Economists have long been talking about the day when the bulk of the baby boomer generation finally retires.
The recession has put off that day as older workers stay in their jobs longer. But economists at the Conference Board now say those retirements are imminent, and they’re going to contribute to a labor shortage in the United States in the next 10 to 15 years.
That spells opportunity for younger workers.
“If you’re in [Generation X], you might feel squeezed right now, but you’re going to have a heckuva lot of opportunity in about the next 10 years,” said Brandon Smith, a workplace and career consultant who also teaches business students at Emory and Georgia State universities. “[There will be] way more openings than there are people. Immigration may be filling some of that void, but you’re going to see a huge demand.”
Gen X includes the workers right behind the baby boomers, and it consists of about half as many people, Smith said. He described the generations as an hourglass, with boomers and millennials at either end and Gen Xers as the skinny middle.
“So, position yourself. Know that [there will be huge demand], and find ways to position for leadership, because it’s going to be coming,” Smith said. “You’re going to have a leadership role thrust on you in the next five to 10 years.”
That means management roles are coming quickly for the millennial generation, too, he said.
“You’re going to have to figure out where you want to be, what you want to do and start to think about, ‘OK, what do I need to do to prepare myself for that.’”
Smith said that will be a significant change for these youngest workers, many of whom have not had work because baby boomers have held onto their positions.
“The system’s not moving up to create more jobs,” he said. “[Millennials,] prepare yourself that that shift is going to come, and things are going to start to move much quicker.”
Smith said with opportunity around the corner, younger workers need to get noticed now at work so they’re positioned to make a move when the opportunity arises.
“[Managers say,] we want people who not only have a positive attitudes but also take initiative,” Smith said. “So do a good job, but take initiative. Show a positive attitude. Be willing to raise your hand. You’re going to get on people’s radars, and then, when this shift starts to happen and they need people to fill seats, you’re going to be the person they think of.”