A Plea to Corporations: Embrace the Age of Diversity

Diversity is capable of making positive change to an organization whether it’s age, race, ethnicity, education, or background. Diversity of age especially is something companies have to deal with more and more as baby boomers retire and as millennials continue to enter the workforce.

Early in my career I had the opportunity to experience diversity of age as a leader in two different positions.

I was starting my 3rd year of teaching high school mathematics, 24 years old, no fear and full of energy.  I ran and was elected as the President of the Lockland teachers association.  It was a contract year so the task of negotiating a new deal was front and center.  It was a completely new experience for me but a challenge.  Almost all the teachers I represented were older and many had decades of teaching experience.  The administration had a similar older demographic.  I spent time with many of the teachers, asking about past negotiations, what the issues were and how should we approach contract talks.  The most important thing I did throughout was constant communications, I kept the folks informed and engaged. We reached an agreement and it was ratified.

Once I left the teaching world, I started my first job at GE Aviation at the age of 27 supervising over 30 men who were as old as my dad.  I gotta say, it was awkward giving orders to my dad. I grew a lot in that position and learned to treat people right, acknowledge their skills, communicate frequently and seek involvement from team members. I can’t say it was easy, they called me a lot of different names in the beginning but“Collegeboy” was one of my favorites (I never let it bother me). It took time to earn their trust and respect, but without this first opportunity GE gave me to be a leader, I would have never built these skills effectively.

In situations such as these we can learn the power diversity has to bring success and positive change to an organization.  Millennials bring a disposition of fearlessness, they don’t have years of bias built up, and they don’t worry about making a mistake.  They have the ability to bring new ideas and new life to an organization. 

Corporations today need to trust millennials with meaningful leadership opportunities. The only way to get millennials experience is to promote them and give them responsibility. Millennials are capable, eager, intelligent and have a ton of energy.  If millennials in your company have leadership qualities and prove themselves, they must be promoted to key positions in your organization. Don’t tell me age can’t be overcome; I gained tremendous experience from my story and experience as a 20 something given a chance to lead people. 

Surround your company with diversity and discover the numerous ways one complex problem can be approached. Give millennials and others a chance for the next opportunity, (let them fill the shoes of the generations before them) take the diversity of age and turn it into your company’s advantage!

The First 90 Days on a New Job



1.    Make the right first impression:  You can say what you want but it doesn’t matter what generation you belong too, you only get one chance to make the right first impression.  It is important to remember this while starting a new position.  Keep a lower profile early.  You don’t have to compromise your principles but keep a lid on it, you will have plenty of time to express yourself later … trust me. 

2.    Study and Learn about the new company:  Take the time to understand the company you are about to work for. Learn about their mission, customers, leaders and culture.  This knowledge will help you navigate through situations, work across departments, etc. 

3.    Understand your new position:  It is critical for you to know and understand your responsibilities.  Ask allot of questions in the beginning from your boss, co-workers and others.  Know what is expected from you, what are your deliverables.  Once understood start putting an operating plan around how you are going to achieve.

4.    Find success early:  Start small but accomplish something in your first 90 days that directly relates to your deliverables.  This will show everyone that you are capable of doing the job.  It will give you a chance to show the company why they hired you in the first place.  You know how to achieve, you know how to be successful, and you know how to deliver. 

5.    Meet regularly with the boss:  Not all bosses are the same.  Some communicate well, some don’t talk at all, others are in between.  A great boss for a first job is unusual so you must establish a relationship with the new boss it will be critical to your success.  You need to know what he or she is thinking.  Continue to ask for feedback early, ask if you are doing and working on the right things.  Show your operating plan, discuss it and how it can be improved. You don’t want to receive your first annual performance review and be surprise on how they rate you. 

6.    Take initiative:  Be assertive with the new assignment.  See if you can deliver a few extras.  Companies appreciate employees who have the ability to see the entire playing field and respond.  Look for process improvements; find solutions that have staying power.  Seeing beyond your job and assignment will show you have the company in mind.  Prove to the company you can see the big picture. 

7.    Bring a positive attitude:  People like positive folks.  Remind everyone the glass is half full.  Take on assignments with energy and enthusiasm.  Show emotion and bring that caring attitude.  Remember to be a team player.  Learn how to work across a team and across different departments or functions.

8.    Build a network:  Connect … connect … connect with people.  There are many ways to use the company’s social media tools to connect with your fellow employees.  Use them all.  Get to know as many folks as possible.  Your network can help you understand the culture of the company; clarify your deliverables, secure how to work with different organizations, etc.   Don’t get caught up in the “coffee pot” discussions, when gossip becomes the topic it is time for you to get away.   Networks will help you achieve your goals.   

9.     Master the skills of your position:  Learn and do your job with perfection. Take the job seriously; recognize it is a path to your career aspirations.  Be positive and take on the position with everything you got.  Knock it out and feel good about it.  Don’t look beyond your job for the next career move.  Things will come.  You perform well, you will be noticed, you will be rewarded and promoted. 

10. Volunteer:  Be community minded. Every company promotes and sponsors a good cause.  Make sure you participate in one of these events.  I suggest you be one of the leaders.  Take the initiative.  It is an informal way for the company to see you in a different environment, one were you have a chance to lead.  It’s another way to build your network too. Showing compassion for others is the right thing to do both professionally and personally.