By: Chris McIntyre
At each point in your career– especially on co-op– you will work with colleagues in a variety of age brackets. They’ll be different in almost every way, from communication style to attire to their views on what it means to be a professional. To be successful in any workplace it’s imperative to understand how to navigate these generational differences. Understanding this will lead to greater levels of collaboration and higher levels of productivity – as well as perhaps saving you from embarrassing faux pas.
First, a brief primer on generations (Keep in mind there are no official cut-off points):
Baby Boomer: Those born from 1946-1964
Gen X: Those born from 1965-1979
Gen Y/Millennial: Those born from 1980-2000.
Author Jean Twenge dubbed the next generational bracket (2000-Present) iGen due to growing up with smartphone technology. iGens, who the eldest of the generation are now college-age, have key differences than previous generations at the same age including:
- Less religious
- Much more comfortable with technology
- A tendency to experience life events, such as getting a driver’s license, at a later age
- Spending less time with friends in person, but always staying connected to them
- Less likely to have a part-time work experience before entering college
That last point is key when thinking about applying to co-ops. Hiring managers, who probably are from a different generation, may not know a co-op will be some iGens’ first job. So, when putting together your resume, think about the transferable skills employers look for: communication, collaboration, time management, problem solving, etc. It’s important to highlight these skills whether you got them from a school activity, sport or student organization.
My work in Employer Relations allows me to interact with individuals spanning all generations. In addition to the importance of transferable skills, another consistent thing I hear is the importance of professional communication. iGens don’t use their smartphones as a telephone, something previous generations have a hard time understanding. Thus, it’s important to spend time working with your advisor to practice professional telephone communication if you’re not comfortable. Often your first-round interview will be a phone screen, so it is vital you feel comfortable.
Related to verbal communication, employers frequently emphasize the importance of professional written communication. iGens tend to write in a less formal structure and tone, while other generations are the opposite. So, when writing cover letters and e-mails ensure you are writing in a clear and professional tone (PS – your CO-OP + CAREER Advisor should be reviewing your cover letters and other professional communications).
Don’t overlook the importance of understanding other generations. While it will be necessary on the job, it could even be the difference between getting the job in the first place.
As always, to make an appointment with your Co-op + Career Advisor call the front desk at 617.989.4101 or stop by the CO-OPS + CAREERS Office.
Summer 2019 Drop-In Hours: Wednesday and Thursday 2:00pm – 4:00pm while classes are in session.