GenX: How the Lost Generation gotta fight... for their (party!) achieve career success

Updated: Sep 26, 2019

Earlier this week I hit a professional milestone: I went (my version of) viral on LinkedIn with a response to Stephanie Neal’s HBR article about GenX being overlooked for promotions in the workplace. I felt pretty cool because I’ve spent my whole life as a student of the relationship between people and work and have developed many an opinion on that front. So now that a bunch of people read a bit of my opinions I feel like a rock star. What’s left to do you ask?...Start a blog of course!

Over the 15+ years I spent in recruiting for a variety of industries and companies one thing became very clear: 

It is up to us, not our employers, to advocate for ourselves when it comes to professional development and career growth.

As Carter Cast references in this HBR article on career planning: “Unfortunately, organizations today are unknowingly leaving employees with skill gaps and blind spots that can derail careers and organizational effectiveness. And managers aren’t helping. Too worried about their own hides, most managers don’t have time or energy to focus on anyone else’s. In fact, Korn Ferry found that when managers rated themselves on 67 managerial skills, “developing others” came in dead last.” If that isn’t depressing enough how about this MarketWatch article from Catey Hill: Data released in 2019 from LinkedIn Learningfinds that Generation Xers are significantly more stressed out on the job than other generations, with 54% saying their jobs stress them out, versus 46% of millennials and 48% of baby boomers. 

That’s the reality folks. It is not enough to “keep your head down” and “do a good job” and “the right people will notice us." In my role as a Career Designer and Job Search Strategist I can attest to the fact that many of my clients did just that and yet for some reason or another found themselves unceremoniously re-org’d right out of the company, or worse (in my opinion) find themselves in dead-end jobs just waiting for the clock to hit 5pm. It’s not the organization’s fault, right? They’re just trying to run a business here, right? A topic for another time…

I’m partial to GenX because I am one.

Guess what: I also have a Millennial husband and Baby Boomer mother and have gained valuable insight into how we can leverage each group’s professional strengths.

To do that we must take advantage of what our Baby Boomer parents taught us about hard work and dedication (which we already do well), and what our Millennial counterparts know about finding purposeful work and advocating for their own career success.

This is what I know:

1.     If you want to feel more in control of your career - take the control: define what you’re really good at, identify and refine your professional reputation, learn how to brand (yes sell!) yourself, and execute a real strategy for getting the roles you know you can and want to do.

2.     If you’re defining yourself as “Your Title” at XYZ company you’re doing it all wrong: you are not just your job at your current company. You are so much more. You are the culmination of all your professional experience, skills, and natural talents that make up quite an amazing career professional. No one will buy that until you buy that - so buy that.

3.     If you feel burned-out, overlooked, and overworked - don’t wait for your employer to notice, because most likely they won’t: give yourself the permission to consider what a new opportunity might look like, how it would feel to launch a new chapter of your career. It is never too late; you are never too-pigeon-holed. You have value and expertise to add - invest in yourself enough to find out how else you can be contributing that value and perhaps become a bit more career-happy in the process.

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