The baby boom generation—people now aged between 52 and 70—is being gradually pushed out of the workforce by layoffs, buyouts, and forced early retirements even as they try to work longer to make up for retirement losses during the financial crisis. But is any employer getting rid of them faster than the world’s premier investment bank?
Goldman Sachs and its rival Wall Street firms are known for chewing up young folks fast and spitting them out, but to observers of a certain age (say, 40 and up) the relative youth at Goldman is stunning. In a LinkedIn post on Dec. 21, the company’s global head of human capital management—a title that itself tells us a lot about how Goldman thinks about people—writes that “our workforce is nearly 70% millennial—even our latest partner class is composed of 11% millennials, and of course, that number will only increase as the years go by.”
At the end of the third quarter, Goldman had 34,900 employees, consultants, and temporary staff, according to the firm’s earnings statement. That means roughly 24,000 people working at Goldman are millennials, generally defined as people currently between the ages of 18 and 35. The oldest of that cohort would have been in their twenties when the 2008 financial crisis took down a slew of banks and financial institutions, begging the question of how well the bank is prepared for the next downturn.
A Goldman spokeswoman explained the number by saying “it’s just cycles.”
Edith Cooper, the Goldman executive who wrote the LinkedIn post, made the observation about the age distribution of the staff while positing a bunch of career advice that she passes on to college graduates. Among other things, she tells them that:
-“Success is personal.” In other words, don’t measure yourself by everyone else.
-“Feedback is not.” Be prepared to take criticism, it’s good for you.
-“Surround yourself with difference.” Your best ideas, Cooper promises, will come from conversations outside your comfort zone.
-“Pick your spots.” No one is great at everything.
-“People remember people.” Working with people you trust, respect, and can collaborate with is more important than titles and position.
“While these lessons have served me well, what I try to emphasize to others is—it’s not about how I made it to ‘the top’—it’s about what you will do when you get there,” Cooper writes. “At Goldman Sachs, our firm is itself in a period of transition, with new leaders emerging and longstanding ones saying goodbye.”
She might have added: Good luck applying for a job at Goldman Sachs if you’re over 40 years old. The Goldman spokeswoman said, however, “we still accept people from all generations.”