If you’re someone who wants work/life balance, to feel supported as a whole person in the workplace, and work in a place that is in alignment with your values, you are not alone. Young professionals are revolutionizing the workplace by bringing their authentic selves to work and seeking opportunities that resonate with them beyond the workday.
Today there are five distinct generations of adults who make up the workforce of the United States. Generally speaking, each generation has been defined by unique characteristics in the workplace that are shaped by the major cultural phenomena of their time.
- “Traditionalists”, born from 1928 to 1945, are known for their loyalty and formality, having been shaped by World War II and the Great Depression. This generation makes up only a small portion of workers today.
- “Baby Boomers” were born in 1946-1964 and may be more willing to take risks and challenge the status quo. They were young professionals during and after the Vietnam War and Civil Rights Movement and are nearing retirement age.
- “Gen X” experienced the “dot com boom” in their young professional years, having been born from 1965-1980. They tend to be flexible and value work/life balance. This generation currently represents the dominant percentage of startup founders.
- “Gen Y” or “Millennials” tend to seek meaningful work and achievement or competition. They were born between 1981 and 1996 and experienced the rise of the internet, 9/11, and Columbine – one of the first mass shootings at a school.
- “Gen Z” is coming of age with the context of the Great Recession, access to the internet and technology from a young age, and political polarization and social activism. Born between 1997 and 2012, this generation values authenticity, connection, inclusion, and transparency in the workplace.
Each of the five generations come to the workplace with profound and important contributions that have shifted the way we work with one another. Mutual respect across generations is critical and we have a lot to learn from each unique perspective. (Among our Career Connectors, you can find people who identify among several generations and are available for mentorship and connection!)
Zooming in on Gen Z… this up and coming generation of professionals throughout fields and industries are uplifting and amplifying conversations around authentic equity and inclusion, individuality, and use of technology to promote efficiency and social change.
As a young adult entering the workforce, keep in mind…
- Your voice matters. You may be younger in age and/or experience, but you bring a unique and powerful perspective to the room.
- Mentorship is a two-way street. You have plenty of room to grow and learn, and so does your manager/leadership team.
- Ask for what you need, if and as you feel willing/safe/able. There are many ways to advocate for your values and wellbeing that may not require monetary investment from your employer. Affinity groups, flexibility in location and/or schedule, innovative communication tools, coaching/mentorship sessions with colleagues, policy adaptation, etc.
- Seek to learn and understand. Just as you bring a new and fresh perspective that responds to the needs of young adults today, colleagues and leaders who are older may have historical context and history that will help you succeed
You deserve to be heard and seen and offered the opportunity to thrive in the workplace. You bring new ideas and perspectives that need to shape the future of the workplace throughout industries. And, as with most things, respectful and meaningful conversations, rooted in mutual curiosity will go a long way to ensure that teams flourish and workplaces benefit from the many ways in which Gen Z seeks to change the culture for the betterment of all. It takes a rich array of backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives to create an effective team.