Related but not the same thing as Corporate Social Responsibility, Corporate Purpose now appears to be a powerful driver for retention and attraction of employees as well as productivity.

Perhaps the need to spend so much time at work is driving people to seek meaningful intangibles during the course of their work and to feel they are fulfilling a greater purpose than merely profitability. Survey results indicated that an average of 57% of respondents (58% in the US) would favor joining an organization that has a clearly defined “Purpose, ” and an average of 65% said that Purpose would motivate them to “go the extra mile.”

 

 

ADVENTURE, LOVE AND PURPOSE IN ENCORE YEARS – and Contest

I periodically pass on information from Marc Freedman, founder of Civic Ventures and Encore Careers on this blog to let you know about applications for prizes, awards and other information of note. In this post, I am spreading his news about a highly recommended movie with a sensational cast and a contest. Below are the details.

I’m writing to let you know about a beautiful re-coming-of-age movie, starring Judi Dench, Tom Wilkerson, Maggie Smith and Bill Nighy, along with Dev Patel, the young star of “Slumdog Millionaire.”

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” is about adventure, love and purpose in the encore years. If you love to laugh and travel -- and are wondering what’s next in your life -- you’re in for a treat.

And you could be in for a prize, too…if you enter the Marigold Ideas for Good Contest.

http://www.takepart.com/marigold/contest?cmpid=encore

The contest is for people over 50 who have great ideas for doing something to improve the quality of life in their communities.

Each month for the next six months, Participant Media -- with help from the voting public and Encore.org -- will select five winners. Each will win a $5,000 grant; one will win the money plus the trip of a lifetime from Road Scholar.

So if you’ve got an idea about how you can make the world a better place for future generations, I hope you’ll enter today.

http://www.takepart.com/marigold/contest?cmpid=encore

Spread the word. There’s no time like the present to start thinking about what you’d like to do for an encore!

 

 

 

GENERATIONAL LOOK AT THE CAREER NARRATIVE

Welcome to *Next Generation, Next Destination* Practice Development Counsel’s associate, Robin Ganek, who has provided this post from her Gen Y/Millennial view.

My organization said goodbye to around 15 administrative employees at the end of 2011 at a modest bon voyage ceremony with cake and a champagne toast.  The conference room buzzed with recounted memories and eagerness for sugar, until a tapped plastic cup hushed the room. The tribute was short but heartfelt, and it highlighted the contributions that this group had made throughout their time – an impressive average tenure of 20 years.  One had been with us for over 40 years, witnessing 8 different U.S. presidents in office throughout her career.

It was hard not to pause.  In just three months, I would celebrate my own milestone of four-years, the longest I have ever worked in one place.  Those four years went by quickly, but could I see spending another 16, or even 36?

It’s easy to see that the average time spent in a position is going down. Traditionalists and Baby Boomers may have expected to spend their career working at one organization, but Millennials like myself, and members of Generation X do not.  And while this dichotomy has some common and recognized consequences in the relationships between “resident” employees and more “transitive” ones, it also has ramifications for companies hoping to attract Generation Y into their ranks. One such ramification is a new emphasis on reputation.

One might expect that an employee who spends a relatively short period of time at an organization might not be as interested in that organization’s reputation, both as an employer and in their industry. Interestingly, we often see the opposite.  For Millenials, the mission, social responsibility, business standing and priorities - all elements of an organization’s reputation - are as important attributes of an employer.

The reason for this lies in storytelling. For Traditionalists or Baby Boomers who are defining their career and themselves in a single position, their work tells their story linearly, from their first project to their last, from their apprenticeship to their leadership. In 10 years, or 20, or 30 at an organization, your work literally speaks for itself—it defines who you are and what you do. For a member of Generation X or Y, the story contains flashbacks, jump cuts, side stories, and tangents.  Generations X and Y need to tell their own narrative, and that demands continuity from another source: a purpose, a goal.  The reputation of each organization on a Millennial’s resume speaks to this narrative.

When Millennials leave, they are not expecting a speech with a champagne toast and cake, but they are expecting to take with them the qualities that define that organization and to wear them proudly as they enter their next job.

 


 


 

MANAGING EXPECTATIONS FOR GEN Y AND THE REST OF US

“How we manage expectations is critical to how we pursue our goals,” wrote Alina Tugend in her New York Times column Shortcuts (1/14/12) as she searches for guidance for managing expectations on health and all things in work and life large and small. In these times of a challenging job market and financial future, the psychology of expectations is a significant influence factor in degree of happiness and satisfaction.

Citing brain research, Tugend reports that “negative feelings are much stronger than the good feelings we get when expectations are exceeded.” Further, our brain sends out messages of danger or threat when we don’t meet our expectations.

Several studies about students have found that the best way to motivate them is to set high expectations and let students think they can stretch their capabilities to reach them, even if they have not been high achievers previously. We should want to maintain these high expectations of achievement in the work world.

Tugend concludes there is no “template” to manage expectations in all situations. “It seems as if it is best to have low expectations if things are out of our control, realistic expectations for things we can control to some degree and high expectations of ourselves,” she said. She favors Mary Grogan’s view on Mindfood.com: “It is having flexibility in our expectations and being willing to change track without self-blame that has been shown to increase well-being.”

So how do we translate this for new entries into the workplace and their managers, whichever side we are on?

  • When setting high expectations, foster a culture absent fear that not achieving the expectations will result in significant punishment or perceived failure if uncontrollable factors come into play. Many Gen Y/Millennials have had (and still expect) help from parents, teachers, tutors, mentors and fear failure in their eyes, so they thrive better in a supportive culture.
  • Be clear and repeat expectations so they are known and not misconstrued.
  • Don’t habitually set expectations and goals artificially low in order to appear to over-deliver or your capabilities are apt to be questioned.
  • Don’t over-promise to please in the immediate and set yourself up for failure ultimately, which will also hinder your team or project.

Managing expectations is a delicate balance and a considered calculation is needed for each situation.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot   www.pdcounsel.com

 

 

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