Boomers Stay Successful by
Learning from Millennials
A 2004 survey conducted by AARP indicated that 79% of the
Baby Boomers plan to work in some capacity during their retirement
years. More recently, a 2008 AARP survey reported that 27%
of workers aged 45 and older said they had put their retirement
plans on hold because of the slowing economy.
If Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, intend to work
another 10 to 30 years, they do not have the luxury of coasting
and taking it easy. Smart mid-career adults can do a gap analysis
for themselves, identifying which skills are relevant going
forward, which are not, and which new skills and knowledge
they need to learn to be a valuable contributor in the future.
We have been reading about the need for lifelong learning
for years. Learning keeps a person vibrant and engaged on
the job. Learning energizes.
What are some ways to identify skills for the future? One
way is to examine the critical skills that the older Millennials
contribute to the workplace. These "twenty-something"
young adults, sometimes referred to as Gen Yers, were born
between 1980 and 2000. They bring a new approach to their
jobs. In a generational switch, could Baby Boomers learn from
their younger colleagues more about what it takes to be successful
in the workplace of the 21st century? Certainly!
Let's look at the skill sets younger workers bring to their
jobs, and what Boomers can do to develop expertise.
1. Understand the global economy. Millennials have
grown up plugged into an international world, and have often
studied or worked abroad.
2. Understand and are proficient at leveraging technology
to be more productive and effective. As an example, they
are comfortable using technology to communicate across time
zones and great distances.
3. Demonstrate flexibility. This generation loves change.
Millennials are comfortable at switching from task to task,
depending on how much time is available and what is convenient
to do, not what is scheduled for a specific time frame.
4. Are eager to learn. Millennials approach jobs asking
the question, "What can I learn here?" and when
the learning slows or stops, they move on to another job.
5. Use knowledge capture to solve problems and achieve
goals collaboratively. They share information freely and
build on others' ideas. They are used to working on teams
and making sure everyone contributes.
What are three strategies Baby Boomers can use to update their
1. Invite a Millennial to mentor you! Determine what
you want to learn and seek out a young adult inside or outside
your organization who knows how to do it well. Find a new
way of looking at things, a fresh new perspective.
2. Take the initiative. Sign up for a workshop, online
tutorial, or class to learn or improve a skill. This could
be relevant to your current role or one you aspire to move
to. Smart individuals identify the skills and knowledge they
need to be resilient and employable and take steps to make
sure they are competent.
Never taken an online course? Find a free class at the Vocational
Information Center website, created and maintained by
retired career educator Kathryn Hake. The Online Tutorial
Page displays a comprehensive guide to other websites that
offer free online tutorials, open courses and self-paced learning
modules available on the Internet. The choices are bountiful;
for example, click on "MIT Open Courses" and gain
access to course materials from over 1800 classes taught at
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology - at no cost to
you. And that's just one of the page's listings!
3. Get involved. The new workplace is diverse. It
is multicultural and multigenerational. Request assignments
involving international contact. Look for opportunities to
work on virtual teams. Ask how you can assist with the summer
interns or a company-wide program. At the very least, become
familiar with the implications of diversity in the workplace,
and how different perspectives can improve a business.
© Copyright 2008, Career Vision. Article may be reprinted