Mind the Gap

Image via Flickr User limaoscarjuliet

Mind the Gap
Spattered all over subway stations in London, England, there’s a phrase. Its a simple, three word statement urging patrons to “Mind the Gap.” While I’m fairly certain in the US these signs would say “Get out of the way!”  a Canadian translation implies that patrons should be aware of the space between the subway track and the actual platform once boarding or exiting the vehicle.

Mind the gap.

Such a courteous, simple expression with life saving implications.

What would minding the gap mean at your place of employment?

Feeling reasonably philosophical, I’ve decided to take our blog topic catch phrase and see how “Minding the Gap” can assist fellow career minded readers surviving or thriving in a multi-generational work place.

Mind the gap–or ignore it completely
At a recent networking event, I was conversing with peers about socio-economics –a topic that I’ve become a self-proclaimed expert, having taught the course an entire 5 weeks.

The conversation was as successful as successful networking conversations go–a mutual exchange of ideas was prevalent, there were ebbs and flows, and even more than one person was doing the conversing.

All was well until one of my peers looked at me and said “its tough managing in our 40s!”

At first I thought she said 4D…as in 3D with added effects.

I soon realized she meant my age.

For the record, I’m 33.

Naturally, I took the high road. I graciously excused myself, made my way to nearest restroom and spent the rest of the night trying to identify any unforeseen facial wrinkles.

At the time, I was mortified by the situation. Looking back, the assumption was a compliment to my experience as a career practitioner. I was so fixated on age as a detriment that I avoided the big picture of having earned respect in my field.

Lesson learned: Age doesn’t necessarily mean experience, and experience doesn’t necessarily mean age. Embrace both.

Mind the gap–or patch it up
We’ve all been to THAT meeting. The one where a simple phone call, email or other form of non-group interaction might have been a better use of time for everyone involved.

I encourage readers to take advantage of these situations where different generations are forced to meet.

If you’ve ever caught yourself saying (or most likely thinking) “we’ve tried that before, it didn’t work” I challenge you to ask yourself, “did we really try that before? Was I fully committed to this project or task?” Probably not.

Likewise, if you’ve ever rolled your eyes when someone denounced one of your ideas, ask yourself “Have I really thought things through?” Not likely.

Given a chance, Generations at work can work well together.

Lesson learned: Common sense trumps age and experience. Find ways to be assertive, and make informed decisions. Shorten the gaping distance.

Mind the gap–or get off at the next station!
Freshly squeezed graduates can often view Professional Development opportunities as an endless buffet. Volunteering, board work, joining associations, taking on extra work, all of that trying to build a name for yourself is commendable.

Grounded by newness to the field, the thirst for being immersed grows exponentially. Just like a good buffet, we pile things onto ourselves until we’re overwhelmed or sick.

Similarly, when we suffer quarter-career or mid-career relief crises, we try to do more things to change our situations. Adding more to a work load, volunteering here or there may just get us out of a rut.

We often continue these experiments in philanthropy long after they’ve run their course.

Inevitably, the feeling you can’t shake is that you’re tired and cranky from the extras meant to satisfy you in the first place.

Lesson learned: Be selective. If opportunity morphs into unwarranted obligation, it might be time to find a professional detour. Get a new map.

Whichever side of the multi-generational platform you stand, I encourage you to acknowledge these tips, mind the gap and always bring comfortable footwear.

Great shoes help in all of these situations.

LidiaSiino– Lidia Siino
Journalism and Communications Media ’02

Lidia Siino is the Professional Development & Communications Strategist for MCACES, the Mohawk College Association of Continuing Education Students. She is also the Program Manager and a Continuing Education Instructor for the Career Consultant Certificate Program at Mohawk College. http://www.linkedin.com/in/lidiasiino

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