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Career Transition

Dealing With Age Diversity in the Workplace at Your First Post-Grad Job

November 15, 2021

Congratulations! You’ve graduated college and you’re ready to settle down into your first post-graduation job.

You’re probably a bit nervous, which is understandable. You know there’s a lot to learn, and you’re going to encounter people with more experience than you. What might surprise you on your first day, though, is the variety of ages.

Many new graduates don’t think about age diversity at work. Up until now, anyone you worked with or went to school with was similar in age. Anyone older tended to be a boss or professor.

Not anymore. Now you’re going to have peers that are decades older than you — and you might even manage someone who is your senior. How can you navigate this in your first job? Here are some tips.

Build a Strong Relationship With HR

Many professionals think of HR as “where they go when they’re in trouble,” like the principal’s office, but that’s far from the case. The human resources department can help you with various important issues when you start your first job.

For example, HR is where you set up your benefits and ask questions about health insurance, retirement accounts, and other employee perks. A good HR manager can also help you navigate the different generations of employees that surround you.

There’s no reason to be intimidated by older employees or to disregard their ideas as outdated. Instead, respect them as peers and learn from them while communicating your expertise as well.

Know the Different Generations

Because you’ve been surrounded by your own generation your entire life until now, it can be a bit challenging to understand how other generations see the world. Of course, memes and jokes on social media don’t help, either!

Baby boomers were born between 1945 and 1964. They have a strong work ethic but didn’t grow up with access to a lot of technology. They tend to stay in one job for a long time, and they prefer face-to-face communication.

Generation X was born between 1965 and 1980. This generation is financially responsible and hard-working. They are often comfortable working with technology but also do well in person. Generation X workers look for flexibility in their work environment.

Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996. They joined the workforce during difficult economic times, so they have a looser view of long-term careers. They’re comfortable with digital communication and are quick to join social networks. Millennials look for a deeper purpose in their work, along with opportunities for advancement.

Finally, there’s Generation Z. That’s you! Born between 1997 and 2012, these folks are just entering the workforce. Gen Z are digital natives and concerned with financial debt. At work, they look for flexible working arrangements, social opportunities, and career development.

As you meet your coworkers, pay attention to what generation they’re in and how that might shape their outlook on work as well as their goals. For example, baby boomers and Millennials are very different in their approaches!

Take Advantage of the Diversity Around You

Working side-by-side with different generations may be a bit scary at first, but the truth is that it’s a huge benefit for your career. There’s a lot of wisdom in people who are older — and younger — than you are.

Make sure you learn to communicate professionally with everyone and consider their perspective, life experiences, and goals. When you do, you’ll find that other generations are happy to accept you and learn from you as well!

BIO: Dan Matthews is a writer with a degree in English from Boise State University. He has extensive experience writing online at the intersection of business, finance, marketing, and culture.