Tuesday, January 14, 2014

It's not over for Gen X

It's been a really long time since I posted to this blog. Frankly, I was kind of over the whole generations thing. But recently something has made me want to vent.

I've read more and more stuff - often written by Boomers - on how Gen Y is just going to leap frog over Gen X and save the world.


When I was in high school, Gen Xers were told we'd never get through college. I have a masters degree.

When I was in college, we were told we'd never have good jobs or be able to support ourselves. I've just been promoted to Associate Vice President.

When I was at my first job, Gen Xers were told they would never own homes.  I'm writing this from my house that I own.

So you'll have to forgive me if I don't buy into this most recent doomsday scenario for Gen X.

This is not an anti-Gen Y column. I think you guys are great. I just don't think you're going to crush us.

Now Gen Z, that may be an entirely different story ...

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Something I didn't know about Gen Y...

I was hanging out with my Gen Y friends and my Gen X husband last night and I found out the most interesting thing about this cohort - they never really went through a phase where they were convinced they had AIDS.

In the 80s, when I was a teenager, we were told over and over that if we had sex, we would die from AIDS. So in the 90s, as a 20-something gal, that was always looming.

So it was me and the Gen Ys on the deck at the pub and my husband was in the restroom and they were talking about getting tested for VD and I said, "Oh yeah, I always thought I had AIDS until I finally had an AIDS test when I was pregnant with my first daughter."

They all looked at me like I was a slut. So I qualified that I hadn't been with that many people, but everyone thinks they have AIDS when they're younger.

Apparently, this isn't the case for Gen Y.

But it is for Gen X. In fact, when my husband returned to the table I said, "Did you ever think you had AIDS, like in the 90s?"

"Of course," he said.

So I'm sharing this clip from one of my favorite Gen X movies about our formative cohort experience. Did any of you go through this?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Gen Y - Good neighbors but crazy home renovators

You see a lot written about how Gen Y doesn't buy into homeownership. But I have observed something very interesting going on in my neighborhood - after five or so years of Boomers moving out and Xers moving in, we now appear to be in a new phase - Gen Y is moving in.

I have Gen Y neighbors on both sides of me - and two more families moved in down the street - and another one around the corner. We still are mostly Xers along the lane at this point (and a few Boomer hold outs) - but the Gen Y influx is fascinating.

I'm not surprised they're moving into my neighborhood, because it's a totally awesome place to live. It's next to the elementary school, walking distance to the grocery store and a couple restaurants, easy access to the highway, and lots of kids running around. What's fascinating me is how much these youngsters (granted most of them are less than 10 years younger than me - but I digress) are working on their houses.

They guy next door is putting in a hot tub (not hiring someone to put it in, but putting it in.) The guy down the street is roofing his house - we wave to him up there everytime we walk by. The guy next to him is redoing his landscaping. All three of them are probably out there working right now.

A few years ago, the Xers in the neighborhood (myself included) did a lot of remodeling, etc., but it did not seem like we put in the actual labor hours. We delegated (thanks Ken-Do).

I don't know if there's something there or not. I'm sure part of all this home improvement is Gen Y's desire for customization. But maybe we have a new generation of Tim "The Toolman" Taylors on our hands. What do you think?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Brand new look - same feisty GenerationXpert

I decided to change up the look of my blog. It's been four years since I started this thing and I'm no longer trying to pose as Ms. Professionalism. I thought pink better reflected who I am today. That would be someone who's just trying to be herself.

Four years ago I still had that mindset that you had to be a certain way to succeed. Today I know the only way for me to succeed is be authentic. And guess what. I like pink. And I don't like wearing pant suits. And occassionally I call my boss "dude." But I also work really hard and I don't see things the same as everyone else - which is definitely a benefit in this Century (being to see things the same as everyone else was a benefit in the last Century and that's probably one of the reasons I ran into trouble.)

I think one thing Gen X women have done is make it okay to be feminine. We don't have to dress like guys or use sports jargon to get ahead (we can, if that's what we like - but we don't HAVE to.) I was never good at playing a "man's game" at work. It's interesting how much better you do when you don't play a game.

How have you changed in the last four years?

Monday, June 13, 2011

The key to managing your boss: Let her be the first to cry uncle

I had a great week last week. I was teaching a 4-day seminar and was interacting with some really great marketing minds. One question that came up in the end was what to do about a boss who is so paranoid when the marketing director works at home one day a week, the marketing director is required to meet with the boss her next day on site and go over everything she did at home.

My advice: suck it up and just do it.

Recently, Seth Godin said this a little more eloquently. He said that being irrational and being unreasonable are not the same thing. He said being right isn’t always the goal.

The reason I told the marketing director to just have the meeting is because there is nothing to be gained by not doing it. Is it annoying? Yes. Should the boss realize that the marketing director is doing her job because the work is done? Of course. Will arguing with the boss or getting mad at the boss make the boss say, “Oh, you are right. I’m being annoying and silly”?

However, meeting with the boss enthusiastically each week may actually help. An email the day before she works from home and a follow up email after she meets with the boss may help even more. If the ultimate goal is to get the boss to back off, the boss needs to trust you. And if it takes six months of meetings, just do it.

Let be the boss be the first to cry uncle.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

"I know a guy..."

A few months back, my boss asked me if I could help him get a baseball cap embroidered with our company logo for a presentation he was doing.

“Sure,” I said. “I know a guy.”

My boss chuckled a bit and said “You sound like you’re from Rhode Island” (that’s where he’s from.)

I’m not from Rhode Island, but another industrial state – Michigan. However, I don’t think it’s growing up in the rust belt that developed my “I know a guy” attitude. I think it’s being a Gen Xer.

Gen Xers are great network builders. I’m not talking about teams, but networks. We don’t always want to work in groups (of which I think Millennials have really mastered the art of.) But we have developed intensely loyal networks that really are responsible for our biggest successes.

Obviously, everyone writes about networking these days. Building your tribe. Yada yada. I’m not trying to shed light on a brilliant new discovery. However, I’ve just noticed that while there’s so much hype about unemployment, I seem to be surrounded by a whole bunch of successful Xers who got that way by depending on no-one but themselves and their network. Not the government. Not their companies.

So I thought I’d put together some of my thoughts on the issue.

1. The reason you want to have a network is to avoid the douches out there. Kind of like the no assholes rule. It’s hard to work with a douche. And there sure are a lot of them.

2. The other reason you want to have a network is so you can be of service to others who know YOU are not a douche.

3. Your network does not need to be made up of your best friends. You don’t have to be on a bowling team with your network (although my husband has had quite a bit of luck with this tactic.) You do need a network of people who are relatively smart, relatively talented, also connected to other non-douches, willing to help you out, and who you are willing to help out.

4. You need to be loyal to your network. For instance, I work in marketing. I try to stick with the same vendors when at all possible. This is very helpful when you screw up and they help save your butt. They are willing to do this, because you have consistently sent them business.

5. You need to recommend those in your network to each other – and use your network to vet new people for your network. The hat guy I “knew” was someone I met through my network. This time was a small job. But business is a long-term thing. He helped me make a rockin’ cool hat that my boss loved. I won’t forget it.

So keep that in mind the next time you are at a networking event. You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room. Or the richest. Or even the most successful. You just don’t want to be the douche.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Tina Fey throws like a girl

I was watching Oprah recently and she had on former Saturday Night Live comics including Tina Fey and Jane Curtin. What I thought was so interesting is how they described being a woman working on SNL.

Now before I go any farther, I know that Boomer women knocked down doors for Xer women like me. Yet, as a 40-year-old Xer woman, I can tell you that there is often this sense from Boomer women that they knocked the doors down and we had a lovely stroll down career lane.

It’s simply not true.

What struck me as interesting on Oprah was the way Curtin discussed being a woman on the show and her words were all about struggle and clawing and going head-to-head with the man. Fey, however, said that she and her other female writers and comics basically wrote for the other women in the room and that’s where skits like the Maya Rudolph’s Oprah sketches originated. Interestingly, the result was comedy that was appealing to both men and women - it just happened that there were enough women laughing in the writers' room to get the skits approved to go on air.

I think that’s the major thing Xer women have brought to the table in terms of career success – throwing like a girl. What I mean is not trying to compete like a guy. I didn’t say we don’t compete. I’m just saying that Xer women don’t necessarily think you need to act like a guy to get ahead. What Tina Fey’s crew of comediennes did at SNL was help each other out.

So, ladies, next time you walking into your job, you can thank a Boomer for getting the door open for you – but you can think an Xer that you no longer have to wear a red power suit with 80-pound should pads to walk through.