Aug 25, 2022 - Economy & Business

Finish Line: Work advice from boomers and the Silent Generation

Illustration of a briefcase shaped like a speech bubble
Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Hundreds of Axios readers born in 1964 or earlier answered our call for wisdom and insights on navigating work and life.

Why it matters: These readers have lived through multiple wars, recessions, boom times and presidents. And we can all learn from their decades of experience.

Here's a selection of their thoughts:

1) Follow your passion.

  • "Try to find a job that satisfies you and your talents. You may have to have a couple of jobs that are just so-so or you don't like. But eventually find a job that is meaningful to you." Casey B., Santa Ynez, California, Silent Generation
  • "Look at career options that might be out of your comfort zone. I came from a family of teachers so went into teaching without knowing much about other options. In hindsight, I wish I had spent more time researching other interesting careers that might have been a better fit." Suzy W., Grand Rapids, Michigan, boomer
  • "You will have bad days, bad weeks, even bad months. But if you have one crappy month after another, and it’s shaping up to be a terrible year, it’s probably time to reassess whether this is the work you should be doing. Or the place to be doing it." —Jim S., Omaha, Nebraska, boomer

2) Open your mind.

  • "If I don't agree with your views, even on important topics, I'm not a hater. And neither do I consider you a hater. Having grace for people makes diversity work!" —Joy U., Denver, Colorado, boomer
  • "My fellow boomers who are annoyed or impatient with what they deem to be the ignorance of their younger colleagues would do well to consider that there is a good chance they are now mimicking the behaviors they once mocked." Casey G., Studio City, California, boomer
  • "Think twice before sending that angry or snarky email or text. Life is not permanent; it's not perfect and it's not personal." Mike G., Richmond, Virginia, Silent Generation
  • "We can all learn from each other. Old doesn’t equal dinosaur and youth doesn't equal ignorance." Greg G., Estero, Florida, boomer

3) Hard work still means something.

  • "Although you are able to have a more casual relationship with work, please be 'all in' when you are there. Even if it is not the perfect, passion-inflaming job you aspire to. Jobs disappeared in our generation, and we had to compete hard to retain jobs to support families. We hope it does not happen to you." —Suzanne B., Houston, Texas, Silent Generation
  • "Know that career progression isn’t linear — sometimes you have to go sideways for a while before you go up. Broadening your experience is hugely valuable. The more you learn, the more valuable you are to this company or the next." —Janet M., Orlando, Florida, boomer

4) Get off the damn phone!

  • "There's much to be said for good manners and respect. For example, please get your head away from your phone. Maybe walk down the hall, smile and say hello, even if it's an old, gray-haired coot." —Barbara K., Falls Church, Virgnia, Silent Generation
  • "Don't lose your people skills — texts and social media only go so far. If millennials think they know how to adapt to change, think about the fact that many of us who are still working highly productively today were working before faxes, FedEx, cell phones and the internet. We used telegrams to confirm contract changes! We constantly adapted to be productive today — our people skills pulled us through." —Ann S., Asheville, North Carolina, Silent Generation

The bottom line: Carol I., a Silent Gen-er from Lansing, Michigan, put it best: "Don't pay much attention to generational categories. Just be yourself, enjoy colleagues and friends of varying ages. Keep on caring and being compassionate with others, including the whole earth. You give me hope."

  • Catch up on the view from millennials and Gen X, and sign up for Axios Finish Line — our nightly newsletter with tips, tricks and insights on life, work and wellness — for more stories like this one.
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