The Hottest Job That Nobody Wants

By J.T. O'Donnell, career development specialist

managementWhat's the hottest job of the future: multi-generational team management. Regardless of the industry, managers of all levels (who can manage all ages), will be in serious demand. Why? There's a growing concern around the lack of qualified leaders to help sustain and grow companies in the future. Let's look at the facts ...

Boomers Managers Are Exiting

Roughly 80 percent of the industries in America today are managed by baby boomers who are ages 47-63. These individuals plan on retiring or moving on to encore careers (i.e. part-time work, volunteering, consulting, etc.) within the next 5-10 years. Boomer management teams with decades of company knowledge and experience are now recognizing the need to train successors, but feel there aren't many candidates to choose from.

Here's why:

1. Gen X Doesn't Want the Headache

Currently, Gen X-ers (ages 29-46) are more likely to want to work for themselves or take jobs as independent contributors because they are dissatisfied with their current careers and don't see more responsibility as a way to resolve their problem. Mid-career crisis and a desire for a better work-life balance pushes many X-ers away from management jobs which they view as time-consuming, stressful, and unfulfilling.

The "golden handcuff effect" has more than a few Gen X-ers longing for more satisfying careers, but unable to give up the lifestyle they've become accustomed to pursue them. Besides, thanks to shows like "The Office," these days it's more cool not to be the boss. This mindset is a complete opposite from that of the baby boomers who grew up believing career success equals personal success.

2. Millennials Attitude Holding Them Back

As for Millennials (ages 8-28), they want the job, but don't have the skills or experience to be put directly into management. They also don't have much respect for boomer management teams who they view as workaholics and, subsequently, the poster children for how not to build a successful career. This lack of respect for their elders is causing a stir. Boomers see Millennials as spoiled and lazy, and thus not worthy management material. The two groups' have vastly differing definitions of key workplace terms like loyalty, professionalism and responsibility.

The result: boomers who don't want to spend time training Millennials, and Millennials who don't think boomers are worth listening to. In fact, a survey last year indicated that more than 60 percent of executives said they'd prefer to hire outside their company for key roles, indicating that they don't see potential in any existing employees for the position. Meanwhile, Millennials continue to job hop at a rate as high as once a year, sending the message that they don't see value in staying in one place for too long.

With Workplace Challenge Comes Career Opportunity

The reality is that generational differences will continue to create an "us against them" mentality in the workplace that will hold back companies from building effective multi-generational teams. And that's where the opportunity lies. Smart employees know that focusing on developing their leadership skills (i.e. communication style, team building approach) and work-life balance strategies (i.e. flexible work roles, effective virtual team management, leveraging of technologies) now will make them a valuable asset in coming years. More importantly, those who see the benefit of working with, not against, other generations will reap the reward of building their careers more quickly.

While many from the younger generations talk about starting their own companies and circumventing the need to climb the ladder, some savvy Gen X-ers and Millennials are keeping in mind that 90 percent of businesses don't survive. Smart workers don't avoid the responsibility of working with "old school" management and acquiring the patience one must have to navigate corporate politics. Instead, they know they should embrace the challenges that come with managing diverse teams, setting and reaching business objectives, developing others, and creating work environments that inspire all ages.

Those who want to step up and be effective managers on those points will be in demand. Those who opt to sit back and wait for management to fix itself (i.e. wait until boomers retire, work in environments where there are only workers from their own generation, or work independently) will end up on the short end of the employment stick. If you want to ensure yourself long-term employability with good upside potential, consider a career track focused on becoming a manager of multi-generational teams. In five years, you'll be glad you did.

Next: Top 10 Companies Hiring This Week >>

J.T. O'Donnell, career development specialist and co-author of the nationally syndicated workplace column "J.T. & Dale Talk Jobs" distributed by King Features Syndicate.

Copyright 2008 J.T. O'Donnell
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