Sunday, October 26, 2008

Gen Xers need trusted advisors

You see a lot written about the need to find good mentors. However, I think it’s just as important – if not more important – to find yourself some trusted advisors.

By this I mean people you do not work with, but you can talk to about the harder things you deal with at work. I have found these people to be more important to my career success than anything else.

Your trusted advisors should be people who not only could look you in the eye and say, “You’re doing this wrong, here’s what you need to do,” but also those who you could say the same to. The key is being equals.

In a mentoring relationship, the mentor is the wise one and the mentee is the empty vessel to be filled with the mentor’s wisdom. I’m not against mentoring relationships. However, the combination of a changing workplace and Gen Xers and Ys coming into prominence make peer-to-peer advising more effective. If you’re have a problem in today’s workplace, a political move from 15 years ago simply is not going to cut it.

I believe that Gen Xers really are the best at this kind of relationship building and career advising because, frankly, we’re outcomes based. Recently, JenX67 made a comment on Penelope Trunk’s blog that really sums up my feelings on the topic the best:

You forgot one major, huge glaring thing, Penelope. Generation Y will in
most cases report to Generation X, and this and this alone ensures a better
life for them than we have had. They will have outwardly focused bosses
who care
about their work/life balance; who will strive to give them
flexibility. Who
will let them bring their kids to work when a record ice
storm closes down all
the schools and every other business in town. They
will find innovative ways to
keep THE staff (never "THEIR" staff — gosh! How
I hated that!) happy, b/c happy
workers, they know, produce more and are
more creative.

Generation X will worry to a fault that Generation Y is
gets the credit
they deserve. Generation X will transform that helicopter
edge into mentoring.
The apathy of Gen X will be replaced by rational
discussion with Gen Y. Gen X
will seek more meaningful, authentic
collaboration with Gen Y. They know by
experience how much they had to offer
and how much was dismissed. It's hard to
say how many creative ideas
corporate America, but even more so, GOVERNMENT,
suffered the loss of,
because Generation X was so successfully silenced.

Generation X will not
inflict upon Generation Y what we have had to
endure. Generation Y will
never have to support our egoes. On the contrary, Gen
X will seek to equip
the workforce with all the tools they need, and trust that
Gen Y will
surpass them in some areas. Gen X will be OK with that, because this
generation does not worry about becoming irrelevant. The absence of
recognition sent us on a search for real meaning, and we found it in our
families. We'll gladly turn the reigns over to Gen Y before the sun has
completely set. As Howe and Strauss have indicated, the high for Generation
X is
in retirement, and so we won't be lingering or dying in the chair.
Thank God for


Kristina said...

Good point. If you approach an older colleague with a work related problem, that person has baggage and their own axe to grind. A trusted equal will be able to see the issue more clearly.

Jennifer Chronicles ( said...

Thank you for your comment on my blog, and for posting my comment here! This is some great advice you've offered. It's hard to find someone who will tell you the truth. After 18 years in the workforce, I have ONE trusted advisor. Thanks, again!

Anonymous said...

Yes but...

I agree with jenx67 in the large measure, but there is always the issue of bitterness to consider. The ol' payback. Most of us are bigger people and better managers than the senior staff we endured for years. But many Gen Xers see their shot at management as their chance to get back a little of their own.

Like the bullied kid who grows up to be the bully, some of our generation still have that mindset that we were "raised" with in the workplace. Will we all rise above it?

I sure hope so!

Anonymous said...


I don't know that Xers will become the proverbial bullies as much as we'll talk trash. What I mean is, I've noticed a lot of Xers will talk among their peers about these "punk kids" and "why can't they just figure it out like we did?" - but then do the right thing in their actions.

Therefore, even among ourselves, it may seem like we're going to take our revenge - but then we can't bring ourselves to do it.

I have a colleague who's 35. We were co-teaching a seminar. Over lunch, she went on a tirade to me about Gen Y and the usual stuff that's said about them. And then, you know what, when we were back in the seminar, guess who was sitting with the one Gen Y students mentoring her on how to get ahead at her job?

We talk tough, but we're softies on the inside.