Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Generational Confusions

I’ve had a lot of good entry ideas for the past week, but while reading my morning news, (yes, reading, but on the internet) I think it’s time for this post. Just as a reminder, I use my own thoughts and insights when writing these. Yours can be different, which is fine and welcomed.

While working in a Human Resources function, I’ve heard many comparisons between generations. Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y/Millennials are typically the ones that are discussed. I’ll give a little overview of each so that you have at least a little background before I dive into my entry. Some of these dates and names are disputed, but here is the Cliff Notes version. (Skip if you want)

Baby boomers have birthdates within the years of 1946 and 1964 and are characterized as individualistic, defiant and pragmatic, but idealistic. They rejected the social structure of the 50s and early 60s and began to change it. Within the workplace, they are workaholics that desire quality and question authority. Gen Xers have birthdates within the years of 1965-1980 and are characterized as self-reliant, resourceful and ambitious. At work, they value freedom and responsibility, are anxious to learn new skills and value authenticity. Gen Y/Millennials have birthdays ranging between 1980 and 2000 and are characterized as well-educated, confident and have a need for a variety of challenges. Within the workplace, they have a need to be heard and taken seriously, a desire for rewarding opportunities (individually and for the company) and have fulfilling work.  More about generations can be found here.

While many times these generations are seen as very different, I see many similarities. The differences lie in how these ideals and needs are expressed. Gen Y/Millennials are characterized time and time again as being entitled. They don’t want to “pay their dues” within an organization. As a Millennial, I can see how this is true. Because the overall structure of work has changed and organizations do not have that “psychological contract” with employees anymore to keep them long term and do what is both parties’ best interests, there simply is no “pay your dues” within the organization. I feel that you have to make a splash in order to be valued. To do that, you have to be vocal, goal-oriented and push convention, which makes it appear to others that I feel that I deserve certain things. I don’t feel I deserve certain things, but I do expect to be able to do my job to the best of my ability and I know that I need to create value. Paying my dues, long term, will result in either being eliminated or passed by, especially the current job and economic climate. 

The other thing that I value is having an organization that values me as an individual. It’s ok if it isn’t every day, but the day that I feel that I am not being valued, I become unhappy. I work hard and I work fast. It supremely bothers me that value gets placed on the person who is at work the longest. That does not mean that they are working hardest, that means that they are working slowest or that means they don’t have outside obligations. I like the different metrics to measure performance, such as output, sales, etc. I also like being put in an environment that increases my productivity, such as working from home. I want to do what is best for the company, but it does get frustrating when that company doesn’t see that. The best way I’ve found around this is to be open and honest with my superiors. I basically lay out that I want to do this right, here is a plan, here are the action steps, etc. That again may come across as entitled, but I am coming up with a solution rather than harping on the problem. 

Those are just two examples of Millennials in the workplace, but I have many more. It seemed that every article I read on generational differences is that the older generation felt that the younger generation was too entitled, too idealistic and too individual. I think many times, that these traits are just displayed differently based upon the time period and events that shaped the generations. I think understanding the strengths, being sensitive to why those groups of people act in such a matter and working towards a solution will make the different generations work together to have a great, varied team.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Don’t Give Up on ANY Dream!

As we are aging (LOL, not old yet, but you get the point), many of us have given up things deemed “childish” or “irrelevant” in our current lives. Sometimes it’s difficult to fit in those “just for fun” things with school, work, working out, kids, etc. It seems that our childhood dreams of being an actor, rock star, dancer, and painter fall by the wayside because that isn’t what is necessary to “survive” so to speak. You need a job that enables you to be financially independent and care for any children (or kitties!) that may come along. 

One of the things I’ve mentioned in previous posts is that it feels AWESOME to be financially independent. I’ve also mentioned that you need to take time for yourself to do the things that really make you happy (traveling, trying new foods, dancing, cooking, singing, etc.) because it really enhances your overall quality of life (at least it does mine). This post is a little different because I want to challenge all of you to do something. If you are able, pursue a dream that you let go because of pursuing a more “important” dream. The more important dream, I’m assuming, is career related so that you can be a financially independent individual. (I could be wrong, but that’s what I’m going to go with). 

I’ll use myself as an example of what I’m trying to get at, because without concrete examples, this entry is seemingly idealistic, rather than realistic. I worked REALLY hard to get through school and got lucky enough to secure a stable job. But now that I’ve “made it” in that pursuit, it seems as if I have less to fight for and more just putting in the time. I began to think about other things that I let fall by the wayside and wondered if I could do both. I wondered if I could have been successful doing other things. 

As many of you know, I am a dancer and I LOVE IT. I’ve always wanted to do something professionally with it as an adult, but with school and everything, I wasn’t able to put the time in necessary to be successful. As a child and teenager, I did some really cool things through dance and got to perform at many large scale events. At the time, it seemed so easy to do! Now that I can, I have started a journey to do this once and for all. 

I recently auditioned for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders and was rejected AGAIN. While that wasn’t the outcome I was hoping for, it just made me more determined to get on a professional dance team. I have now dedicated my “free time” after work to pursue this. I may or may not be successful, but the pursuit is what makes me happy. I get to go to dance classes and do something I love. I challenge all of you do pursue a “lost” dream. While it may not actually happen, the fun part is trying and doing something you love!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Don't Burnout!

I know I haven’t written in a while, and I apologize for the delay. Lately, my work life has gotten quite busy and I’m still in the process of learning how to balance everything. So I know many individuals my age are in the same boat in life as I am. Well, I made it; have a graduate degree, have a nice job, now what? It just seems like my life has SLOWED compared to my college years. I always had SOMETHING to do, social, academic or otherwise and now it seems that work consumes most of my time. And if I’m not careful, it can consume ALL of it. 

The past few weeks, due to circumstances beyond me or my direct leadership’s control, I had to work over 70 hours a week. While that may be normal to some individuals (props to you) it is NOT normal for me and I will NEVER make it be normal for me. I learned early on, during my first few jobs, that it is very important to set boundaries to develop an appropriate work/life balance. While that balance may not be the same for every individual, every individual DOES need to take the time to understand what their boundaries are. 

After that is completed, an honest conversation needs to happen with your direct leadership. Many of these conversations can happen during the hiring process or immediately thereafter, but it is a little more challenging to find the time and place to initiate these conversations if your role has changed, like mine has in the past few months. Your boss may not have control over what your hours or projects may be, but they need to be in the know of your expectations and limitations. Know your “deal breakers” and know that this job is not the only opportunity out there.  Also, know that sometimes, these situations are sometimes temporary, but you never know for sure without having the conversation.

Life is FAR too short for you to sit in a situation that makes you very unhappy (it IS work, so it may make you unhappy at times, but it shouldn’t be every day). While I know everyone needs to work to survive, we need to stop feeling as if our current position is our only option. Keep your options open, network and understand your industry’s climate so that you have an “out” when things get unreasonable for you. It could be a lateral move within your company, especially if you value working for that specific organization. 

In every new thing that has come along, I felt as if there was no way I could manage my expectations, other people’s expectations and my time to get everything done as well as have a “life.” I always have figured out a way, but it does take some time and thought. Many times, we jump into things (I do this too) and don’t really think of what will happen long term. Many times, also, we get burnt out from working so hard at something. That, to me, is the worst outcome that you can have.