Not long ago, I was talking with a group about the first-time-ever phenomenon of 70 million Baby Boomers fueling up for an additional decade of work. The equation is simple. Working longer = learning longer. Boomers have to retool in order to do relevant work.
But managers, no matter what their age, often assume Boomers who report to them have already done all they can or want to do. As we talked, I urged Boomers in the room to take the reins on this. I said we have to determine what we need to learn, and ask for it in order to reignite our energy for a fast, final lap of our careers.
A woman in the front row blurted out, “But I shouldn’t have to ask!” She was barely done before a 50-something man chimed in, “I remember my father telling me that if I did a good job, I’d never had to ask for a promotion.”
There it was. A largely unspoken assumption left over from a different time, from a top-down workplace in which employers were responsible for driving employee careers.
unlike younger generations, Boomers were taught to wait for promotions and opportunities.
It ingratiated us to the Traditionalists whom, we expected, would see our abilities, make sure we got training and opportunities.
But that doesn’t work any more. A few years ago, I told the Gen X CEO of a company that I was disappointed not to have been given a particular project. She looked genuinely surprised. “If you want something, you have to ask,” she said.
Natural for her. News to me.
On top of that, my not asking had made her think I was disengaged.
If you live inside a Boomer skin, the odds are about 4 in 10 that you are supervised by someone from a younger gen. And he or she expects you to gun for what you want.
Make a plan. What do you do best? What would you like to improve or establish before you stop work? What do you care about most? This is the time to begin asking for the roles and the projects you want, and that will have an impact. If you know where you shine – turnarounds, mentoring, management, processes – and you don’t know how to use that skill to optimal effect, talk with leaders and find out what’s on their minds. What problems need to be solved, and how can you apply your years of experience against those problems?
And for younger managers, don’t assume Boomers are counting days until they leave for Shady Acres. Ask what they want to learn now, to do now, what they want to create as a legacy for you and your generation.