Thanks, Gen X, for the Conversation
This is a big month for me. And since many of you have contributed ideas to the discussion here over the past three years — and I’d like to ask you to join me in a little celebration.
The third book in the trilogy I’ve written to the generations is published this month. More than the previous two, this book, is less “mine” and more “ours.” Your responses to posts on this site helped me understand your perspectives; your voices are woven throughout.
To be honest, the idea of writing three books in three years proved to be a bit more ambitious than I originally realized. Even more so, I found writing to a generation, rather than about a generation was a real challenge. I have tried to write each book in a way that conveys the respect and admiration I came to feel for each generation.
What’s Next, Gen X? draws heavily on perspectives and ideas many members of Gen X generously shared on this site.
I’d offer a few ideas for your book, but then wouldn’t that be a typical of a Gen X’er — do the work, let the recognition go elsewhere!
Okay, not all of you were supportive, but you all made me think — hard — about what, if anything, I could say that would be useful. You issued the challenge.
One word of advice: this book had better be heavy on actual content and good practical advice, and low on your typical Boomer touchy-feely bandwagony, fad “cheese-moving” pop psychology. If I see chapters on “Embracing Change” I’m going to vomit.
Through my research, I’ve learned that each generation faces unique challenges and brings specific strengths to today’s workplace. I’ve come to believe that a combination of the best from each is required for the challenging years ahead.
My message to Boomers, even before the economic downturn, was to find ways to keep working — turn over the reins of leadership but find other ways to be productive contributors over the decades ahead: Retire Retirement. And my message to those of you who are Ys, just beginning your careers, was also fairly straightforward — find ways to blend your strengths with the reality of what you’ll find in the corporate world; get Plugged In.
Gen X’ers, those of you born roughly in the 1960’s and ’70’s, are at a somewhat more complex place — in the middle of your careers, juggling many often-conflicting priorities. Your challenge is one of how to work, how to make sure the work you’re doing is meaningful and rewarding against whatever criteria you use to measure success — and if necessary, how to recalibrate midstream.
From my interviews and some of your comments here, it’s clear that some of you feel good about where you are today — you have achieved many of your initial goals and reached a comfortable self-sufficiency. But many others of you feel you haven’t yet hit your stride. Some of you are wrestling with finding the career you want — and are beginning to reframe your goals. How do you reset your sights for the next stretch?
Most of you are working in organizations that are themselves changing and, in many cases, struggling to adapt to global competition, new ways of operating, and challenging business conditions. The economic downturn has hit Gen X particularly hard. How can you maintain your balance during difficult times and leverage your contributions to create a work opportunities that better match your personal definitions of success?
Some of you are considering entrepreneurship or other independent work arrangements. What does that mean for you? How can you increase your chances of success?
One immediate consideration, particularly in today’s turbulent economy, is how to maximize what have traditionally been peak career years to your full advantage. From a financial earnings perspective, the years between 45 and 54 are when individuals typically reach maximum earnings. The way those of you who are members of Gen X spend the next decade will have a powerful impact on your long-term financial stability and achievement of other work-related goals.
Most importantly, whether in big companies or small, members of Gen X are now moving into senior leadership roles. In business and beyond, the decisions those of you in Gen X make over the period ahead will have a powerful impact on your family, your personal satisfaction, and our larger society — on public policy decisions, business directions, social welfare. As I’ve written in previous posts, I came away from my research convinced you are well-suited to lead in today’s complex world.
My hope for this decade is that we — all generations — will use our combined influence and diverse strengths to create organizations that are humane and worthy. We all deserve to work in places that we respect and feel good about, doing work that we care about. The world needs a new breed of heroes, able to acknowledge the complexity and legitimate diversity of views, and yet find constructive paths forward.
Here’s to a new year, a new decade, and new ways of tackling the issues of business and the world. I hope all of you will find heart in this challenge — and will continue to share your views and perspectives on the changing workforce.
With continued thanks to all of you for your continuing thoughtful inputs to the conversation and warm wishes for 2010,
Original post here, by Tammy Erickson @ Harvard Business Publishing