My grandson Isaiah turned 5 recently. At his party, we were in his bedroom where he was playing with his cousins. I noticed he and his older brother’s beds were now set up as bunk beds. I asked him if he slept in the top bunk, because I had always enjoyed the top bunk when I was five.
He said nothing, then his head spun around as he said, “No, wait, grandpa! You were five once?”
Yes Isaiah, I was.
I love younger workers, those early in their career. I love their talent, their enthusiasm, and desire to learn. I was one once.
When I was early in my career, I was a little like my grandson. I didn’t realize that the other members of my team were once my age.
If you’re a younger worker, you were raised in a different period — with different technology and different world events — than many of your teammates. But that doesn’t mean everything was different.
You and your older teammates experienced the start of a career. You each faced many of the same challenges and emotions.
You may have struggled to find a job because every job you applied for was seeking someone with “experience,” and what you had was an education and energy. If you learned the early career stories of you team, I think you would find many had the same challenges.
It’s natural that early in our career, we want to be recognized by our contributions. Know that many of your team members once thought the same way. I remember working hard and wanting to be paid what I thought I was “worth” — not for my years with the organization (sound familiar?).
I also remember wondering to myself how some of the people I worked with got their position. Yes, I didn’t show the respect I should have.
Do you realize that many of the things you care about today, your teammates also cared about when they were your age? For example: “Work/life balance.” Every young person I interviewed asked about it. It’s important. Know that your team members also care about it. They want it now and they wanted it when they were your age.
Yet for many you work with, when they were your age, expectations and workplace “norms” were different. It wasn’t about the worker, it was about sacrificing for the organization and paying your dues. That’s sounds crazy today, but don’t judge people by today’s standards to those 20, 30, or 40 years ago. It doesn’t work!
While paternity leave for fathers is becoming more common, for most of the workforce, it didn’t exist when their children were born. I was present for the birth of all three sons, but I wasn’t there in the early months to bond with them. It didn’t mean I didn’t love my family, but the times and expectations were different.
Your teammates have wisdom that, once they get to know you, they’ll share. Get to know them. Then be open to listening to them. Even learning from them.
Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. (Proverbs 19:20)
I was very blessed with great mentors. Many of my older teammates took me “under their wing” and helped shepherd my career. I wouldn’t have been successful without them. They taught me so much! They corrected me when I needed to be corrected. They allowed me to make mistakes to teach me.
They helped me learn what I needed to learn.
If you’re young, learn from your teammates.
If you have the experiences, share your wisdom.