Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What does successful networking look like to you?

We hear a lot about the importance of building your network. But in the 21st Century Information Age, what’s more important – your “local” network or your “global” network?

As someone who lives in a smallish town in northern Michigan, I’m definitely going to go with the global network.

For years, I worked at growing my local network. I went to business-after-hours, chamber breakfast meetings, you know the drill. I sat on committees and made chit chat with local dignitaries.

It didn’t get me very far.

But about eight years ago I fell in with the leaders in my field (lifelong learning). It was almost a fluke, but I did get noticed. In a matter of a couple years I went from running a local lifelong learning program to writing for national magazines on lifelong learning to consulting with the world’s largest association on lifelong learning to running the marketing department of the same association. Last year, I traveled all across North America (and Hawaii) making presentations and conducting workshops for the leading lifelong learning program executives in the world.

And not a single golf outing made a difference.

I still go to the occasional “Wild Game Dinner” (in northern Michigan, these kind of events raise a lot of money for local charities), but I have to say, I don’t care if the branch manager at our local bank knows my name. And I don’t care if someone doesn’t think I have a “real” job, because I telecommute.

I’m curious what you all think on this topic. Are you still on the local chamber of commerce circuit?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Gen Xers in Retirement

Thanks to my dad for this one.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

An indy entrepreneurial spirit glows in the heart of a former industry town

I live in a smallish town in northern Michigan. The economy is depressed - and the autoworkers have a hard time finding jobs.

However, although the media is constantly reporting how Michigan needs to recruit "high tech manufacturing jobs" to the state, a more interesting thing is happening. The Gen Xers are doing their own thing.

I write a lot about Jeff Gordinier's book X Saves the World - and Gordinier's assertion that Xers are "micro" and "indy" in their approach to work. That's what's happening in my town. Things are supposedly so bad - and yet pretty much everyone I know has a thriving career. I believe it's because most everyone I know is a Gen Xer who never really bought into the Industrial Age model of work (even if we did have to tolerate it for the early part of our careers.)

My husband recently started his own consulting business - and he's got more work than he (almost) can handle. Another guy I know has a thriving design business. Another gal I know does, too. There's also these folks. And these. The Xers have even started their own "business after hours," because the chamber one wasn't really jiving with what the Xers wanted. Even our State Representative is an Xer.

As Xers, we're often not all that great at speaking up. We kind of have this thing where we don't think we can change your mind, so we don't bother trying. And I think it hurts us. So when the media says everything is terrible, we don't bother correcting them. Today, I am correcting them.

The truth is, if you have a 21st Century Information Age mindset, things are probably going okay for you.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Why's everyone so nasty?

It seems lately I haven’t had a lot of time to blog. And it’s sad, because it really is one of my favorite things to do. But since I have five minutes, I thought I’d pose the question – does anyone else notice how many angry people there seems to be running around lately?

Blogger extraordinaire Laurie Ruettimann recently wrote a post about a nasty email she got from someone who was freaking out about Laurie’s opinion of French manicures. I’ve also had my share of haters (browse my blog, it won’t take long to find one.) And you can’t even watch The View without that annoying Elisabeth Hasselbeck yelling at you about how Obama hasn’t cleaned up the steaming pile of poop that Bush left yet.

So what are your thoughts? And please don’t say it’s the economy or unemployment. I know that if you’re reading this, chances are that you went to college – and if you went to college, chances are that you have a job. What’s really going on here?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Auntie Helen

I want to tell you about Helen Wilkoszewski. She was my aunt and she died last month. She was 92.

Everyone called her Auntie Helen. All my friends did, for sure. In fact, I doubt they even knew her last name. But they did know her clever wit and her no-nonsense advice.

Auntie Helen had a way of throwing you a zinger when you weren’t expecting it. Like the time she told me she was happy that she married my uncle and that she didn’t marry her old boyfriend Chester.

“I heard he was horny,” she said.

Auntie Helen liked to cook, garden, and give people a hard time. But she walked the walk. Her house was immaculate, her makeup was always in place, and we won’t even get started on her rose garden. Beautiful.

For the record, she was the youngest child of Polish immigrants. She was bilingual in both the spoken and written word. She worked in a Detroit factory during WWII building planes. And she was my Godmother. She didn’t have any kids or grandkids of her own, but she was my grandmother (the only one I ever knew, at least.)

I’m going to try to write more about her after some time has passed. It still hurts right now. But I have some great stories to share. Like how she would call my good friend from college “the little Jewish boy” – even after I reminded her that he’s almost 40, the father of three, and COO of his own company.

“Yes. That little Jewish boy always was a good Joe,” was her response.

To my friends who knew her, if you have any memories of her, please feel free to share them.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Rock stars and super agents

I often tell my buddies that I want to be a rock star in lifelong learning (the field I work in.) I recently saw that my online Gen X buddy Jason Seiden apparently wants to be a super agent (and the video below is what my 9-year-old daughter would call the most awesome of awesomeness). What do you want to be?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

We need to stop looking and women's success like it's 1985

Two articles that recently discussed women in business this week made me want to puke. The first one is from the Wall Street Journal and asked the question “What’s holding back women entrepreneurs?” It says that although women are starting their own businesses at much higher rates than men – the women-owned businesses are not as big as the men-owned businesses. Problem #1 (and yes, they called it a problem)? Men tend to start businesses to be the “boss” and women start businesses to be personally challenged and balance work and family.

The second article in Time Magazine touts the accomplishments of three Wall Street leaders who are women who were underestimated by men.

What I find most appalling about both these articles is that they set the standard of success/accomplishment/whatever on how the women compare to the men. It’s so 1980s Working Girl that I have the urge to put on my acid wash jacket.

Let’s be honest here – if more women were willing to do what the top dog male executives and CEOs did to get to their position, then more women would be top dog executives and CEOs. A lot of women make choices that impact their income/status – me included. I worked part time for 5 years when my girls were younger. I don’t regret a minute of it – it was MY choice. I wasn’t being held back by The Man.

I would like to see an article about the strides that men have made in parenting. Today’s dads spend significantly more time with their children than their own dads spent with them - and they wish they could spend even more time with them. Does it impact their careers? Of course it does. My husband and a lot of his friends took paternity leave after their children were born – and they paid the price at work. The old boys don’t like it when you do that.

The issue here is not a gender issue – it’s a generational issue. “Being challenged” and “balancing work and family” are legitimate reasons to start a business. I’ve argued for a while that Gen Xers don’t define success the same way the Boomers do. If “bigger” is the only measurement of success – this myth that women are somehow not equal will persist.

If you want to achieve bigness, there’s a way to go – and both men and women can do it. If you want to achieve something else, there’s another way to go – and again it’s an option for both men and women. We don’t all have to be the same, but we do all have the same opportunity.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Of pushing 40 and turning my back on mean girls

A few weeks ago I had lunch with an old friend of mine. We don’t see each other as much as I like. Kids, jobs, and husbands seem to keep us both so busy. But when I do see her, we always have the most interesting conversations.
We talked about how as we’re both around the hub of 40, our approach to friendship is different. When I was younger, I let me friends choose me. But now, I choose my friends.
When I was younger, I had great friends – but I also had a few who did not treat me right. It was hard to get out of the friendships. Now, I have all great friends.
This evolution occurred in both my friend and I. It happened to each of us separate from the other, so I’ve been wondering if it’s a common experience. Have any of you gone through this?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Xers will never grow up to be Boomers

Ever notice how Boomers seem to think everyone over 40 is a Boomer? It makes sense, because "age" is a big issue for Boomers. They'll never grow old.

If you are a Boomer reading this, before you get annoyed, we Xers have our own issue. It's being cool. We don't mind being old, as long as we stay cool. In fact, the Wall Street Journal recently ran an article that discussed why parents all the sudden are cool. I thought to myself when I read it, "Duh, parents are 'cool' today for the same reason that parents in the 80's were 'young' - it's our generation's issue."

But back to my original observation. The reason I started thinking about it was I read this blog post that sited a New York Times study on supporters of the Tea Party. The blog post said "people over 40," but the original article actually said tea party supporters tend to be over 45. It may not seem like a big difference, but it is when you consider the oldest Gen Xers are 45.

Tammy Erickson, herself a Boomer, wrote a great article on Gen X leadership for the Harvard Business Review. In it, she writes that each generation reacts to the excess of the previous generation - and that Boomers' excess is ideology. Therefore it makes sense that Xers would not support the Tea Party with the same force as Boomers.

I think this is an example of the quiet leadership style that Jeff Gordinier describes in this video. I think we'll continue to hear that Millennials are leading on the path to change in the 21st Century, when it's actually the Gen Xers who are doing so. Even Penelope Trunk, blogger extraordinaire and lover of Millennials, says so.

I'd love to hear what you think. Are Gen Xers taking a new path - or just following the Boomers and waiting for the Millennials to show us where to go?

Monday, April 26, 2010

The truth about taking a dare.

I was visiting Jason Seiden's website recently, and he had written something that has become one of my favorite new sayings: Dare To Fail Spectacularly.

I think that line stuck with me so much, because I don't believe you can truly be successful right now by working for the establishment. I don't think it'll be like this forever. But right now it is.

William A. Draves and Julie Coates write in their ground-breaking book Nine Shift that what's happening now parallels what happened 100 years ago. Back then we were transitioning from the Agrarian Age into the Industrial Age - and now we are transitioning from the Industrial Age into the Information Age. And in the years 2008-2012 is when the turning point happens.

Therefore, if the establishment is in a transition, it's dysfunctional.

I've seen this up close and personal lately. My husband Jeff Kart - a nationally recognized environmental journalist - has had to make a choice recently. He had a "day job" at a newspaper (quite retro, I know) and he is writing for national news outlets like the Discovery networks' Planet Green and Treehugger sites (you can see his work here). But the demand for his work got so great that he had to choose where he wanted to work. So he chose Discovery networks.

It's a little scary to give up the "day job," because even though we're Gen Xers, we still grew up with a bit of the "company man" philosophy. But it's so clear that the future of news is not in paper, but online. However, most newspaper editors seem to forget that they're in the news business and not the paper business.

So Seiden's philosophy really hit home for me. I personally took the dare a few years ago - and now my life partner is on the same path. And I've never been happier.

What do you think? Have you ever taken the dare? What did it mean for you?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

What WILL employment look like in the 21st Century?

I've been thinking a lot lately about what our employment will look like in the 21st Century. I am one of the fortunate few who not only have a job (with insurance) that I love - but I also am part of a staff of people that get along and respect each other at all levels of the organization. But my career hasn't always been this way.

I know so many people who have to work for really bad bosses. And I think that's the problem. People don't leave bad jobs, they leave bad bosses. Which makes me think - wouldn't it be better for a lot of people to just become independent consultants?

Even though I do have a full-time job, I telecommute. I really do work on my own terms - when I want, where I want, listening to the Rachael Ray Show, if I want. If I still worked at my old job, my bosses would probably be annoyed that I spend my first couple hours of the day working in my pajamas (they frowned upon it when you didn't get dressed for work.)

I guess I just wonder how long people are going to put up with the corporate life. Or maybe I'm completely wrong. It wouldn't be the first time that my thoughts on a issue weren't mainstream.

What do you think? If you could be your own boss - would you? And if you would, but aren't, why?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Does fairness even exist?

I've been giving some thought today to the idea of "fairness." I started thinking about it when someone responded to something online with "In all fairness, I should be able to respond." I couldn't help but think - tough, life's not fair.

I think a lot of Xers don't believe in fairness. It's not that fairness is a bad thing - it's just not something that happens a lot. Other generations, at least to me, seem to expect fairness more than we do.

So I thought I'd get your input. How do you feel about fairness?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tamara Erickson is a Boomer who "gets it"

I recently had the opportunity to review Tamara Erickson's latest work on generational issues - What's Next, Gen X? As a longtime fan of Erickson's, I was really excited to read this.

I know there are not a lot of people who want to read about Gen X anymore - unless it's something really negative like how we will die in squalor waiting for the Boomers to retire. However, Erickson - who is a Boomer - argues just the opposite. She writes that "the way businesses create value is changing, essentially in ways that are more closely aligned with X'er preferences and sensibilities."

These ways include Xer's putting less emphasis on being told what you should believe and more emphasis on transparency.

One way Erickson really keys in to the Gen X perspective is her discussion of the way Gen Xers form "tribes" - and how that is one of our defining strengths. We've always known that Xers are fiercely loyal to their friends - Erickson shows how that's impacting our adult professional lives, too.

I was also impressed that Erickson was not afraid to call us out for simply walking away from professional situations when we're pissed off - and not explaining why. I agree that there are times that if we did a little more talking - and less walking - we may able to resolve situations quicker.
As far as downsides, I think Erickson doesn't offer enough concrete new advice as to HOW Xers can take our strengths and make them work for us. I would have like to have seen more case studies and quotes from successful Xers who are making it work - and less from Xers who are complaining.

But overall - I loved this book and would recommend. Don't let Erickson's Boomer status scare you off - she "gets it."

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Cobra Kai are just not good enough for the new Millennium

My kids and I have a hard time finding movies we all like. So I try to introduce them to films I love that I think they will love too (because if I watch one more episode of Sponge Bob, I'm going to lose it).

So here are their ratings:

1) Sound of Music - thumbs up
2) Splash - thumbs up
3) Chitty Chitty Bang Bang - thumbs way, way down
4) The Karate Kid - huge thumbs up (had to smile in the final fight scene when my older daughter asked me "Do you think Daniel will win?" )

However, since the original Karate Kid was just not flashy enough - and the Cobra Kai just not menacing enough - it needs to be remade.

So what do you think about this one? And what do think will be the next remake - maybe Miley Cyrus in "Pretty in Pink" with Billy Ray as the drunk dad? (Nah, he couldn't be drunk these days. Probably just sad. But I'm sure Miley will run around in a pink tube top instead of quirky pink sweaters.)

If you're a regular reader, you know already know how I feel about these things. But what the heck, maybe this time someone can convince me that "new" is "improved" - and we should forget the 80s.