Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Politics and Generation X

I read the most fascinating article in The Atlantic recently about Barack Obama and how he's the man who can pull the American political system out of the grips of the Babyboomers. I posted it to this site, because this article was the first that I have ever read that actually changed my mind about a presidential race.

While Obama is a Boomer, he's actually a trailing-edge Boomer (born 1958-1964), which really makes him more of an Xer. 1958 was the first year of declining birth rates in the U.S. and those born in the last years of the boom had a very similar formative cohort experience to Generation X ) - they don't really remember that pre-Kennedy assassination era when "girls were girls and men were men."

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Boomer Calling

Recently, I was reading Penelope Trunk's blog and she talked about not choosing a career based on the often recited professorial advice "Do what you love" and it really got me thinking. Where did this idea of your career being your "calling" come from?

When I was in high school and college - and even for the first five or so years of my career - I subscribed to the notion that you are meant to do a specific job - a divine calling, if you will. Although I did not realize it at the time, this idea made me miserable, because at the end of the day, a job is a job, because they pay you to do the work.

So where did I get this idea from? The "follow your bliss" career advice? Teachers, mostly. Babyboomer teachers to be more specific. The same Babyboomers who are the self-proclaimed workaholics (just google "boomer" and "workaholic" and see how many sites pop up).

I was in church a couple weeks ago and our pastor, who is a feminist nun, talked about how our job is not our calling. Our calling is about the people in our life and our relationships with them.

So if that's true (and I believe it is), then what's up with this "job as calling" thing?

First off, boomers love to work. And by work, I mean work at their jobs. The more hours you put in, the better worker you are. My friend, Julie, who is a boomer herself, even says that boomers love Saturdays because there's no one in the office and they can get more work done.

For many Xers, while our boomer parents were off at their jobs (think the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off), we were forging friendships. We were laying the ground work for what I believe is a new mindset - something Xers do not get the credit we deserve for. It's the idea that my job is important, but my life is more important.

Now that I understand that my job is just my job, I can enjoy it a lot more. I'm not expecting it to be a cosmic experience. And I can focus on doing things I really love (like blogging) without make it "work."

Monday, December 17, 2007

Office holiday party - teambuilding or torture?

Last month I was speaking in Orlando to a group of Gen Xers and Millenials and the topic of office holiday parties came up. Basically, there was no one in the audience who wanted to attend them and no one who could figure out how to get out of them. It's a pretty common complaint among the under-40 crowd.

I, myself, spent nine years working at a college and trying to avoid potlucks, cookie exchanges, and the dreaded Christmas party at the boss' house. The Babyboomer women I worked with would get so annoyed with me - I wasn't a team player. And yet, the Babyboomer men just had to show up for such events (no casserole required if you had a Y chromosome.)

The whole thing was so frustrating, because these people were not my friends - they were my co-workers.

Getting back to the presentation in Orlando, we brainstormed for solutions to avoiding the office party, and the best we could come up with is "I'm going to be out of town." And as I researched the topic a bit more, it turns out that "suck it up" is about the only thing you can do without hindering your career.

Earlier this year, I was talking to a meeting planner in Michigan who said he is having trouble getting certain company events off the ground. Specifically, for years there has been a three-day "retreat" at a northern Michigan resort that included some work, and a lot of dinners and activities. The planner said the Xers did not want to come. They wanted to do it in one concentrated day - all work and no play.

I think these situations are both part of the same issue. Generation Xers are looking for a work-life balance. That means work being something separate from life. Not having your life be your work, your colleagues, your company.

So what is the solution? Do we go along with the festivities and hope the Boomers retire soon? Or do we revolt?

Friday, December 14, 2007

The non-linear workday

When I first started telecommuting about six months ago, one of the biggest challenges I had was adjusting to the “non-linear workday.” I often felt, as NGM pointed out in response to my last posting, that I was going to get in trouble for not sitting in my chair.

Granted, there is no way my boss would know if I’m in my chair. We can work whenever and wherever we like – as long as we hit our deadlines. In my case that means emails at 7 a.m. at home, then some putzing, phone calls at 10 a.m. , then I may hop over to the store and get a gallon of milk, writing usually begins around 1 p.m., 4-6 p.m. is with family, then sometime between 6 and 11 p.m. I finish up anything that’s left. I probably am sitting in my chair a lot less hours than when I had my office job – but I also accomplish a lot more. And I have control over my time – and my life.

Studies have found that telecommuting also benefits companies. The reason is that happy workers are better workers. But telecommuting only works when the leadership in your organization are trusting of their staff. Managers who use telecommuting as a way to lure the best talent need to trust their new hires to get the job done. Outcomes need to be judged – not inputs.

I’m not entirely sure telecommuting is a generational issue in terms of who can adjust better. I work with young Xers, older Xers, and Boomers – and we all work from our houses. I can’t say that any of us are particularly better at telecommuting than the rest of us. However, I can say that I’ve talked to a lot more Boomers who say they would never want to telecommute. Most Xers I talk to want me to tell them how they can get a telecommuting job, too. (I wish I had the answer – I still can’t believe that I landed a telecommuting job.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Shocker: Gen Y wants to telecommute

A recent article posted to says the members of Gen Y want to telecommute, look for information by searching Google rather than looking in print publications, and prefer to email and text message as a means of communicating at work. Interesting information - but not news.

Anyone who has visited a Starbucks in the last five years knows that Millenials are always wired - whether by cell phone or computer. It's unlikely we will be able to convince them to make a 30 minute commute so that they can get to an office to have access a computer. Shoot, you can't even convince of that (yes, I telecommute).

Monday, December 10, 2007

Build me up buttercup

Are Boomers really re-defining anything? Or, as marketers, are we just telling them what they want to hear in order to sell them something?

I am of the opinion that it’s a little of both.

A Boomer friend of mine jokes – “Didn’t you know that Boomer women are the first to ever go through Menopause?” And she’s right. It seems like Boomers are always claiming to redefine each life stage as if until they reached 30-40-50-60, everyone had lived a cookie-cutter existence.

Are Baby boomers really the only retires to travel? Is there really that much of a difference between a bus tour that plays music from the 1940s while you travel through wine country and a tour bus that plays music from the 1960s?

I’ve noticed that a lot of Gen Xers like myself sit back and listen to the Boomer mantra of redefinition without disagreeing. But I don’t think we’re buying it. We are, however, selling it. At least us marketing Gen Xers.

In some ways, it’s almost as if the Boomers are reaching that stage where the patronizing begins. Kind of like when a young guy flirts with his girlfriend’s grandma to get on her good side. I believe it’s true that life after age 50 is changing – but that’s probably more due to modern medicine than some sort of super culture created by the Boomers.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Unsexiest Generation

If you are a Gen Xer - or just wish you were - here is a fantastic article from Marie Claire magazine that declares our generation unsexy. And I do believe they are correct!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Backlash: Gen Y disputes Naomi Wolf's opinion

Loved this recent editorial in the Washington Post by a very smart Gen Y student (Rob Anderson).

He is upset by how author Naomi Wolf is attacking his generation and charging that young people are not politically active enough. Anderson is right. Wolf is wrong.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Generation V

Are you looking for a level playing field, where age, gender, class and income of individuals are less important and less rewarded than competence, motivation and effort? Then you may be a member of Generation V. Check out more at:

Friday, November 16, 2007

It's gettin' hot in here...

Office workers and educators are not the only ones dealing with generational conflict - check out how generational differences are affecting firefighters:

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Gen Xers redefine fatherhood

Although not a fan of the automobile - and a staunch advocate of light rail - I find it ironic that a car company can seem to get a grasp on what Gen X men are like.

Gen Xers - men and women alike - are often misread, misinterpreted, and misrepresented in the media. However, this article out of Ontario offers some great insight - from the perspective of an automotive company.

Here's an excerpt from the article which was posted to:

"Insecurity at youth spawned a need for security and strong relationships as the men in the group enter marriage and fatherhood, said Amy Casey in Nissan's planning group.

Not quite ready to grow up as they grow older and certainly not ready for a minivan, Casey learned that some of these men don't want to be seen as just a dad or just a husband.

"They are the stealth dad," she said. They are youthful and edgy to the world, nurturing and caring at home. And he likes his flat-screen TV, communication devices, quality athletic gear, gadgets and cooking utensils, all of which he embraced before fatherhood.

What I find really interesting here is that Gen X dads seem to be a lot like Gen X moms. We're holding on to our identities, while still focusing on parenting. Parenting is our most important job, but not our only one.

Click here for the entire article:

Thursday, November 8, 2007

What does it mean to be nice?

I had a great conversation this week with a 30-year-old Gen Xer who says she's annoyed with her Boomer colleagues saying she needs to be nicer. At the start of the conversation, she didn't realize that she is not alone in this challenge and it is a common complaint among Gen Xers.

To Boomers, being nice often means small talk. That's nice. However, this same chit-chat often seems insincere to Xers. So when the Boomer colleague inquires about the Xer's kids, the Xer will be polite, but may feel the Boomer is faking interest. When the Xer does not reciprocate the family question, it can obviously offend the Boomer.

Another scenario is when giving criticism. Often Boomers will give you the criticism sandwich - a good comment, the criticism, a bad comment. This can be affective with Xers, yet, the critical point (the criticism) may be lost in the sea of compliments. Conversely, when a Xer just spills it, the Boomer can be offended, because they only got the meat - not the bread and the condiments.

I think once Xer and Boomers are conscious of this different, the conflict goes away, because they then interpret the messages as they are meant to be.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Millenial Mindset

If you really want to get inside the heads of Gen Y, I have a blog for you:

They are doing a great job with this one and their ideas really give insight into the newest generation to enter the workforce. These guys are chronicling the transition into the Information Age/21st Century workforce that's currently happening. Great information.

Friday, November 2, 2007

What's Gen Y thinking?

A promising new column in the Cincinnati Enquirer has begun and features analysis of trends in the workforce from a Gen Y perspective.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Senior Citizens Become Adults

By now, most people know that Babyboomers will never be seniors. Shoot, they can barely handle being called grown ups.

When we market to this demographic, we can't do what worked 20 years ago for the 55+ market. I found a really good example of how to market to Boomers.

What's best is that these "Adult" trips are clearly for people who are over 55. But they never mention the terms seniors or "active adults" (which I think implies seniors). They just say adults.

Monday, October 29, 2007

I'm buying the book!

The Yankelovich Group has released a new book on the Boomers and I can't wait to read it! Already ordered my copy.

If you haven't read the work of these researchers, you need to know that they are the original authority on the topic of Generational Marketing. Check it out for yourself.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Gen Xers achieve balance

Generation X may be the first generation to actually find a work/life balance. This fabulous column explains:

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Do Gen Xers struggle to find music?

The Baltimore Sun recently reported that Gen Xers are being overlooked by the music industry.,0,7894274.story

I would argue that we're not overlooked at all. While the article claims music of the 1980s and 1990s was disposable and did not unite Gen Xers, I would say just the opposite is true. Metallica, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Public Enemy, and even groups like Motley Crue all presented the Gen X point of view. We were kind of angry, but we also liked to party. Songs like the Beastie Boys' "You got to fight for your right (to party)" poked fun at the Boomers shift from serious protesters to even more serious Yuppies ("greed is good.") However, Boomers didn't get the joke and labeled us as unfocused.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Seniors become Midlifers

While, doing some research this morning I came across a term I hadn't heard before - Midlifer. It was used to describe the aging Baby boomer demographic. Frankly, I love it. I can see 20-years from now people flocking to Midlifer Centers, taking Midlifer Water Aerobics, and going on Midlifer bus tours to the wine country. The marketing to retired Baby boomer dilemma may have been solved with one word!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Is Paris Hilton Babyboomer-esqe?

At least one blogger out there thinks Paris Hilton can learn some lessons from the Babyboomer experience. Is Paris Hilton acting like a modern day Babyboomer? Judge for yourself:

Monday, August 13, 2007

Xers see middle management as a trap

Generation Xers are saying "No" to clawing their way to middle management. The main reason? A desire for work/life balance. Read more in this article from USA Today.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Is 60 the new 30?

A recent article proclaimed that 60 is the new 30.

As a Gen Xer who is in her 30s, I have to say this "new 30" thing is starting to get a little old. If 60 is indeed the new 30, then that makes me 6 years old right now.

I think this idea is something that adds to the conflict between Boomers and Xers. It seems hard for Xers to really understand it, because getting old really isn't a big issue for them. At the same time, it seems hard for Boomers to understand why 30-somethings don't see 60-year-old Boomers as their contemporaries.

Therefore, I am declaring that 30 is the new 30 and 60 is the new 60. And I'm asking everyone to just accept their age and move on.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Who is out of touch?

A recent post to the Ypulse blog discusses the pros and cons of accessing networking sites such as FaceBook while at work:

Last week I spoke with a group of association executives. There was a lot of frustration over the work habits of Generation Y. The group, made up mostly of Gen Xers and Boomers, said it was a challenge to get Gen Y workers to do what was expected. The fact of the matter is, Gen Y is less likely to have the same assumptions as older workers and they often do need things spelled out for them (i.e. casual Friday means something a lot different to Gen Y and if you don't want them wearing flip flops to work you need to let them know).

But here's the question - who really is out of touch? My theory is that Gen Y is leading the workforce changes. However, they still are very young. For Gen Y, I believe the bravado of being 25 will be replaced by the humility of being 35. And yet, they will still have the technical savvy they do now. Gen Y will make a huge contribution once they do what all of us had to - grow up a little.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Gen Xers get nostalgic

A recent article on heralded music from the 1980s and 1990s as the "new classics." The story gives some good insight into what Gen Xers (who came of age in the 80s and 90s) see as their music.

Anyone who has seen the film "The Big Chill" and heard its soundtrack has probably given some thought to what their own Big Chill soundtrack would be. However, while Baby boomers were willing to accept the anthems of their youth as advertising jiggles, skeptical Gen Xers may not be so kind to marketers who try to sell them sneakers using Gen X classic tunes.

Below is the cnn story. By the way, the class albums referred to in the article are most likely being purchased by Gen Xers, because if Gen Yers were interested in these tunes, they'd download them (and it's unlikely Boomers would be interested in Gen X music).

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Generation Y confusion

Are you trying to figure out what it will take to reach a Gen Y audience? Viral marketing may be the answer. Find out more in this article from Microsoft:

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

GenerationXpert to keynote conference

"Rocking the Ages: Marketing to Four Different Generations" will be the keynote address by GenerationXpert Suzanne Kart Wednesday, July 18, at the state conference of the Michigan Society of Association Executives in Frankenmuth, MI.

For more information:

Saturday, July 7, 2007

The myth of the Baby boomer

Apparently, the myth of the Baby boomer experience in the 1960s and 1970s does not jive with reality - and it can't impact the success of your use of nostalgia in marketing to them.

That's according to The Opinionated Marketer blog.

In fact, "Contrary to the general portrait, every Boomer didn't go to college, dodge the draft, and delay marriage. Even among those that did go to college, there were plenty who took accounting rather than sociology, drank beer at frat parties, and got married senior year."

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Kids these days...

Because members of Generation Y have grown up with the internet, they are the most global of generations - and that can be a challenge for marketers.

If you don't understand Gen Y, you don't understand the future. For more information, check out this story from

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Boomers fail at retirement

Although most Boomers expect to retire around age 63, the majority of them will continue working for pay while "retired." The reasons? Staying busy, making ends meet, and affording the "extras" top the list.

Retirement just doesn't seem to stick with this group, and the Boomers won't stay out of the workforce for long.

I also suspect it also has to do with the perception that retirement is for old people - and the Boomers will never consider themselves old. Therefore, if you're marketing a product or service for the 60+ crowd, you'll have to re-think the way you talk to the Boomers.

Here's some more information on retirement and the Boomers:

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Generation X Gender Roles

In 1972 Title IX guaranteed equal educational rights for American males and females. The result is that Gen Xers did not grow up with same strict gender roles as previous generations. Boys took home economics class and girls took wood shop class.

As adults, Gen Xers are also less likely to adhere to strict rules about what tasks are done by women and what are done by men. This is especially true for Gen X parents. Read more in this article from

Friday, June 15, 2007

Gen Xers disgusted with hierarchy

A recent research study shows that companies that don't start hiring - and retaining - Gen X workers soon will be in trouble now that the Babyboomers are starting to retire.

Why can't companies hold onto Gen X workers? An article posted to has the answer: "According to exit polls and research studies, Gen-Xers are disgusted with the mismanagement of top corporate officials, hierarchical politics, corporate ladders, and the lack of job satisfaction and job fulfillment."

And what does this have to do with marketing? If you can't keep Gen X employees, you certainly won't be able to keep Gen X customers.

Library of Congress

The Library of Congress has jumped on board with a great resource for generational marketers.