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Generational DNA

Know who were the most exciting players of the 2006 Super Bowl were, don't you? Well, it wasn't the football players. The high point of the Super Bowl was the four players who entertained everyone at halftime. Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones, whose average age is 62.8 years, entertained and transcended generations of workers. Their energy was fantastic. Their product is at least thirty years old, but they give a great original delivery every time they perform. Baby boomers in the work force!

Soon, there will be four generations of people in the work force and therefore four generations of people competing as job candidates. The "traditionalists" born between 1922 and 1943, the "boomers" born between 1943 and 1960, the "Gen-Xers" born between 1960 and 1980, and the "Millennials" or "Gen-Y" born after 1980. Each generation has a different perspective of a work role.

It is important to know where you personally fit in the "generational DNA" because you're going to be competing with different people from different generations as well as interviewing with different hiring authorities of different generations. We'll look at the need to be aware of this regarding hiring authorities in the next chapter, but here I will discuss how this reality affects you as a candidate regarding your competition—other candidates.

Traditionally, U.S. business has had to deal with, at most, two working generations at a time. Even then, the values of those generations were not drastically different. Primarily because of technology, there is a much greater difference between all of the generations that are now and will be in the work force. Their differences have come faster and are greater than ever before. These differences are going to be revealed in the interviewing process. They can work for you or against you, depending upon your recognition of them.

The "traditionalists" are known for their loyalty, hard work, and faith in their institutions, i.e., employment, government, and social (e.g., churches, schools, etc). They remember World War II and, if they didn't experience it, felt the immediate impact of the Great Depression. They're fiscally responsible. Work/life balance is very important to them, and if they haven't retired yet, they're likely to just "redirect" their careers.

"Boomers" have a tendency to identify themselves with their career achievements. They invented the 60-hour or more workweek and the getting-ahead-through-hard work ethic. There are 80 million of them in the work force. They have a tendency to be optimistic but see themselves as "change agents." They are idealistic, but not as trusting in their government as their predecessors as a result of Vietnam and Watergate.

"Gen-Xers" grew up with the advancement of technology. They are adept and comfortable with change in their resources, hard working but want an individual balance of work and play in their lives. They're the first generation of latchkey kids and the first generation of techies. They have a tendency to trust themselves more than the group and are independent but flexible with change. Their job security is to be constantly learning. Their attitude is that "If I know enough, and am getting new skills, no matter what happens, I can always find a job." They have experienced scandals in business as their predecessors experienced scandals in government. The drastic and erratic changes in business don't bother them at all. They like to be in control and want fast feedback.

The "Millennials" (Gen-Y) grew up with technology. Everything can or should move fast with them, they're eager to learn, and they enjoy questioning. They grew up with customized iPods, 24-hour media, 180 TV channels, the Internet, a global marketplace, and September 11th. They have a tendency to be pragmatic, collaborative, and really understand a worldwide global perspective. They like teamwork, are flexible, have a keen sense of time management, and are the ultimate multitaskers.

So, how does this affect you? Well, if you were 25 years old and had three jobs in three years after you got out of college or five jobs in five years since you entered the work force and you're interviewing with a 62-year-old traditionalist who has been with the same company for thirty-five years, or started it, for that matter, you're going to have to interview differently than you think!

If you are a 60-year-old "boomer" interviewing with a two-year-old company founded by three 25-year-old "Millennials" who are high risk takers, you are going to have to alter your interviewing style.

These cultural differences also will have an impact on how the hiring authority views his or her company. We will discuss that in the next chapter. Just be ready for the generational DNA differences in today's economy. This awareness will impact your questions and answers in the interviewing process.

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