Happy Wednesday everyone! Well, it’s at least Wednesday for me right now. The memories of the weekend have partially faded and the sorrow of the impending work week is already creeping in. However, the good news is the gleaming light of another weekend will approach soon enough – sometime around Thursday if history repeats itself.
Today started a little different than usual, though. I woke up this morning with a text message from a good friend of mine. And by good friend, I’m talking about the type of friend that knows things about me from high school and college that should make me indebted to his silence for the rest of my life. (In fairness, it’s a reciprocal relationship though.) He was letting us know his family was leaving the Midwest and packing up for Tampa, FL. It was all happening quickly – in fact in two weeks he’d be gone with his family joining him in Tampa about a month later.
I was excited for him. It was a promotion, and a move to warmer weather (which I knew was a plus in his book) and he was getting the chance to grow professionally. Three years ago I made a similar decision when my family packed up and moved to Dallas, TX. So I’m somewhat familiar with the decisions and conversations he’s likely gone through over the course of the last month or two (or year) preparing for this type of opportunity. “What does this do for my career? Our family life? Are the schools good for the kids?” For any of you who have moved your family to follow a job, you know that there are hundreds of questions and situations you’ve likely discussed.
But what intrigued me the most was how drastically different those questions would have been five years earlier – or even two years earlier. For me personally, those questions were indeed very different. My wife and I almost made a move to Phoenix two years before we moved to Dallas. Had we moved to Phoenix, it would have been a “pre-kids” decision; however, our Dallas opportunity came up when my wife was pregnant with our first two kids. In case you don’t see the difference between those two scenarios, let me help shed some light on the types of questions we asked ourselves in each situation:
- “How close will we be to L.A.?”
- “How close will we be to Vegas? OH MY GOD VEGAS!!!!!!!!!!!”
- “What’s the nightlife scene like?”
- “Will our friends come visit?”
- “Can we afford a downtown condo?”
- “How easy will it be to find a good daycare?”
- “What will my commute be like?”
- “Do we have any family or friends nearby who can help us with babysitting?”
- “Can we afford a nice house in a safe neighborhood?”
Mind you, this shift happened in two years for me – and it’s a similar story for my Tampa-bound friend. So then I found myself asking a different question. Am I getting old? Although the answer is certainly “yes” (I’m in my 30s, have two kids, and a speckle of grey hairs….), I’m basically the very definition of Gen Y. Which means I’m still reading the same stories about “my” people telling me I’m pretty much a social media-crazed, expect-everything-now ego maniac with a penchant for technology and “networking.” But is that really the case anymore? Does when we were born hold weight for the rest of our life – or does it change and as we change?
When we leave high school or college and first enter the professional world, most of us owe allegiance only to ourselves. Most of us aren’t married, don’t have mortgages and children, and are free to concentrate on our own desires – whatever those may be. As we age, the vast majority of us accumulate various duties and responsibilities. We purchase homes, sometimes a boat or rental property, and subsequently obligate ourselves to make enough money to support those purchases. We get married and have children and suddenly start thinking about the costs of college education and all the other desires our spouse and children might have for themselves. We’re no longer living our lives entirely on our own terms – and we do it willingly in most cases!
If these life factors are ignored, we tend to default to the easier, stereotypical generational labels. Given the shift my life took in 2 years between Phoenix and Dallas, the current thinking would suggest I died and was reincarnated as a Baby Boomer! But the truth is, I’m still very much a Millennial. Do I still value social media and technology…..Yes. Do I Yelp new restaurants in every city I visit…..Yes. I’m not going to “become a Baby Boomer” as I age. But being a Millennial cannot completely define a person without recognizing their life and/or career phase. I’m a millennial at a new, different point in my life, and my life experiences have affected me in ways that can’t easily be summed up through a generational mindset.
Bottom line, if you’re trying to disinter the motivations that govern your workforce, do yourself a favor. Ignore whatever convenient (and useless) generational labels you’ve been given, and instead pay attention to what stage of life your people are currently in. Doing so will almost certainly tell you more about their attitude toward work, life, and the balance between them than anything else.