I’m still stuck on that study in the Harvard Business Review that I wrote about a few weeks ago. The data shows that what women want from their career is respect, and what men want is a series of engaging problems to solve. This struck me as totally true.
But personality type complicates the picture. My personality type is ENTJ—which is only 0.5% of the female population. So you can bet that I care less about respect than most women. And the guys who work in non-profits saving lives and being kind or whatever, it’s a safe assumption that they are feeling types and that they want respect more than complex problems.
It’s important to know where you fall on this spectrum so you know what you are looking for in a job. Of course it’s also important that you know your personality type because then you’ll know the type of work that will feel good. And once you know how you want to spend your days and what your goals is for work, you are halfway to being able to coach yourself – and all the other people I coach as well. (The other half you need for coaching success is the ability to see immediately how people are lying to themselves and have the guts to tell them.)
But there’s another problem looming in the background. We are all scared of becoming irrelevant because it limits our options for getting what we want. I found that my worries about irrelevance started when I withdrew my application to a graduate program in history and played professional beach volleyball instead. I worried smart people would ignore me.
Then I quit playing volleyball and I worried that hot people would ignore me.
Then I had a baby and I worried that everyone would ignore me.
Which they sort of did. Well, they didn’t ignore me in the mental ward, with my new baby. But what I realized soon after that is people always worry about being irrelevant to some group or another. And I found that the best way to solve the problem is to keep learning and keep fitting yourself into new places when the old places don’t work for you any more.
And we are all facing that as Generation Z enters the workforce. I study generational trends voraciously. Now I realize that watching who’s coming up is a way to ensure I’ll never feel irrelevant. I can see what will matter and what won’t matter and I can reposition myself.
Here’s how we should all be adjusting so we can continue to meet our goals well past the time that Generation Z floods the office.
1. Forget about collaborative leadership.
Due to Generation X’s disdain for authority and Generation Y’s obsession with being part of a group, we have a leadership vacuum. Generation Z will fill that in six seconds. Entrepreneur magazine is known for celebrating the 25-year-old CEO. But in their recent leadership issue it was all gray-haired men. Why? Because the Baby Boomers were the last generation to be comfortable with top-down leadership. But Generation Z will lead top-down, (similar to kids born to WW II veterans). And it will feel good to them.
2. Forget about female leadership.
Everyone can shut up about “let’s get more women into leadership positions.” Because they don’t want leadership positions. Or they’d get them. Obviously. Women want to have time for their kids. And leaders – especially top-down leaders – dedicate their lives to their work. There won’t be female leadership and male leadership. There will be people who lead at home and people who lead at work. People will take ownership of outcomes for the areas of life they care most about.
3. Forget about dispersed media.
The age of the big blog is over. There are too many. And also, blogging is a sweat shop job that no one will want in future generations. So media will shift to big media sites. They will just be a little smarmier. They will break news like Gawker does. They will steal content from each other liberally. And they will be run by algorithms rather than editors. Also, Generation Z won’t care about managing their own brand online. They don’t use their own names online right now, so there is no reason to believe they will in the future. Gen Y, as teens, were all about making themselves noticeably special online. Gen Z just wants to connect with their offline friends where their parents can’t find them.
4. Forget about living with your parents in your 20s.
Aaron Penn of Urbanophile wrote a great post describing the decline of work among Generation Y. One of the reasons 80% of Gen Y live with their parents after college is that their Baby Boomer parents are living in McMansions. The next generation will not have so big a house to come home to. And the unemployment rate for Gen Y is high, but it’s artificially high. They were raised to accept only a job that’s a dream job, so for Gen Y, going to their parents’ house is better than taking a bad job. And now they are unemployed.
Generation X invented the word McJob because they took a McJob when offered one. And their kids, Gen Z, will do the same. So unemployment will soon be a sign of being old and outdated. Gen Z will see this and take whatever job they can get.
5. Forget about hiding behind your own generation.
Our inclination is to identify with our era. We hope truths of our generation rule the workplace for our whole lives. But if you settle into what is true for your generation, you are going to become outdated fast. Because what is true in the workplace is largely a function of what the new generation brings to work.
For those of you who can understand generational trends, you can adjust where you point yourself in you career to accommodate these shifts.
For those of you who don’t believe in grouping people by generation, get over yourself.
I’m going to tell you three names. You tell me how old each of the women is: Shirley, Jennifer, Ashley.
You know, right? Because in general, each generation picks a certain type of name. It’s not just your hunch. It’s reality.
The Baby Name Wizard shows trends in names as just one example of how easily we can make generalizations about generations.
And look, if you can’t see the name Madison coming up as a Gen Z name, then you need to read this post again and again, because seeing trends does not come easily to you.