As I’ve been making my way in the realm of the self employed, I’ve had cause to stop and consider the different ways and means by which people make a living. Just the other day, I made an interesting obvervation concerning how the generational view on employment has seemed to change. When discussing what someone’s family member does as their vocation, this seems to be the general breakdown of how it’s viewed:
“The Greatest Generation” – those who grew up in the depression and were young adults during WWII. My grandparents. They tend to be focused on the company that one works for. “Yes, he works for Boeing.” Only when their family member is self employed are they forced to consistently explain what role the person plays. “He’s self employed. He works on computers.”
The Baby Boomers. This is my parents’ generation. They seem to focus on a job title. “Our son is a Systems Administrator.” The focus is less on the company, likely because during my parents’ generation it was becoming less and less likely that a person would work for the same company for their entire life.
Millenials, AKA Generation Y. This is my generation, myself having been born in the poster year for Gen Y: 1982. When asked about our vocation, we seem to have two parallel thoughts. The first is that we don’t seem to see our work as separate from the rest of our life. We have had the fortune to build on the hard work of previous generations to be able to freely choose a vocation that we love and feel called to. “What do you do?” has a larger meaning to us than it seems to have for prior generations. The second thought is that we define what we do not by the company we work for, or the job title we’ve been given, but by a job or project description. “I work on the computer systems that allows a business to function competitively.” We also tend to inject our sense of “calling” into the description. I only just now realized that that’s probably why I’ve lately been changing the way I describe my work: “I make companies happy about the technology that runs their business.” That’s vastly more touchy-feely than my grandparents’ generation commonly expressed their vocation, and yet it’s effortless and natural for me.
I’m sure that I’m not the only one to make these observation. I’m certain that there’s plenty of scientific and pop-science writings on it. I’m just not terribly familiar with it personally. Have you noticed a similar thing? Either way, which culture do you come from? I’m sure this is a different experience in different countries around the world. What is your generation and how do you explain your work to others?