By Pam Boiros
As member of Generation X – typically defined as those now thirty- and forty-somethings born between 1965 and 1979—I was intrigued by the title of the recent book What’s Next, Gen X?—Keeping Up, Moving Ahead, And Getting The Career You Want by Tamara Erickson (© 2010, Published by Harvard Business Press).
In typical GenX fashion, I approached it with a bit of healthy skepticism. Would this book really appeal to me? Would it really be useful? The author quelled that notion right in the introduction when she quoted comments she had received from Xers as she was writing the book:
One word of advice: this book had better be heavy on actual content and good practical advice, and low on your typical Boomer touchy-feely bandwagony, fad “cheese-moving” pop psychology. If I see chapters on “Embracing Change,” I’m going to vomit.
I was hooked.
This book lives up to its billing, first laying out some of the defining characteristics of this generation. We are in the unique situation of being sandwiched by two large and vocal generations. Thousands of books and articles have been written about the Baby Boomer generation (born between 1946 and 1964) with their formative years occurring during the strife of the 1960’s and 70’s. On the other side of us, members of Generation Y (or Millennials), born between 1980 and 1995, are entering the workforce in droves and have high expectations for work and career success. So just when we GenXers thought it was our time to shine in our careers, the Boomers won’t get out of the way and GenY is nipping at our heels. Since we’re often also balancing two-career families, kids, and looking after aging parents, it’s no wonder why we might be a bit cranky!
The second half of the book gets into real and practical advice in several key areas including looking at (and in some cases resetting) life and work priorities, looking ahead to the workplace of the future, tips for making the organizations we work for work better for us, exploring portfolio careers, and addressing leadership issues for a multi-generational workforce.
Author Tammy Erickson is a McKinsey Award-winning author and widely respected expert on organizations, innovation, and the impact of changing demographics on the workforce. She is also the President of the nGenera Innovation Network. Although she’s not an Xer herself, we’ll let that slide.