Often I wonder what it would feel like to be really old, and to know how the world was 70, 80, 90 years ago … so much has changed. Even in my lifetime, only moderately old, I can see change all around me. Take for instance, work. My dad’s generation was a “career” generation, where a person (usually a man back then) would settle into a company and see his career all the way through with that same company, comfortably retiring when “really old” hits.
Contrast this to today’s generation, when the people entering the workforce (and now it’s about equal, men and women) are not out to make a career necessarily with one company. Instead of the “career” generation, this generation is more like “live and let live” … they are more apt to change employers multiple times, sometimes just in one decade, and follow their skills and interests wherever they may take him or her. They are more focused on what they want to do when they are OFF work, than sometimes what they’re supposed to do AT work.
This means big changes for the human resources, recruitment and hiring philosophy. We were taught to look at a resume or job application, and if there were gaps when the person was not employed, we investigated with suspicion. If there were many jobs, and only a few years spent at each, we were also suspicious, thinking the person was “job hopping” and not able to settle in.
We cannot afford to think that way anymore. Gaps in employment can mean any number of things, and very few of them negative, such as caring for a family member, and it could be a brand new member of the family such as a baby, returning to school, pursuing a trade, or traveling the world. None of these should reflect poorly on the individual who was actually fortunate enough to have that time to take off to pursue their interests or needs.
What about that job hopping person? Now, instead of being suspicious and asking ourselves, “So what is wrong with this person, that they couldn’t stay in one place?” it is actually a signal that this person likes challenges, enjoys trying something new, and will want variety in their job duties. This is not a bad thing. In fact, we can use this knowledge to help create a great fit.
Of course, it also means that you might invest a lot of time and money into these new employees, only for them to turn around and leave a year later when they were finally up to speed and productive. Therefore, the way that we approach training needs to change. We need a tight, stream-lined training program, that will get a new employee up to speed quickly (yet correctly) so even a smaller number of years of service will be an asset to the company.
Of course, if you’re more middle-aged like me, you are sandwiched between these two generations. You are old enough to want to settle into a job you like and see it through to retirement, but you find the opportunities out there are actually targeted toward the young, hip, flexible folks.
I did hear about one advantage to being in my generation. Some employers understand all of this and are actually targeting the older, middle-aged workers, because they know they WILL stay around. Who says being old can’t be an advantage!