Summer interns and young employees could be more successful than others if they develop one trait — flexibility.
Rather than meeting stereotypes of the incompetent or obnoxious new hire, young graduates just joining the workforce can make a few mindset adjustments to prevent conflicts on the job and set up for future success.
Katie Sawyer, director of career services at McPherson College, explained that a top issue in generational conflicts stems from the individuals’ worldviews.
“Younger generations tend to be focused on making sure they succeed professionally, while older generations are under the mentality that business comes first, which creates a conflict. One is working for the good of the business and one works for a personal goal,” Sawyer explained. “The willingness to learn, openness to opportunity, asking questions and the willingness to take on something new at all times are all good traits. You never know when an extra duty or project will lead you into something better.”
Sawyer explained that younger generations of workers who don’t feel appreciated or useful at one job will meet the same challenges at another. However, the willingness to work with older employees who don’t agree with a new idea could make a difference in the long run.
“Every workplace has multiple generations working in it, so you’ll find these problems anywhere unless you learn how to handle those conflicts as they come up,” Sawyer said. “When things aren’t quite what you want, you don’t have to go to war. Sometimes bending and finding a happy medium works. Sitting down and talking out those differences can change a lot because there can be a simple fix to the situation that a conversation can find.”
But to get that job in the first place, young people need to prove it.
Sawyer explained that many young people graduating college have the education necessary, but lack experience. This can turn into a catch-22 for many — need the job to get experience, but can’t get the job without experience — but part of this tension stems from a misunderstanding of the corporate structure.
“So many young people enter the workforce without understanding what an entry level position looks like,” Sawyer said. “Graduates need to understand where they need to start, be cognizant of how they can progress, but also keep in mind that they’ll be entry level and it isn’t as glamorous as what they were hoping for. With the abundance of college graduates in the workforce, you need more than that to set yourself apart so you need experience to show your employer that you can apply that knowledge to benefit that employer’s workplace.”
“One first thing a lot of people encounter is that the young employees walk in with their own ideas and ways of accomplishing a task and they’re met with resistance, or old methods of doing things,” Sawyer said. “Keep in mind, older generations have worked in these positions for a lot longer so they’ve established habits and routines and they’ll want to stay the same course. There’s a happy middle in a lot of that, so you can use that proven success while incorporating new ideas.”
Working styles also differ between generations. Younger people are fine with replying to emails after work or staying late, while older generations prefer to keep a strict 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. workday.
Sawyer explained that these differences between worldviews could be beneficial in the end.
“Finding those experienced mentors can be a good resource for younger person,” Sawyer said. “Most times, older generations really do want to guide younger people, so finding someone you can learn from can be good for your career and help you learn things you wouldn’t have picked up otherwise.”