True Story: A family member called me up and explained that he was already tired of his job, only after two months, because there were only three people under the age of 25 on his team. He said everyone else was "old."
There are only about 15 people on his team. So if you count him, 26% of his team is under the age of 25. Considering 18-24 year olds only make up 16% of the population*, I think he’s in a group with a pretty good ratio.
That didn’t matter.
What mattered, as I later thought about it, was that this family member had been with people in his own age range from kindergarten through college. For the first time ever, the "old" people were the majority.
This could be considered a shock, especially if Gen-Yers are going into the workforce hoping to work for a fun, laid-back company like Google. It turns out, that even if your company does something cool, the headquarters could still have a very traditional environment.
During the recruitment process, companies might be battling unreasonable expectations. Ok we’ll admit it, they’re being plummeted by demanding Gen-Yers. I remember when I went to Career Fairs, I always asked about the other people in the work environment: Are they young? Fun? Do they go out for Happy Hour?
After hearing this story from my family member, I realized that I had forgotten about the question not asked: What is the proportion on Gen-Yers to the rest of the office?
I lucked out and ended up on a pretty well-blended team when I first started working. I also happen to like adults of all ages, and actually I like kids too, so we’ll just say people are cool in my book. Anyways, I wasn’t that worried about needing a cool gang of hip young folks to have my water cooler conversations with.
But there are people who do worry about that very thing. There’s a sense of comfort from being around people your own age, in the same life stage, doing the same things on the weekends, and having the same goofy pictures on Facebook. It’s a big safety net for the transition from college to the real world.
So what does that mean? Should companies be worried about Gen-Yers who can’t grasp that they have to deal with people over 25? Or should Gen-Yers suck it up?
I would say it’s a little of both. The population isn’t going to drastically change overnight, and in fact, with 401Ks tanking right now, the workforce will remain "old" for a while. So how do you meet in the middle?
The power of coaching or mentorship seems to have a calling here. And it’s not just mentors older to younger. This is a great opportunity for the Gen-Yer to walk the Boomer through social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. Or for the Xer and Yer to learn how to cook something (and get past the microwave phase of one’s life). Have a water cooler club about the latest on Grey’s Anatomy.
There’s so much possibility. And then when asked at a Career Fair about the "youngness" of your company, you can talk about the things your people do together, young and old. Trust me, Happy Hour is fun with fellow Gen-Yers, but even more fun with the rest of the office having a blast, too.
*From US Census Bureau Report
The views expressed in my blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer.