Who are the Baby Boomers?
During the Boomer birth years of 1946–1964, a baby was born every eight seconds. The label “baby boom” is more than apt for this large generation of 80 million. By 1964, they comprised 40% of the US population. “Boom” defines much of the Boomer psyche. Their huge population size and the booming post-war economy proved to be enormously influential conditions as Boomers came of age.
The Movement Generation
With such strong numbers, Boomers felt they had the manpower to effect great change and leave their stamp on the world. They rejected pre-established societal norms, and took it upon themselves to change things for the better. When the US started drafting soldiers for the Vietnam War, there was an unprecedented opposition movement, uniting people across socio-economic strata. For the first time, teens and young adults were challenging the political decision to enter the war. Pair the image of hippies protesting the war with scenes of youth involved in rallies for women’s rights, civil rights, and gay rights, and you see a generation of born activists. Inspirational leaders like JFK, MLK Jr., and Gloria Steinem helped rally Boomers together, and through a massive collective effort, they saw the fruits of their labor. Boomers were (and are) galvanized by a spirit of change. That belief in their ability to effect positive change, paired with momentous US victories like man landing on the moon, equipped this generation with an idealistic and optimistic spirit.
Don’t trust anyone over 30. Stick it to the man! From a young age, Baby Boomers pushed back on the status quo established by their Traditionalist parents and leaders. They developed a robust youth culture that embraced disruption (yes, even before Millennials!) and reinvention, and they didn’t blindly defer to their elders. As youth, they rebuilt social structure and flipped the music scene on its head by pioneering rock ‘n’ roll and fawning over controversial artists like Elvis Presley and Jimi Hendrix. Boomers continue to reinvent every life stage they touch, and as they approach what has traditionally been seen as retirement age, they’re giving “golden years” a distinctly-Boomer makeover. CrossFit is the new metamucil. Boomers are staying active, considering encore careers, going on voluntoursim adventures, and raging against aging.
A Tale of Two Boomers
There was a pretty distinct shift during Boomer formative years and early adulthood. Namely, a decade of prosperity during the bull market of the 60s was followed by stagflation in the 70s and soaring unemployment. Due to this change in conditions, we’ll sometimes break Boomers into subgroups: the Early Boomers and Generation Jones. Jonesers earn their name from jonesin’ to keep up with their neighbors. And why? Because by the time they entered school and the workforce, competition was the name of the game. The American infrastructure was buckling under the weight of the Baby Boom. This meant, at it’s most basic level, scarcity and competition for resources. In schools, there weren’t always enough desks in classrooms or books to go around. Some Boomers went to fill their cars with gas only to discover that there wasn’t enough gas for everyone due to the oil embargo. When they entered the workforce, many Boomers found that there weren’t enough jobs. As a result, Baby Boomers developed a keen work ethic.
How do boomers show up in the workplace?
Today, many Baby Boomers have ascended into leadership positions and support the world’s most successful organizations. They continue to seek new avenues, to redefine and improve themselves, and to bring the very best of themselves to the workplace.
- Professional + Poised: Having worked with Traditionalists leaders, Boomers have learned to polish their communication and workplace etiquette to meet expectations. They are experts at crafting their image in order to appear their very best; they know what to wear, what body language to use, and how to navigate workplace politics. Unwritten workplace formality rules are second-nature to them.
- Fiercely Competitive: With so many Boomers vying for jobs, developing a competitive drive was essential to workplace success. This generation looked for any opportunity to one-up their peers and showcase devotion to their job: working long hours, developing extra skills, and hunting for awards and accolades that would set them apart. Their work ethic is unquestionable, sometimes earning them the title of “workaholics.”
- Networking Savants: Face-to-face communication is an area where Boomers are absolute pros. When they entered the workforce, the internet and email (let alone instant messaging) were little more than the stuff of SciFi novelists’ dreams. Interpersonal skills were critical to success, and Boomers became excellent conversationalists that could remember your son’s favorite weekend hobby. They are still the gold standard when it comes to the art of networking and building a professional community.