Message From the President: Is there a generation gap?

By David Boyle, CTR
My dear friend Kim Tompkins, FCSC, CTR, is the newest elected member to the CSC Executive Council as 4th Vice President. We recently had a discussion on differences between emerging professionals and what she calls her “fellow advanced-age CTRs” (i.e. Certified Technical Representatives).

It can be challenging for those of us with more experience to make real connections with the younger group of architects and specification writers. Kim and I, and others in our generation, have worked so very hard to become what is known as “trusted advisors.” Still valued by the senior community and called on for information regarding a company (even when we no longer work there), we have spent years establishing our reputations as knowledgeable, supportive, and honest. However, we can face difficulties in connecting with millennials in the industry.

“I mean, they are not like me,” Kim told me, tongue firmly planted in cheek. “They do not have the same drive to put their employer ahead of their family as I did in the pursuit of an ever-growing salary. Imagine the nerve of them!”

Both Kim and I have our own millennials (those born in the 1980s and 1990s) at home, but we still find ourselves somewhat at a loss as to how to make the connection with this newer generation. This is especially true because we may sometimes systematically characterize them as being all the same—as Kim jokingly put it, “an entire generation of indulgent, lazy, gaming, living-in-their-parents’-basements, unambitious youth!”

She said her perspective changed a few months back. At the CSC Conference in Kelowna, there was a wonderful presentation by author Eric Termuende. His talk was about “Communication and the Future of Work,” but he also enlightened us all on the need to recognize millennials as individuals and not lump them all into one category. Kim said it felt like he was talking directly to her.

His talk also reminded her that every generation can fear, or be slow to embrace, the changes brought by those who follow in their footsteps. The presentation also showed the industry is evolving—she and I (and all the other experienced CSC members) need to adapt.

“Going forward, I will endeavour to treat each and every young person as the individual they are, and make every effort to not compare them to our generation and therefore expect them to behave the same way,” she told me. “I will make every effort to relate in a more progressive fashion and understand that with the Internet and the immediate access to technical information, we may not form the same relationships that we have in the past. Whatever relationship we do have, it will be on their terms and not mine. Hopefully, it will be a progressive and successful one.”

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