Generation Gap - Work Advice from Boomers to Millennials: Henry M. Soto

July 14, 2016

Millennials make up the largest fraction of the workforce, but are they fully prepared for the jobs they accept out of college? As a generation often stigmatized as lazy, materialistic, selfish, entitled and resistant to the current work structure, millennials may be snagging jobs, but growing and developing their careers has proven more difficult than ever.  Are these stereotypes of millennials true or do they just have a better understanding of how to do the work with the technological advances of their time?

Boomers, on the other hand, are facing an uphill battle while competing for jobs. They have the knowledge and experience, but are often cast aside for younger minds and fresher ideas. They, too, are unfairly stigmatized as being unable to keep up with the times. Yet, many boomers are relentlessly working to advance their careers and learn the technology to succeed in today’s workforce.

Sometimes, the new way of doing things is not the best way, and cannot be advanced without the knowledge of what and who preceded it. We caught up with members of the boomer generation at The Senior Planet Exploration Center at 127 W 25th Street in New York City and asked them about their career history, their efforts to adapt to the changing technology and the advice they have for millennials in today’s job market. Our first senior, Henry M. Soto, shared his wisdom of changing professions, insight on how to build a portfolio that speaks for your work, and how to act once you get the job. 

Henry M. Soto is a business professional looking to transition into the fields of digital art, visual merchandising and interior decorating.  At 65-years of age, the Queens resident comes to the Senior Planet Exploration Center on a regular basis, learning about the technology he'll need in order to achieve success in his career change

“When I was younger, I wanted to be an architect, but I didn’t pursue it,” he said.  “So, now I am working on doing the things I wanted to do. If there is one piece of advice I can give to people, it’s to work on your dream jobs with your dream objectives.”

With his charismatic personality and vibrant energy, it would be hard to imagine Henry not getting to where he wants to go. As he delves into his work history, he pulls out props (a binder of work) and gestures for emphasis, narrating his past and perhaps, his future. In a way, he is acting, and it's exactly the advice he would give to others; Henry believes you should treat any interview like an actor would treat an audition - with lots of preparation and practice.

“All job seekers are actors who want the part, so you have to practice,” he added. “Lights! Cameras! Action! Go! You are hired!”

But as Soto prepares for the next chapter of his life, he also wants to help the younger generation achieve success as they follow a familiar path through the job market; a market where the tools and attitudes may have changed, but the general rules still apply. 

“You have to stand out with your resume and during the job interview,” he explained.  “At the end of the day, that is still the deciding factor for getting hired.”

Henry is not sure what the best approach is to resume writing.  He understands the plight of many young jobseekers that are inundated with so much advice, some which even contradicts each other.   

“You can have hundreds of books on resume writing and it can become very confusing on what the best format to use is,” he said.  “The only thing you can do is try to make sure your resume stands out.  Try different approaches and see what works best for you.”

There are three rules that Henry follows when it comes to resume writing: never use abbreviations, always prepare a strong summary statement ‑as it is the first lines read of any resume‑ and always make sure you offer quantifiable accomplishments.

“I was a retail manager at Macy’s and I would receive so many applications with resumes that were not tangible, not quantifiable." He explained: "Numbers speak volumes; if you can’t sell me on why you are the best candidate, you are wasting your time and mine.”

Henry has spent a great deal of time in the retail industry, often working for long stretches at various stores. His most recent role saw him at Macy’s for 15 years; just recently retiring. At his departure, Henry had made his way up to a sales manager at Men’s Millennial, so he knows a thing or two about how young professionals act in and out of work. The typical millennial style of work doesn’t agree with Henry’s philosophy.  He believes you achieve more (and he has the experience to prove it) by following the rules – not creating new ones. 

“Young people today have this notion that they are going to change the system,” he said.  “But the company’s already made up their mind on what the system should be.  Your best bet is to work within the system to see things from the employer’s perspective.”

And Henry may be right, which is why so many startups are created by millennials. But for those looking to work within the system, the successful businessman believes that observing, listening and understanding exactly what the company is looking for are the keys to achieving success once you get the job.  And it’s why Henry believes he's continued to succeed when he was moved from the men’s sports furnishings department to men’s millennial where it was suddenly about selling Sean John to professionals half his age. His knowledge of sales transcended the departments and he was soon working with younger associates, coaching them to achieve success in a department that was better suited for their tastes. 

“When I left, my employers took me out to dinner,” he explained.  “They told me, ‘the way you came to work with us; learned from us and did for us showed such a level of respect and, in turn, we respect you.’" And with a pointer finger on the table, Henry leans in, "That’s how you succeed.”

That’s not to say Henry hasn’t had to adapt to the changing youth-oriented world of technology.  It’s why he is sitting at the Senior Planet Exploration Center on a regular basis, working on his website and developing his own LinkedIn profile. 

“Even when I was at Macy’s, I had to learn the technology,” he said.  “I didn’t know how to use the phone, so I bought one and learned how. Older people want to embrace technology.  We don’t want to be left out.  The world is constantly changing and it’s important for people of any age to always be prepared.”

by Jon Minners

sculpture in front of the Thompson Center
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