Friday, June 27, 2008

Road trip

Like every Gen Xer does these days, I will be taking a family vacation for a week. I'm sure I'll have many generational camping observations to share when I return!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Lost Boys, The Coreys, what more could a girl ask for?

It may be straight to video, but I'm going to see it. Already put in on my NetFlix!

Boomers take over the Net

Online Media Daily is reporting that Boomers may use the internet more than younger more tech-savvy people. Apparently they are using it for "fun and interaction." The story is the result of a study released by AARP. That was news to me.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Is Generation X saving the "neighborhood"?

Recently, I wrote a post regarding whether Gen Xers will jump on the wagon back into dense urban cities with the Boomers and the Millennials. Futurist William Draves says that there is no saving the suburbs, which got me kind of bummed. The reason why? I associate "suburbs" with "neighborhoods" - because that's where I grew up and that's what we had.

I think a lot of Gen Xers associate "cities" with bleak, dying, crack-infested places because that's what a lot of cities had turned into when we were growing up in the 70s and 80s. I think that's why a lot of us have the same gut reaction: Why would I want to move my kids to the "city"?

Gen X writer Kathy English wrote a great article on what "neighborhood" means. She talked about what hers was like when she was growing up.

In my current neighborhood, there have been a lot of Xers who moved in with their kids in the last five years (five Gen X families - including mine - on the same street with kids under 10 years old). And now my neighborhood feels a lot more like the one I grew up in.

My kids run down the street to their friends house (actually across everyone's lawns, because we don't have side walks - nobody complains) to play. Sometimes they come home when they get pissed off at their friends, but then go back 15 minutes later after they get over it. Everyone knows who the mean old lady is and stays off her grass. And one of my daughter's favorite things to do is stand on our lawn and yell "Isaiah!" and see if the neighbor's dog comes running over (he usually does).

So my point is that Xers are bringing neighborhood back. And neighborhood has nothing to do with urban, suburban, or rural. It makes sense, because we are not the workoholics that the Boomers were at our age, so we have more than just work friends. We have neighbors.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

New Urbanism and the Generations

I've seen a lot lately about how Boomers and Millennials are abandoning the suburbs in favor of a more condensed, urban life. Haven't seen much about where Gen X stands on the subject.

When I was younger, I thought I'd move to a city and live in a loft and just be cool. But then I found a place - a smallish town of about 30,000 people 2 hours north of Detroit - that I just love. It's definitely not urban, but it's not country, either. Before I had kids, I liked it because the people here like to have a good time. Now that I have kids, I like it because it's just a little slower pace here - and the people still like to have a good time.

So I don't live in an urban metropolis or a suburb. I don't have a fancy car, but I do have a pretty big house that I love. I don't want to live in an urban metropolis or a suburb. I would like to take mass transit, but I don't want to live in a teeny tiny house in order to do it.

So Xers, what do you think we will do while all the Boomers and Millennials go to the big cities? Will we stay in our kinda big houses and turn into someone like that old guy the Brady Bunch met in the ghost town on their way to the Grand Canyon? Hanging on to our neighborhood col-du-sac and rambling crazy talk about going to Target in the old days to buy stuff. What do you think?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Gotta love our Gen X men

Last night my husband and I went to see Sex and the City. Yes. My husband. He was the only dude there. It was most noticeable when a bare male butt was up on the screen and he said out loud, "I didn't need to see that" and we heard a chorus of female giggles.

The situation got me thinking about our Gen X men. I'm not sure they are getting the credit they deserve for helping Gen X women have it all. They are confident enough in their masculinity to change diapers and have wives with equal career status (and go see Sex and the City). And yet they kind of get the shaft when it comes to taking leave from work to tend to family matters.

Kristina commented recently on this blog that men need to have equal flexibility in their work to also focus on parenting. Most of the Gen X dads I know took substantial time off after the births of their children. And they paid for it at the office. Some even took grief from their own fathers as to why they would want to do such a thing.

So lets give our guys a high-five and hope the next generation of parents will benefit for the their willingness to stand up for their kids and take their FMLA days regardless of what the boss thinks.

P.S. Sex and the City was kind of lame. But my husband liked it. Maybe it's not such a chick flick after all.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Blame an Xer for this

You know you think it's funny, slacker!

Monday, June 16, 2008

What I learned in 2006 and 2007

This is the last in my series of posts on what Gen Y can learn from the Gen X work experience.

I would say that 2006 was the worst year of my career – and 2007 was the best.
In 2006 I was up for a faculty job at the community college where I worked. I had done everything I was told: Adjunct teaching for five years, regular meetings with the key decision makers, ass kissing. And then I didn’t get it. My inside source told me it had nothing to do with me, there was political in-fighting going on and I was the innocent victim (whatever that means.)

I was seriously depressed over this. I gained 20 pounds. I hated myself for falling victim to the “if I pay my dues, I can get what I want from my employer” mentality. Then two things happened that started the ball rolling for me in another direction.

First, I pitched an idea to my local newspaper for a weekly column and they agreed to publish it. The second (and much more significant) thing was that an association I was involved in hired me to do some consulting. I still had to keep my job at the community college (which by that time had become quite a nightmare after three new bosses in three years), but I had a couple distractions. I was still depressed, because I didn’t think my distractions would really lead anywhere, but I was a little better.

Fast forward six months. My “day job” was getting worse by the minute. And just when I thought there was no hope for me, something amazing happened. I was offered a full-time telecommuting job with the association that hired me to do consulting. Never saw it coming. The job paid well and the work was creative and exciting. And I would work with a whole group of people who were a lot like me and appreciated my quirks.

So what’s the lesson here? Dreams do come true? I’m still not that much of a Pollyanna. The lesson I learned was it’s never over or hopeless when it comes to careers. And sometimes you have to get hit over the head to see what you really should be doing. Had I gotten that teaching job, I never would have agreed to do the consulting and would not have even been considered for my current job. I would be a part of that “political” academic environment (whatever that means) and I still wouldn’t be all that happy.

I can’t say if everything hits the fan again that I won’t be upset. At the same time, I will never put myself in a position where someone else decides if I get to do the job I want. I have the best “day job” ever now – but I also have other ways to do what I love (like this blog) that I have complete control over.

This experience I had is extremely common. I know I guy who’s going through it right now. When you’re in the midst of it, it’s hard to “feel” like you’re going to get over it and to the next level. I heard Penelope Trunk say, “If you want a new job, stop looking and start blogging.” I think that’s great advice. You have to take control – even if you’re not feeling up to it. The only difference between the winners and the losers is the winners got up the last time they were knocked down.

In the end, here’s what you can learn from the Generation X: The key to success is getting back up, dusting yourself off, keep going.

GenerationXpert recommends

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

What I learned in 2001

In 2001 I had a baby. And although I was already 30, I was the first of my friends to do so.

Here’s the thing. I had always saw myself is the hip, urban, Sex and the City-type gal. Before I had a kid, I figured I would just bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan.

However, what I found was that I liked my job, but not enough to be away from my daughter for 40 hours because of it. I also wasn’t interested in being a housewife. I was distraught because until then I thought it was all-or-nothing.

Then something unexpected happened. A 20-hour-a-week job as an administrator came open at the college where I worked. It was two pay grades higher than what I was making. I got the job, worked half the hours, and made about ¾ of what I made before.

Some of my other friends had babies in the two years that followed. Some stayed home full time. Some worked full time. Some quit their jobs and freelanced.

When I was in high school in the 80s, I always thought when I grew up I’d have to go get one of those red suits with the big shoulder pads and work my tail off in an office 80 hours a week (like that chick in Working Girl.) What I learned in 2001, is that you don’t have to settle. You can have it your way – whatever that is.

That’s a legacy the Gen X gals like me are leaving for the Gen Y gals like Kristin. And while all the women who followed our Boomer sisters into the workforce can thank them for knocking down that door, it is the Gen Xers who are laying the groundwork for a true work/life balance.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What I learned in 1996

In 1996, I finally got a job that was of a "livable" wage -$25k/year. I leased a Dodge Neon and thought I was on top of the world.

That job was a career shift for me. I left journalism to be a marketing director for a local association. Interestingly enough, one of the reasons I was able to get that job was that one woman on the hiring committee was the mother of someone I worked with at my college newspaper, The State News.

Anyway, when I started working there, our executive director was a 50-year-old Boomer woman. She was great to me. Mentored me. Was nice to me. And then she was fired.

I sat on the hiring committee for the next executive director. The guy we chose seemed awesome. Results oriented (he said). And then when he started working for us, it was clear this guy was, frankly, mean. However, I have to thank him. Because of him, I learned about Generation X.

It seemed that everytime I talked to this guy, he either didn't understand me, or took what I was saying the wrong way. It was frustrating. An HR friend of mine said, "Oh, that's because you're Gen X." And so I started reading on the topic.

So what did I learn here?

1) There are cool Boomers who are willing to lend a hand up to younger workers.

2) Contacts are everything. If you want a job, knowing someone on the inside can make all the difference. Even if it's your friend's mom.

3) If you are a trail blazer (like my first boss at the association), it can get you fired.

4) People lie on their job interviews. And the true psychos are good at it.

5) There is a generational communication gap that causes workplace conflict - and we can't expect "other people" to take care of it. At 25 years old, I wasn't far enough in my career to make big change. But I could learn to operate within a system I had no part in setting up.
In retrospect, what I learned was the Gen X revolution that started in the late 80s and early 90s was not a revolution at all - it was an evolution.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

What I learned in 1993

I graduated from Michigan State with a journalism degree in 1993. I wanted to write about entertainment – film in particular. I worked at the largest college newspaper in the US at that time and we won the Pacemaker award when I was there, which is kind of the equivalent of a Pulitzer for college papers. And I was (and still am) a good writer. And when I graduated, I made $5/hour in reporter positions for the next three years. It sucked.

Here is where my troubles with the Boomer mindset started. Many Boomer editors (all that I came in contact with) said you had to have “hard news” experience (i.e. covering murders, court cases, etc) in order to get a job as an entertainment journalist. I do not have the stomach for that kind of work. I was a good entertainment journalist. But this did not matter. I needed hard news experience. I still think this is ridiculous, because entertainment reporting and murder coverage are two different animals.

I still would apply for newspaper entertainment writing jobs. I even got an interview at the Cedar Rapids Gazette in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for an entertainment writing job. They had me critique their entertainment section as part of the interview. They used all my ideas and then hired a Boomer with “hard news” experience.

In 1993, the web was not what it is today. And I could not afford a computer on $5/hour. If it were 2008, I would have just started blogging. But there were no blogs then.

So the first thing I learned in 1993 was that a set of rules were in place. If they didn’t make sense – oh well. And you couldn’t get the cool job unless you suffered first – talent was not really all that important.

The second thing I learned in 1993 was that working in an office was a lot like going to high school. And this startled me. I had just come out of four years at a really cool Big 10 school where “you could be you” and people were very accepting. The work world was very “political” (which in high school we called being in a “clique”), you were treated like a child (big brother was constantly looking over your shoulder), and you were judged on behavior-related issues rather than outcomes (at work that meant time at the desk, in high school that meant sitting quietly while your teacher pontificated).

Even though I did not know I was a member of Generation X at the time, this is where the framework for my stealth behavior at work started. This is where I started to learn how to take a beating and how I could quietly get what I wanted. But it was only the start. It took me years before I was actually able to be a successful stealth operator.

My regular readers do not have to worry that I will be writing blog entries about my career for each year since 1993. My plan is to pick a few significant years – and 1993 was one of them.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Who rules the (corporate) world?

I have heard Boomers say on frequent occassions that Gen Xers are waiting for them to die so that they can take over the workforce. Sorry guys, it's too late. We already did (and we didn't tell anyone).

After years of having our hands slapped for questioning what was going on in the workforce (for instance, why are we being evaluated for time spent at the desk rather than output of work?), Gen Xers went stealth. We'll talk frankly to each other, but if you are not an Xer, that smile and nod you are receiving does not mean we agree with your well-crafted monologue on how to synergize the office. It means we're planning on doing things our way anyway.

Let's see: I learned from Jeff Gordinier that the real power players are Xers. The founders of Google. The guys. Even Saturday Night Live is representative of what WE think is funny. Oh, and Will Ferrell - he's also an Xer.

The challenge here for Boomers, is that we often will not engage. We won't play "let's brainstorm," because our experience has been that Boomers do what Boomers want anyway. The challenge for Gen Y is often they can't figure out what the heck we're doing and how we get it done, because we're not used to telling.

This is the first post I am doing in a series on the Gen X work experience, how we got where we are, and what Gen Y (and maybe even Boomers) can learn from us. I got the idea from Kristen, a Gen Y who said her generation has trouble learning from the early Gen X experience in the workforce because we don't write about it (which probably goes back to the whole stealth concept). So I'm going to try to make that happen.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Is Generation X changing the world?

Today, Sara Vollmer, who is participating in a four-day seminar in Cleveland that I am teaching, shared this video of author Jeff Gordinier (Generation X Saves The World) with me. I was enthralled. What do you think? Is he correct?