Posts Tagged ‘generations’

Gen X Faculty

Monday, November 15th, 2010

The Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education, a research consortium based at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, conducted a survey of its member institutions about junior faculty satisfaction. As part of the project, researchers interviewed 16 faculty members born between 1964 and 1980, the cohort known as Generation X.

Although the sample size was small, it included faculty in fields as diverse as medicine and theater and roles from professor to provost. The surprising conclusion was that Gen X faculty perceive no clash in generational cultures in the workplace. They certainly prioritize differently than older colleagues, but they share a commitment to excellence in scholarship and institutional loyalty.

The area where Xers may stand out the most is their struggle to balance work and life. Dual-career couples and parents feel the pinch acutely. They do not expect their universities to solve the problem, but they welcome programs to mitigate the stress. These programs should have as their goals mentoring, community-building, and collegiality. In, this way, Gen X is leading the way for improving the work environment for all faculty.

Mentoring Millennials

Friday, June 18th, 2010

I’m a member of Gen X. There are some 50 million members of my age cohort, born between 1965 and 1976. If the demographers are correct, I distrust institutions, strive for work-life balance, and expect to change jobs frequently. Millennials, the generation born after me, work well in groups, embrace technology, and thrive on structure.

In the mentoring literature, several authors recommend tailoring mentorship to different generational styles. For Gen X, that means a more casual, hands-off approach. Millennials, on the other hand, thrive on structured meetings.

I endorse flexibility in mentoring programs, but I can’t help but liken these recommendations to astrology. Does everyone born in the same twenty-year span share similar characteristics? What was the dramatic shift that happened on January 1, 1977? Or was it 1980? Just the fact that experts can’t agree on the boundaries of each generation attests to how squishy a theory this is.

The best mentoring programs are based on research into learning styles. They should be interactive and relevant. That way participants of all ages can benefit.