Career Wisdom to Pass On Early

Aug 5th 2013
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By Phyllis Weiss Haserot

Wouldn't we all like a jump-start in the fast-paced and competitive work world? When facilitating discussions within groups of students and alumni or other multigenerational groups, I often ask: "What do you wish you knew sooner in your career?"

Recently on the Cross-Generational Conversation group on LinkedIn, I asked members to name three things. I share here highlights of the results as well as additional contributions from other online and in-person forums.

I've also noted whether certain lessons were offered by a particular generational member only. (Note: this is a limited sample.) One conclusion is that all generations lend important perspectives to each other on this question, confirming how valuable these discussions are.

Common themes from individuals across generations:

  • Give honest feedback – promptly.
  • Speak up – directly confront problem behavior promptly.
  • Stay true to yourself.
  • When you own your mistakes, it leads to respect and opportunity to make things better.
  • Listen to others, even if you don't agree with them.
  • Collaboration is key to success (especially reiterated by Boomers). Consult collaborators before making decisions.
  • Networking and relationship building are about asking good questions.
  • Help others first to get where you want to go (faster).

Coming from a particular generation:

  • Your reputation is your most valuable asset (Gen X).
  • Think before responding provocatively or hitting "send" (Boomers).
  • Changing yourself is easier than achieving organizational change (Boomer-Gen X cusper).
  • Great communication involves body language and tone of voice, not just message (Boomer). Take a stand but avoid alienating others.
  • Trustworthy and respectful are more important than perfect (Gen X).
  • Healthy eating is crucial for life and work success (Traditionalist).
  • Wonderful things are only achieved by working with others (Gen X; counter to typical perceptions of Gen X).
  • Realize that a college education is most helpful if you're aware of what you're not learning and getting (Gen Y/Millennial).
  • Figuring out and acting on your professional interests isn't selfish. It's the most responsible thing you can do for yourself long term (Gen Y, which I expect many Boomers and Gen Xers would agree with).
  • Your career is likely to go off plan. Be flexible (Gen X-Y cusper).

To add a family flavor, here are some of the shared thoughts from a panel of Gen Xers and Yers on the subject of "What I Wish My Parents Had Told Me Sooner": 

  • Respect everyone.
  • Tune in to all the resources we have as humans: mind and heart.
  • Stand up and speak out on what matters to you.
  • Listen to financial planning advice.
  • Look around you, observe, and listen.
  • Life isn't linear. You will shift paths. Enjoy the ride.
  • Try different things, even if you fail.
  • Bad things that happen often turn out for the best.
  • Honor and pamper yourself.

What do you wish you knew sooner? I'm sure you have additional lessons learned we'd like to hear. Comment here, send them to me at [email protected] to post, or comment on the Cross-Generational Conversation group on LinkedIn

Read more generational articles by Phyllis Weiss Haserot. 

About the author:

Phyllis Weiss Haserot helps firms attract and retain clients of different generations and improve the working relations of their multigenerational teams, including knowledge transfer. She is president of Practice Development Counsel and a recognized expert on workplace intergenerational challenges. She is the author of The Rainmaking Machine and The Marketer's Handbook of Tips & Checklists (both Thomson Reuters/West 2012). Reach her at [email protected] or View her YouTube videos at her Generational GPS channel.

© 2013 Phyllis Weiss Haserot. All rights reserved.


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By Katrina Geety
Jun 25th 2015 20:11 EDT

Respect the family demands of each generation. The employee with a young family will be grateful for the company's understanding of the challenges they face when both parents work. And the boomers will be grateful when they are facing the challenges of aging parents and illness. Don't add more pressure to them. We all will go through cycles in our life when our productivity is jeopardized. To retain the best employees, be understanding of this and work with them.

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