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Talking ‘Bout My Generation X

by Jason Sanders on December 4, 2009 · 0 comments

in Economy,Thoughts

I ran across this recent gem of an article about the recession intensifying GenX discontent at work from the AP.  For those of you who are wondering what age group GenX represents, it’s us 32 to 44 year olds who are wedged between the Baby Boomers and their children.

IMGA0201The article talks a lot about GenXpectations and how we want fullfiling careers, work life balance, opportunities for advancement…you know…things that we “deserve”.  The reality is that all generations are being hammered by this recession.  Many baby boomers have been forced to put off retirement and have thus limited growth potential for people coming up.

This got me to reflecting about how to a large extent we’re all products of our childhood.  Most people aren’t students of history and therefore rely upon their life experience for input on decision making or even a sense of what to expect from society and what to look forward to.

Liza Potts, a 35-year-old professor at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., agrees, but also notes that the disillusionment took hold for many of her peers as far back as childhood.

“Many of my friends had hoped to have jobs like their parents — places they would stay forever that would take care of them like they did their parents. But then we saw that start to crumble for our folks,” she says, recalling friends whose fathers and mothers got laid off from companies such as IBM or had to relocate.

50sI think many people in my generation and perhaps many people in other generations have been presented with almost a false reality. When I think about my economic perceptions of this country and what I consider to be “normal”, all of it has been shaped by the economic bubbles that I’ve lived through. Sure there have been some downturns here and there, but for the most part all I’ve seen is lots of massive growth.

brady_bunchNow some hard economic realities are being served up to us, served up cold. I now realize that there isn’t unlimited resources on this planet and therefore explosive growth cannot be sustained indefinitely. The current economy is making me wonder if we’re close to hitting a wall, or if we’ve already hit it. And the realization that our entire economic infrastructure is designed around sustaining growth is unsettling to say the least.

c49cIt’s a big bitter pill to swallow, but it’s becoming obvious that we aren’t living in the same world we witnessed our parents living in as wide eyed youngsters just a couple decades ago. The sooner we accept this reality and start taking responsibility for our future, instead of sitting back and seeing what comes to us, the better off we’ll all be. This does raise a lot of questions though that many of us are struggling with.

“Is there still time to become something different? Must we just accept where we are? Is there time to innovate elsewhere?” asks Potts who left her own career in the software and Internet industry for a life in academia. It’s meant less money, she says, but also more freedom to choose her work hours and projects.

In Chicago, 40-year-old real estate agent Adon Navarette has taken on extra jobs to make it, from consultant for an energy supply company to starting his own health and wellness business. He’s heard his peers sniping about other generations, but also thinks their experience with other rough economic patches makes them resilient, too.

I think it’s time we all started asking ourselves if we’re going to sit back and take whatever outcome comes to us, or if we’re going to start being aggressively proactive and take our future into our own hands. This means making smart economic decisions, and it might mean taking some risks, as I mentioned when I wrote about what it’s going to take to fix this economy. But when you consider all the risks that surround us, which would you rather manage…the risks that you take on, or the risks that will be dolled out to you if you sit back and wait?

“What’s going to define me as a Gen Xer is how I come out of this. What’s going to define me is, ‘What have I done to allow myself to take advantage of the market when the market turns around?’” he says.

What are you doing to position yourself right now? Are you willing to risk following your dreams and starting your own business? If not, are you at least positioning yourself in the sectors of your profession that have the most potential growth and the least risk?

The alternative is to sit back and see what happens. One manager had this nice little outlook to share:

“When the dust settles, they’ll be exactly as they were before and we’ll just have to sift through them and take the ones that actually get it and hope the rest find employment in fast food,” she quips.

Jason Sanders @ValuePagesGroup
Business Networking Specialist

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