Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Will Xers Just Quit?

I recently stumbled across this post by Steven DeMaio on the Harvard Businss blog about ways to deal with a looming layoff. In it, he offers some interesting ideas on how to better demonstrate your value to an organization by taking some unorthodox steps to break yourself, and your performance, out of a routine. But what really struck me about the post was his opening line:

I've been surprised by the number of people I've met who, like I did, quit their jobs after the recession took hold last year.

After a little digging, I discovered that DeMaio quit his job in the publishing industry over a year ago in order to pursue some of his long-neglected passions—and has been blogging about his experiences for Harvard Business ever since. His first post on the subject is well worth reading, and I look forward to reading the rest as I struggle to catch up on his journey. It strikes me as rich fodder for anyone who is interested in pursuing their passions—in their current job or in a new one.

And DeMaio is right about the number of people who have taken the same plunge he has. Just skim through the comments (170 at last count!) that followed his first post. You'll find person after person egging him on, telling him they did the same thing he did, that it was the best decision they ever made, and wishing him the best of luck.

Now, I don't know how old DeMaio is, but I'm going to peg him as an Xer based on his photo on the Harvard blog and based on his reference to a grandmother who came of age during the Great Depression. And I don't know how old the commenters are, but I'm going to peg some of them as Boomers, some as Xers, and a handful as Millennials, based on what some of they say about their own lifestages.

It seems clear to me that there are people in every generation who decide to strike out on their own, who figure out that the best fulfillment is the kind that comes with doing what they love, and reject the structured pathways of success that have been hammered out by the generation that preceded them.

The question I have is whether Xers will do this in greater numbers than the Boomers that came before or the Millennials that will come after.

We've all seen the literature about Boomers hanging on to leadership positions longer than previous generations, and about how Millennials are destined to take over all the leadership positions the Boomers do vacate. Squeezed in the middle of those two leadership trends, will Xers decide to take a middle path—rejecting the frenzied competition for the leadership positions in our existing organizations and striking out on their own, like DeMaio and his commenters, to create their own opportunities and institutions?

Wait a minute. Look around. Isn't GenX, in fact, already doing that? Maybe the better question to ask is if GenX will be successful in changing our cultural narrative by staying outside of it.


Shelly Alcorn, CAE said...

Every Gen X employee who has ever muttered to themselves, "Oh for God's sake, I'll just do it myself," is an entreprenuer just waiting to happen.

I really like your very last statement - "being successful in changing our cultural narrative by staying out of it." That sentence is going to give me a lot to think about....


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