Gen X, who should be in the prime of their careers and they are "unemployable" in their chosen fields

Stop it about the Millennials, have you looked in a mirror lately?

We are in the midst of preparing our second issue of Strategy Mob for January and we have some very interesting content revolving around Millennials, but also on general training and continuing education. Having spent a great deal of time working on the issue, it really made me aware that while Millennials are a hot topic, Generation X and Baby Boomers are getting a free PR ride.

What do I mean? I mean that many individuals of later generations haven’t been looking into the mirror when frequently commenting on the Millennial generation. The dynamic cultural and digital shifts that have hit all of us in the past 20 years have also created a stagnant group of Generation X and Boomers. Yes folks, it’s true. Not all of them, but a significant group nonetheless. 

How do you know how to recognize them? It’s easy, they haven’t caught up to 2001, let alone 2016. They think that they no longer have to learn, adapt and continue with educating themselves about the new world and new(er) technologies. They are too old to learn. Stop the digital presses. This is crazy, especially considering how many are currently only in their late 30’s and 40’s.

You know who they are when they make comments around this new “digital” era. It’s been around since 1995 in a pretty influential manner ladies and gentlemen. To put it into perspective, the Gen X generation was in their 20’s and Boomers were in their 40’s when “digital” became part of our social fabric. There was plenty of time for Art Directors in Ad Agencies and Executives in CPG companies and everyone else employed to learn and educate themselves during this time period. Many did. But many didn’t. Too many.

Simply put, you have an entire group of people, largely Gen X, who should be in the prime of their careers and they are “unemployable” in their chosen fields. Why? They were educated in one era that is no longer compatible in this one. And they didn’t re-educate themselves. You have automotive professionals who know how to book a newspaper ad but can’t read Google Analytics. You have Art Directors who can build that newspaper ad, but don’t know how to read a wireframe. You have Strategic Planners who still think “Digital Strategy” is separate from… Strategy? 


The sad reality is that many companies are better off hiring Twenty somethings who understand the current marketplace and have the relevant skills to be effective in it. What they lack is experience. 

What’s the solution? Reverse mentoring. If you are Gen X or a Boomer, get off your butt and stop saying you are too old to learn and stop whining about Millennials. Otherwise you will be taken out back with a shotgun. Accept that the Millennials have many of the skills you need to learn and knowledge you need to have and then listen to them and learn from them. In return, you can help provide your own experience, guidance and mentorship that will help them mature and develop in their own careers. You will be better off and they will be better off and so will your company. 

You also need to realize that training and education is self-driven. Stop waiting for your employer to provide it to you. It’s great when they do, but don’t halt your career and find yourself replaced by a younger version of, well, you.

You should look for courses in technology, programming, Google Analytics and then find 3 more to take. Recognize that the shifts are also happening in real time. Courses alone aren’t enough. Throw yourself into the currents and start swimming. Read blogs, write blogs, listen to podcasts and watch youtube videos and absorb everything you can around you, including the views and knowledge of the youngest in your company. For the first time in history, four generations are working together at the same time. This brings some friction, but it also brings opportunity.

If you want to continue to be that Gen X’er and Baby Boomer who always find reasons why you can’t perform your job today. You don’t have the training, the right motivation, the right compensation, the right timeline… then you simply aren’t willing to look in the mirror and make the changes you need to be on a better career path.

Worse, if you don’t think you should change because you’ve been doing it your way for the past 20 years, you will find that you aren’t just unqualified, you’ve become a cancer in your company. Trust me, your managers are likely already talking about it and working on a plan you won’t like. You won’t reflect on where you are today and what that means for where you will be tomorrow. At a dead end.

You may not be in this group at all. You have kept up with technology and you educate yourself continually. Awesome. Help your colleagues and friends who haven’t.

Deep down, you will know which group you fit into and know this, you can still make the changes to stay relevant if you embrace the notion of continual education.

Just open your mind and be prepared to listen to the very generation that is being put down on a regular basis and show the same drive you first showed when you were in your 20’s. Both of you might be surprised at what you learn together.

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2 Responses to “Listen Up, Gen X”
  1. Funny thing is, I am experiencing the same thing in reverse. I work with all three groups and it is the millennials that refuse to keep up. The automotive repair industry is one of the fastest changing industries in the market place. Of a group of 30 individuals it is the millenials that will not keep up. “You don’t pay me enough.” You don’t know jack sh*t, you refuse to take the training available that the company offers to pay for, the X’ers and boomers offer to help you and you ignore them, but you want what we worked our asses off to get, and you want it NOW. Great, you can work an xbox, a smartphone, a tablet a nd a key board etc. better than I can, but you can’t get across the street without almost getting wacked, lot less do the damn job you all but begged me for, because it was what you always wanted to do.
    Maybe we all need to change somewhat and adapt, because if we and you are going to count on most of the millenials I’ve encountered, we’re all going to be screwed before we get, or if we get, to 2030.

    • Hi Tony,

      I’m not disagreeing with your comments as I’ve experienced them also, including the “I’m not fulfilled” side of Millennials. There are many comments that can be made about some members of that generation, but not all of them. Likewise, my article was not representative of all Gen X’ers. I agree fully with you that adapting and change is required in today’s job market, regardless of which generation you belong to. Thanks for your comment.


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