When looking for jobs, many young people seek companies with a “young culture.” In addition to feeling more comfortable working among people their own age, they consider offices that have adopted informalities such as bean bags, casual dress codes, open-concept offices and keg Fridays.
However, as someone that spends every day surrounded by a blend of several generations, I can speak to the advantages of having co-workers outside the millennial bubble. A company doesn’t necessarily need an influx of 20-somethings or a hip office space to keep things fresh and relevant.
Every generation has defining characteristics in the workplace, which means there are strengths and weaknesses for each age group. As a team, we’ve learned to utilize these differences so that our abilities and mindsets complement each other. For example, millennials are known to be tech-savvy and team-oriented, but they tend to lack interpersonal communication skills and don’t take criticism well. One of the major advantages of working with people who haven’t always relied on cell phones is that they have mastered face-to-face communication. Listening and learning from individuals that have 10 to 50 years of experience in the business world is the best way for someone my age to develop better skills in this area.
Distancing oneself from relying on technology to make connections is an invaluable lesson. Additionally, it’s beneficial for millennials to work in an environment in which they aren’t coddled with praise. Learning that constructive criticism is necessary to grow is a huge step in overcoming the millennial mindset.
People in their 20s have lived through very little and have checked off only a few life milestones at this point. Age diversity in the workplace allows for sharing of different life experiences. Listening to the story of my boss, Bob Hope, taking the Braves down to Plains, Georgia for a barbeque with Jimmy Carter the week before he became president--that is something I would never have heard from someone my age. Having this diverse collection of both professional and life experiences gives our team vast perspective when putting together work for clients. It goes to show that there are aspects of our job as PR professionals that can’t be taught in a classroom. Learning on the job is a lot easier with guidance from co-workers that have advanced training and skills. The same can be said about major life events. Seeing co-workers go through the process of buying their first home or getting married helps to prepare younger people in the office for the future.
Nowadays, it’s true that your network is your net worth. Growing a professional network is easy when making connections through co-workers who already have significant reach in the community. More importantly, meeting individuals outside of typical social circles allows for personal growth and expansion of interpersonal communication skills. A diversified network reaches further, and in a city like Atlanta, it’s all about who you know.
Although many of my Gen Y colleagues will continue to be drawn to “young” companies and startups, this millennial wouldn’t trade amazing co-workers, life lessons and opportunity for professional growth for bean bag desks or flip flops at work.