In every third group I speak to, someone during Q & A or after the program says, “The twentysomethings we hire have no work ethic! They don’t want to work hard.” When I talk with twentysomethings they say, “The oldies are obsessed with face time. What sense does it make for me to be at my desk with nothing to do just because my boss is still at his?” Here is the great cultural divide: a work ethic is defined by one’s age. It’s has no universally accepted definition.
Therefore, dear twentysomethings, I’m suggesting that until you can start the business you dream of, you’d be much more successful if you adopted the Boomer work ethic. Here are the characteristics, many of which require method acting. (See An Actor Prepares by Stanislavski.)
Thinking like the owner of the business that employees you even though you are mildly indifferent to its survival. What makes the Boomers powerful is their ability to take ownership of a job and a business such that they pick up trash in the parking lot when it’s not their job. This is also good practice for when you are the owner.
Looking for more work to do when you’ve finished an assignment. Someone who asks for more is memorable and a head above the competition. If everyone else is texting after an assignment and you’re looking for something else to do you will stand out.
Being interested in and kind to your co-workers across the age spectrum. As long as you’re in that job there are only “we’s” no “they’s”. This means a few minutes of admittedly tedious chat every day. They think you like them and they’re more likely to help you when you need it.
Throwing out ideas at meetings as if you cared what was happening. (See Stanislavski.) You may have to prepare in advance. It’s worth it since your age peers won’t and you’ll be described as “engaged.” Oldies love people who are engaged.
Occasionally solving someone’s technical problems without being asked. Sure, some of your co-workers are techno-twits. They have other qualities that keep them on the payroll.
The power of modifying your work ethic (and style) is how much more competitive you become against those who resist modification. Since the Great Recession isn’t over, can it hurt?
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