Tuesday, September 29, 2009

How being like Hannibal Lector can help your career

I’ve been thinking a lot about career issues lately. Mostly because someone very close to me is having career issues – and they aren’t really issues you think you’re going to have mid-career.

A lot of Gen Xers are struggling with this. It’s the square-peg effect. I thought it was just me for a lot a years, but when I talked to other Gen Xers it seems there’s a whole bunch of us who feel like we don’t fit the mold.

What I’ve come up with (through the studies and other writings I’ve found along with my own observations) is that Gen X is simply doing it differently than those who came before us.

Here’s how:
1. We have redefined success. Making money is good, but we’re willing to sacrifice some of that for control over our time.

2. A lot of us a true knowledge workers. Management is a trap. We’d rather write, than watch people write or solve engineering problems rather than watch people solve engineering problems. For a whole bunch of Xers, management is about watching others do the job you love.
As someone who for the last two years has had the career experience she’s always wanted, I thought I’d give a shot at some suggestions for getting the job that’s best for you.

You really do need to figure out what you want. For me, I’m happiest when I get to help others through my job. But I don’t have a job like social worker or doctor or rescue worker. I’m in marketing. I used to ask myself – how does that help other people? Well, it turns out that all those bad experiences I’ve had were useful. A big part of my job right now is helping other marketers with their work (and with dealing with what we will call the “difficult” people at work.)

Find the right boss. A lot of people think it’s all about the work. For me, it’s all about the boss. When I’ve had bosses who understand me, I was happy. When I had bosses who didn’t, I was miserable. The right boss for me may not be the right boss for you. What do you need? A mentor? Someone who’s hands off? A drill sergeant?

Be like Hannibal Lector. No, not a cannibal. Patient. Hannibal Lector was very patient in stalking his prey. Patience at work was one of the hardest things for me to learn. But if you want to accomplish your goals, you need other people to do it. And most of the time it takes time to get them to see your way.


Anonymous said...

good advice. i was hoping i'd be able to eat people i don't like, however. :)

Kristina said...

"For a whole bunch of Xers, management is about watching others do the job you love."

SO true. Yet, that's how you "advance." So what do you do if you want to improve your standard of living and save for retirement and college (i.e. make more money) but don't want to write memos and watch other people do the job you love? It's a rhetorical question because it depends so much on an individual's job and career field. But it IS a problem I've noticed.

Both times I've been something like a manager turned into miserable experiences.

Jennifer Chronicles (jenx67.com) said...

yes, my experience in managing people was about as thrilling as watching paint dry. i think i could manage knowledge workers though, and i do prefer to be one.

have you heard of the gen x meme going around - has gen x meme going around via socialfish.org. the question - has gen x sold out?

Anonymous said...

@JenX - went over to social fish and posted. Thanks for the tip.

Anonymous said...

As a manager I don't enjoy watching others do work that I enjoy but I do enjoy watching them do the work that I don't enjoy. I also enjoy multiplying my efforts through enlisting those I manage or even others that I don't. I enjoy being strategic in my job as a manager. I enjoy mentoring and coaching those who want to grow. And I enjoy learning from them as well. What sucks is when you don't have the right people to manage. That is when management is merely baby sitting.

I think having the right boss is key to being happy at work for anyone, and especially for Generation X. It is one of the number one reasons why people quit..."My boss doesn't get me." Or, "My boss is a jerk."