Community, Collaboration & Change. That has been my motto since starting my own business three and a half years ago, and best of all Generation C is not limited by age, race or gender.
I was recently interviewed for an article in The Province about intergenerational workplaces. As soon as I got to talking about the subject, stories started pouring out of me, and yet upon reading the article I felt somewhat misrepresented.
Technically, I am Generation Y – at least, that is what those who need definitions define me as. I was born in 1981, so that places me at the very beginning of what is now teasingly referred to as Gen Why? For years, I have been exposed to so-called stereotypes about my generation: that we are lazy, self-entitled and lack patience. I have reacted against these bold and sweeping statements because the young people that I know, meet and talk to on a daily basis are just the opposite.
Of course, there are those who graduate university and expect a job at a certain level (their parents likely told them this would be the case), but I also see young people working three jobs to make ends meet. I remember coming home from working in Ghana, Masters degree in hand, and realizing I needed a job – any job – and so I started working in the outdoor coffee shop at Capilano Suspension Bridge…in the Winter nonetheless! It was cold, repetitive and a little gloomy – but it was also fun! I met great people and got to decompress as I dealt with my reverse-culture-shock coming home to a place where community was much different than it was in West Africa.
I am fortunate – through my work I get to meet people who are passionate about social change, excited about connecting with new people, and determined to live a balanced life that affords them time with family, friends and travel. Yet they aren’t just young people – they are people of all ages and backgrounds, and they are teaching and learning from each other. The trouble with lumping people into a specific generation is that they can wind up defining themselves by that very definition. It’s like astrology – I am a Pisces and so I end up taking on certain characteristics of what I believe a Pisces represents. When we feed into stereotypes they grow stronger.
When I was interviewed for this article, I wanted to express that I am not here to propel or break down stereotypes, I am simply here to share my experience. Often when people talk about intergenerational work they position one against the other – Boomer versus X, X versus Y – and throw in the new kid on the block, Gen Z, and you can have an all-out war. As soon as I read the title of the article (Office turns nasty with the Boomer, X Y and Z) my heart sank. I see the opposite. I see diverse people coming together everyday in the office environment. Yes, there are challenges in dealing with people who grew up with different technologies, habits and lifestyles, but who is to say that it is a negative? I see strengths in bringing people of all ages together. We should all strive to be members of Generation C.
There may be a lot of stereotypes and assumptions being made ‘out there’, but it is often due to a lack of communication (mainly by the way we communicate). Some of us email, tweet, and post a mile a minute, but that is not to say we have lost the art of conversation. I, for one, take time every day to have a genuine, face-to-face chat with a friend or a stranger. It is how I stay connected to myself and my community.
As young people, we have a different relationship with the world than our parents did in the sense that we can talk to friends around the world in an instant, we know when a political coup or an earthquake happens within minutes, and we are inundated with information about climate change on a daily basis. My friends and I realize that our parents generation paved the way for us in so many ways, especially in terms of social issues like feminism and civil rights. I’m a female entrepreneur – I owe a lot to all of the generations who came before me. My guess is that every generation looks at what they were handed and hopes to make it even better. We are no different than the Boomers when they were young, we just have different issues and different ways of addressing those issues.