In her latest book, Tamara Erickson states that the challenge for Gen X "is that they're wedged between two huge generations that are eachtaking up a little too much of your room." And for anyone paying attention to learning and development literature these days, it is certainly obvious that Gen Y and the baby boomers have been setting the tone for the topic of generational issues.
What's Next, Gen X? is a welcome addition for all those belonging to the generation whose very brand name quickly became synonymous with "slacker." Erickson is the author of two well-received books on generations in the workforce - Retire Retirement and Plugged In - written to the two respective age cohorts sandwiching the not-so-well-understood X'ers.
In part 1 of the book, Erickson does her usual yeoman's job of defining and contextualizing the formative events and traits of a generation, without leaning on stereotypes or leaving too little room for variation. The author also incorporates a new, more personal device - interweaving numerous brief sidebars labeled "your voices" that contain testimony from Gen X'ers she's heard from over the course of researching the book.
Throughout part 2, Erickson dives into the desires and drivers shaping the career paths of 30- and 40-somethings - personal and professional. This includes the middlescence phase characterized by job malaise and disengagement. Erickson provides a number of encouraging triggers and tools for getting through career quagmires, using the unique talents and understandings that characterize X'ers first and foremost.
Some of the best pearls in the book dwell in the chapter, "Trading Up." According to Erickson, nearly 95 percent of Gen X'ers are working within organizations that are owned or managed by others. So the author offers a number of methods for making the organization fit the reader's expectations, instead of waiting for "somebody" to do something.
The book ends with a chapter covering general guidelines and strategies for honing oneself into a "NeXt Generation Leader," closing on these words: "The world needs a new breed of adults, able to acknowledge the complexity and legitimate diversity of views and yet find constructive paths forward..." Bravo!
Any of Erickson's book can be considered reliable, high-level explorations of generational dynamics in the workplace. This one is great for not only Gen X workers themselves, but also perhaps for multi-generational leaders and managers determined to better understand, manage, and retain them.
This Gen X'er is pleased to give What's Next three and a half cups.