Tips for Gen Y: How to Engage Boomers at Work

Just as with any new generation, there are differences and clashes with the older ones that are often overblown. But the fact is, Gen Y (also referred to as Millennials) probably has as many similarities to baby boomers as differences.

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However, there is one major difference that really seems to drive the disconnect between the generations: Gen Y is the first truly-wired generation, growing up immersed in smartphones, the Web and social media. This crowd views technology as a natural extension of themselves and are comfortable with constant real-time communication. This continuous connectivity has caused some difficulties when it comes to adapting to the boomer-dominated workplace.

To get some insight into the challenges the newest crop of Gen Y employees face at work, I reached out to Amanda Guralski, image coach and co-founder of the online magazine

According to Gurlaski, part of the confusion stems from the fact that we now live in a 140-character based world, where Gen Y has created its own abbreviated language that boomers don’t fully understand. Add to that Millennials want to move at a fast pace and expect their careers to move just as fast as their technology. This can often result in new Gen Y employees coming across as overly ambitious.

To better adjust to their boomer counterparts, Guralski has some advice for those new Gen Y/Millenialls just getting started in their careers:

Hone Your People Skills: According to Guralski, (a Gen Y/Millennial herself), the newest generation of workers has “lost the ability to shake a hand and actually look someone in the eye,” two critical components of making a positive first impression.

Gurlaski encourages her Millennial counterparts to find ways to engage with boomers. She suggests seeking them out at networking events and professional groups and practice having conversations with them. There is a strong likelihood that Gen Y workers will be interviewing with a boomer, “remember, if you can’t connect with the interviewer, you aren’t going to get the job,” says Guralski.

Practice Your Etiquette: Guralski also notes “there is an eloquence to doing business that has been lost.” Technology keeps us in constant contact, which has created a state of perpetual urgency. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the latest Facebook post, tweet, or text that we forget about the people actually standing in front of us.

Guralski says Gen Y workers should show a genuine interest in the person they are talking to: Put down your iPhone and actually direct your attention to the person in front of you. Boomers have a tremendous value for networking and connecting individually, so be sure to take advantage of this. Also, make sure to tame your ambition at the early stages; respect the time and effort those before you have put in and learn from it.

Own Your Career Chic: Guralski  says workers have the ability to control how others see them, but notes this requires taking command over themselves by homing in on personal style and character. It’s important to know who you are so you can represent yourself in a way that really sends the message of who you actually are. According to Guralski, owning your own sense of style can be tremendously empowering and you can have fun with it. 

Our ever-evolving wired world continues to present us with as many challenges as solutions when it comes to working more efficiently. Generation Y has undoubtedly mastered the use of smartphone and Web technology in getting ahead, now the challenge is to not let that technology get too far ahead. Regardless of generation, there is a lot to be said for that personal touch. 

Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, PhD is a CEC certified executive coach trained in organizational psychology. Dr. Woody is author of The YOU Plan: A 5-step Guide to Taking Charge of Your Career in the New Economy and is the founder of Human Capital Integrated (HCI), a firm focused on management and leadership development. Dr. Woody also sits on the advisory board of the Florida International University Center for Leadership.Follow Dr. Woody on Twitter and Facebook