Saturday, July 16, 2011

Something I didn't know about Gen Y...

I was hanging out with my Gen Y friends and my Gen X husband last night and I found out the most interesting thing about this cohort - they never really went through a phase where they were convinced they had AIDS.

In the 80s, when I was a teenager, we were told over and over that if we had sex, we would die from AIDS. So in the 90s, as a 20-something gal, that was always looming.

So it was me and the Gen Ys on the deck at the pub and my husband was in the restroom and they were talking about getting tested for VD and I said, "Oh yeah, I always thought I had AIDS until I finally had an AIDS test when I was pregnant with my first daughter."

They all looked at me like I was a slut. So I qualified that I hadn't been with that many people, but everyone thinks they have AIDS when they're younger.

Apparently, this isn't the case for Gen Y.

But it is for Gen X. In fact, when my husband returned to the table I said, "Did you ever think you had AIDS, like in the 90s?"

"Of course," he said.

So I'm sharing this clip from one of my favorite Gen X movies about our formative cohort experience. Did any of you go through this?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Gen Y - Good neighbors but crazy home renovators

You see a lot written about how Gen Y doesn't buy into homeownership. But I have observed something very interesting going on in my neighborhood - after five or so years of Boomers moving out and Xers moving in, we now appear to be in a new phase - Gen Y is moving in.

I have Gen Y neighbors on both sides of me - and two more families moved in down the street - and another one around the corner. We still are mostly Xers along the lane at this point (and a few Boomer hold outs) - but the Gen Y influx is fascinating.

I'm not surprised they're moving into my neighborhood, because it's a totally awesome place to live. It's next to the elementary school, walking distance to the grocery store and a couple restaurants, easy access to the highway, and lots of kids running around. What's fascinating me is how much these youngsters (granted most of them are less than 10 years younger than me - but I digress) are working on their houses.

They guy next door is putting in a hot tub (not hiring someone to put it in, but putting it in.) The guy down the street is roofing his house - we wave to him up there everytime we walk by. The guy next to him is redoing his landscaping. All three of them are probably out there working right now.

A few years ago, the Xers in the neighborhood (myself included) did a lot of remodeling, etc., but it did not seem like we put in the actual labor hours. We delegated (thanks Ken-Do).

I don't know if there's something there or not. I'm sure part of all this home improvement is Gen Y's desire for customization. But maybe we have a new generation of Tim "The Toolman" Taylors on our hands. What do you think?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Brand new look - same feisty GenerationXpert

I decided to change up the look of my blog. It's been four years since I started this thing and I'm no longer trying to pose as Ms. Professionalism. I thought pink better reflected who I am today. That would be someone who's just trying to be herself.

Four years ago I still had that mindset that you had to be a certain way to succeed. Today I know the only way for me to succeed is be authentic. And guess what. I like pink. And I don't like wearing pant suits. And occassionally I call my boss "dude." But I also work really hard and I don't see things the same as everyone else - which is definitely a benefit in this Century (being to see things the same as everyone else was a benefit in the last Century and that's probably one of the reasons I ran into trouble.)

I think one thing Gen X women have done is make it okay to be feminine. We don't have to dress like guys or use sports jargon to get ahead (we can, if that's what we like - but we don't HAVE to.) I was never good at playing a "man's game" at work. It's interesting how much better you do when you don't play a game.

How have you changed in the last four years?

Monday, June 13, 2011

The key to managing your boss: Let her be the first to cry uncle

I had a great week last week. I was teaching a 4-day seminar and was interacting with some really great marketing minds. One question that came up in the end was what to do about a boss who is so paranoid when the marketing director works at home one day a week, the marketing director is required to meet with the boss her next day on site and go over everything she did at home.

My advice: suck it up and just do it.

Recently, Seth Godin said this a little more eloquently. He said that being irrational and being unreasonable are not the same thing. He said being right isn’t always the goal.

The reason I told the marketing director to just have the meeting is because there is nothing to be gained by not doing it. Is it annoying? Yes. Should the boss realize that the marketing director is doing her job because the work is done? Of course. Will arguing with the boss or getting mad at the boss make the boss say, “Oh, you are right. I’m being annoying and silly”?

However, meeting with the boss enthusiastically each week may actually help. An email the day before she works from home and a follow up email after she meets with the boss may help even more. If the ultimate goal is to get the boss to back off, the boss needs to trust you. And if it takes six months of meetings, just do it.

Let be the boss be the first to cry uncle.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

"I know a guy..."

A few months back, my boss asked me if I could help him get a baseball cap embroidered with our company logo for a presentation he was doing.

“Sure,” I said. “I know a guy.”

My boss chuckled a bit and said “You sound like you’re from Rhode Island” (that’s where he’s from.)

I’m not from Rhode Island, but another industrial state – Michigan. However, I don’t think it’s growing up in the rust belt that developed my “I know a guy” attitude. I think it’s being a Gen Xer.

Gen Xers are great network builders. I’m not talking about teams, but networks. We don’t always want to work in groups (of which I think Millennials have really mastered the art of.) But we have developed intensely loyal networks that really are responsible for our biggest successes.

Obviously, everyone writes about networking these days. Building your tribe. Yada yada. I’m not trying to shed light on a brilliant new discovery. However, I’ve just noticed that while there’s so much hype about unemployment, I seem to be surrounded by a whole bunch of successful Xers who got that way by depending on no-one but themselves and their network. Not the government. Not their companies.

So I thought I’d put together some of my thoughts on the issue.

1. The reason you want to have a network is to avoid the douches out there. Kind of like the no assholes rule. It’s hard to work with a douche. And there sure are a lot of them.

2. The other reason you want to have a network is so you can be of service to others who know YOU are not a douche.

3. Your network does not need to be made up of your best friends. You don’t have to be on a bowling team with your network (although my husband has had quite a bit of luck with this tactic.) You do need a network of people who are relatively smart, relatively talented, also connected to other non-douches, willing to help you out, and who you are willing to help out.

4. You need to be loyal to your network. For instance, I work in marketing. I try to stick with the same vendors when at all possible. This is very helpful when you screw up and they help save your butt. They are willing to do this, because you have consistently sent them business.

5. You need to recommend those in your network to each other – and use your network to vet new people for your network. The hat guy I “knew” was someone I met through my network. This time was a small job. But business is a long-term thing. He helped me make a rockin’ cool hat that my boss loved. I won’t forget it.

So keep that in mind the next time you are at a networking event. You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room. Or the richest. Or even the most successful. You just don’t want to be the douche.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Tina Fey throws like a girl

I was watching Oprah recently and she had on former Saturday Night Live comics including Tina Fey and Jane Curtin. What I thought was so interesting is how they described being a woman working on SNL.

Now before I go any farther, I know that Boomer women knocked down doors for Xer women like me. Yet, as a 40-year-old Xer woman, I can tell you that there is often this sense from Boomer women that they knocked the doors down and we had a lovely stroll down career lane.

It’s simply not true.

What struck me as interesting on Oprah was the way Curtin discussed being a woman on the show and her words were all about struggle and clawing and going head-to-head with the man. Fey, however, said that she and her other female writers and comics basically wrote for the other women in the room and that’s where skits like the Maya Rudolph’s Oprah sketches originated. Interestingly, the result was comedy that was appealing to both men and women - it just happened that there were enough women laughing in the writers' room to get the skits approved to go on air.

I think that’s the major thing Xer women have brought to the table in terms of career success – throwing like a girl. What I mean is not trying to compete like a guy. I didn’t say we don’t compete. I’m just saying that Xer women don’t necessarily think you need to act like a guy to get ahead. What Tina Fey’s crew of comediennes did at SNL was help each other out.

So, ladies, next time you walking into your job, you can thank a Boomer for getting the door open for you – but you can think an Xer that you no longer have to wear a red power suit with 80-pound should pads to walk through.

Monday, March 21, 2011

What we can learn from the Oscars - yes, I know it's really late to be writing this

I've been meaning to post something about this year's Oscars being symbolic in two ways regarding Generation X.

The first is what I see as a parallel between The King's Speech winning best picture over The Social Network and Driving Miss Daisy winning the Oscar over Do The Right Thing in 1990. Both winners were about the past. Both losers were about significant events happening in the present. And I believe both are symbolic of the changing of the guard.

More significant to me was the casting of hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway. It's not that they are not talented or smart. It's that the Oscar gig takes more experience than they have. I don't have to write about how it didn't work - that's been done. It's that it's really hard to replace a seasoned Boomer with a green Millennial. Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin had that gig last year. They are Boomer Kings. Think about all the Gen Xers who could have done that gig this year, still pulled a younger demographic, and not bombed.
I'm voting for Xers Drew Barrymore (born 1975) and Robert Downey Jr. (born 1965) - or maybe Matt Damon (born 1970) and Sarah Silverman (born 1970). Who would you pick?

Monday, February 14, 2011

You may not want to hear it, but you really need to get some Gen Xers on your team

I've been writing about Gen X for a long time. It started out as a response to all the "slacker" articles that were written about my generation in the last century. Seriously, even when they were trying to compliment us, they'd still find a way to call us slackers.

Today, Gen X is largely ignored. Filmmaker Sharon Hyman even says she had trouble finding people who were still writing about Gen X while doing research on this cohort. But here's the interesting thing - I don't think Gen Xers care if you ignore them. Being ignored IS better than being called a slacker, after all.

But if you want to be successful in this century, you're going to need to get some Xers on your team soon. Because the Boomers are retiring. And there are a lot more Boomers than Xers. And even the most rabid Xer-hating Boomer has to admit that it would be very difficult for a 25-year-old to come in and fill their shoes.

Yes, Millennials are great. They have a lot of spunk. But as someone who is less than a month away from turning 40, I know it takes more than a positive attitude and being born into the Information Age to run a successful business. It takes some mad skills and a strong foundation that can only come from experience.

I'm not talking about "paying your dues." I'm not talking about towing the line for X number of years until someone else says you're "ready." I'm talking about most of us have our heads up our rear ends when we're young.

So this is all a numbers game. There are less Xers. And they don't care if you ignore them. But they also won't come work for you. Or take your torch when you want to retire. Not unless you hook them before the mass Babyboomer exodus.

It may already be too late. So many Xers have already thrown up their hands in the face of companies that offer lots of team building exercises and very little opportunity. They've gone out their own and are making money while others are busy having cookie exchanges or relay races as a way to create camaraderie in the office.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Where were you when you heard about the Challenger?

It'll be 25 years since the space shuttle Challenger disaster. For Boomers, the question is always "Where were you when Kennedy was shot?" For Xers, it's more likely to be "Where were you when you heard about the Challenger explosion?"
I was in 9th grade at the Edsel Ford High School cafeteria when my friend told me. Where were you?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Why I feel sorry for Gen Y

Today I read this post by a Gen Y blogger about why she thinks another blogger (Gen Xer Penelope Trunk) gives bad career advice to Gen Y. While I agree that Penelope can be a little nutty, she does know what she's talking about. I don't feel sorry for Penelope when she gets flack for her writing, because I know she's got the experience behind her and she's well aware of what she's doing when she posts provocative blog entries.

I do, however, feel sorry for a lot of Gen Y bloggers. Because a lot of what you write now is not coming from a place of experience. It's the same crap Gen Xers said 15 years ago, but we were lucky that verbal communication in a F2F setting in 1995 is not on the Internet for eternity.

Now, to be fair, the Gen Y blogger that got me thinking didn't really write anything embarrassing. Seriously, I have seen a lot worse from a few Gen Y Facebook friends who I regularly question - What are you thinking posting that? However, if I had any advice to give to the 25-year-old GenerationXpert, it would be to shut up and listen.

It's true, the Boomers were pains in our asses early on in our careers. And it's true we Xers were right about some things - but not everything. The same is true now. We Xers may be a pain in Gen Y's ass, and they are right about some things. However, ask yourself - How sad would it be if this was the best we got. Today. Right now. Never learned anything new. Never got any smarter. Never learned from our mistakes. In 10 years Gen Z will be bitching about Gen Y. It's not generational. It's growing up.

But we Xers are lucky. The Gen Ys can't go find our musings about how smart we were at 25, because the Internet was in its infancy. But today's young bloggers need to remember - what will your writing say about you when you are 35, 45, or 55?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The results are in!

The results of yesterday's poll are in - it's worse to be fat than old. But not that much worse. I'd be curious if the results were divided among generational lines (My hypothesis is that Boomers would thinking feeling old is worse while Gen Xers and Gen Ys would say feeling fat is worse.)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011