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Baby Boomers: Find Yourself a Younger Mentor

Baby Boomers: Find Yourself a Younger Mentor

By Barbara Jaworski
Workplace Institute

If you’re over 50, you’ve likely worked for 25, 30, even 40 years. During that time, you’ve acquired a wealth of technical skills, irreplaceable experience and a wisdom and maturity that only comes with decades of living. There’s not much you haven’t seen and younger workers look to you for advice and guidance. And so they should. You have a lot to teach them.
But wait a minute. Those younger workers – Generation Y – may be the same age as your children, but they have a lot to teach you as well. Canadian economist David Foote dubbed this demographic the Echo Generation because, as the children of the Boomers, they echo the sheer numbers of that post-war generation. But they also echo the Boomers in another way – at a young age, they possess skills the workforce has never seen.
Gizmos and Gadgets

Just what are these skills? Let’s begin with the most obvious – their extraordinary ease with technology. Gen Ys not only have their hands on the latest gizmo, they also have their eyes on what’s coming next. 

If there is one group that’s ready for the next technological innovation, it’s Gen Y. And for those of us over 30, this is a blessing.
  • How to get the most out of your new tablet? Ask a Gen Y.
  • What’s new in the world of apps? Ditto. 
  • What will best serve your needs – an iPhone or an android? Your Gen Y co-worker will let you know.
Gen Ys are an invaluable technological resource and they’re usually delighted to help their older colleagues. Being asked for help and advice makes them feel valued, appreciated and on a more equal footing with their more experienced co-workers.
A New Way of Working

This is a generation that has one hand on its Smartphone and another on a wireless laptop. They download music, the latest apps and movies, they Google and tweet, they text and post -- and they can do it all at the same time. In fact, their ability to multitask leaves parents and co-workers breathless. In the workplace, this ability can be an amazing asset – and hindrance. Yes, they can do five things at once, but they’re not as adept at focussing on just one task for a prolonged period of time. Organizations can harness this extraordinary talent by partnering Gen Ys with Boomers – who are nothing if not focussed. In other words, let both play to their strengths and learn from each other. Boomers might never acquire Gen Ys dazzling ability to multitask and Gen Ys might never be able to zero in on a project to the same degree as their elders, but both will learn new skills and see the merit in the other’s style of working.
Mastering Work-Life Balance

There’s something else Boomers can learn from their younger colleagues. Despite their youth, Gen Ys have mastered something many Boomers still struggle with – work-life balance

Remember, Gen Ys are the children of the Boomers who grew up watching their parents log long hours, endure great stress and then, for many, get laid off. They’ve seen their parents sacrifice family life, social engagements and, yes, fun, for that corner office and prestigious title. Gen Ys are determined not to repeat those mistakes. They want a balance of work, family, social activities, volunteerism and spiritual pursuits. In other words, Gen Ys want it all -- and they’re succeeding. 

They understand at a young age the importance of making time for family and community. At first, Boomer bosses might interpret this reluctant to put in 12- to 14-hour days at the office as a lack of commitment to company and career. That is until they understand Gen Ys equal dedication to family, community and even the world – and the fact that they may have left the office early to attend a family event, but they’re back online at home to make up the time lost. Many older workers are at the stage in their lives when they too want balance, and they can learn a lot from the under-30s on how to successfully juggle work, family, community, friends, and down time. 
So while mature workers can help those new to the workforce acquire needed business skills and industry knowledge, younger workers can return the favour by passing on their technological skills and how to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Ongoing learning and mentorship does indeed reach both ways across the generational divide.
Barbara Jaworski is Canada’s leading expert on boomers, chief KAA-Boomer of the Workplace Institute and author of Rebel Retirement – A KAA-Boomer’s Guide to Creating and Living an Explosive Second Act. You can find out more at

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