What’s Next, Gen X?
A book for members of Generation X
The challenge for Gen X is that you are wedged between two huge generations competing for the same opportunities. I've spent a lot of time talking to members of Generation X - those of you born roughly in the 1960s and ‘70s. The book I've written based on those conversations includes many of your voices and hearing you, I developed a deep admiration for the generational traits evident among most X'ers, particularly in the context of our current global challenges.
Future leaders in all spheres will have to contend with a world with finite limits, no easy answers, and the sobering realization that we are facing significant, seemingly intractable problems on multiple fronts. Perhaps the biggest change from the past: leaders will have to listen and respond to diverse points of view. There will be no dominant voice.
I'm convinced that Gen X'ers will be the leaders we need. The experiences that shaped those of you who were teens in the late ‘70s and ‘80s translate into valuable contemporary traits and perspectives. Some of these are:
- Your accelerated contact with the real world, for many through a "latch-key" childhood, has made you resourceful and hardworking. You meet your commitments and take employability seriously.
- You instinctively maintain a well-nurtured portfolio of options and networks. Your distrust of institutions grew as you witnessed the lay-offs of the ‘80s and has prompted you to value self-reliance.
- You are comfortable with the global and digital world. A sense of alienation from your immediate surroundings as teens, coupled with rapidly expanding technology, allows you to look outward in ways no generation before could or did.
- Your awareness of global issues was shaped in your youth, and you are richly multicultural. You bring a more unconscious acceptance of diversity than any preceding generation because in your formative years you saw the civil rights advances of the 1960s and you grew up with women in independent authority roles.
- You tend to look for a different way forward. Your strongest arena of financial success as a generation has been your entrepreneurial achievements.
- Your pragmatism has given you practical and value-oriented sensibilities that, I believe, will help you serve as effective stewards of both today's organizations and tomorrow's world.
The most difficult elements of your past may well be those that provide you with the strongest capabilities for today. You have the opportunity to change the corporate template, and create organizations that are more conducive to your values.
This book is for you, Gen X. I invite you to reflect on the richness of your generation and I offer you ideas for exploring new possibilities.
What's Next, Gen X? Keeping Up, Moving Ahead and Getting the Career You Want, Harvard Business School Press, January 2010
For specific advice on managing the changing workforce, Ask Tammy
Endorsements for What's Next, Gen X?
"I am a classic X-er and this book resonated more than any other "career guide" I have ever read. The part in the introduction where you quote "our Voices" with the following...
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.
...cracked me up! I'll admit I was thinking those things, too, but once I saw that you got it, I read on and found the book extremely valuable. I have recommended it to a number of Xer colleagues at my company.
"We Gen X'ers are coming into our own, and Tammy Erickson's book is the expertly targeted guide we need to thrive as leaders - addressing everything from career growth to the subtleties of interacting with other generations."
Betsy Myers, former COO, Barack Obama's presidential campaign, and former Executive Director, Centro for Public Leadership, Harvard's Kennedy School of Government
"This important book is filled with advice on the challenges facing members of Generation X and those who work with them. But its real power is the questions it raises - questions that only X'ers themselves can answer. How do you find work that matters? How important is money to leading a rich life? What does it mean to succeed?"
William C. Taylor, founding editor, Fast Company, and coauthor, Mavericks at Work: Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win
Tammy Erickson offers sage advice for the generation that got caught in the middle. In What's Next, Gen X? she provides a clear road map for all thirty-to forty-somethings who want to throw off their chains and create the life they want to live."
Michael Watkins, cofounder, Genesis Advisors, and author The First 90 Days
Reader Voices: Responses to Tammy's Gen X Blog
"someone is finally getting us! well done."
"Tammy: You have a knack for seeing what so many others want to overlook about this generation. Let's start building leadership development with your insights in mind!"
- Maryann Billington, Senior Partner, Korn/Ferry International Leadership & Talent Consulting
"Thank you for such an insightful article on Gen X's leadership strengths. It's high time people realize that our generation has the ability to make course corrections in business, government, and more."
- Marlys Arnold, ImageSpecialist
"It's nice to see a positive representation of our generation - that we're pragmatic, hardworking, and innovative. We are not slackers!"