Can Gen-X Career Discontent Work for YOU as a Job Seeker?

by Turner, Joe Monday, November 08, 2010
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I recently interviewed Career Coach Randy Block about the generation gap between Baby Boomers and Gen-X hiring managers.

Turns out the generation gap works in both directions per a recent AP article from Martha Irvine. She noted that the Gen-Xers are feeling squeezed between the Boomers who won’t go away and the up and coming Gen-Yers. According to Robin Erickson, manager at Deloitte Consulting, once this recession eases only 37% of Gen-Xers plan to stay in their current jobs compared to 44% of the Gen-Yers and 50% of the Boomers, from a survey done earlier this year.

For the Xers, it’s the lack of promotional opportunities that has them most resentful. 40% offered that as a reason for their restlessness. This number far outranked the 30% response for Gen-Yers and 20% for Boomers who said the same.

Realize that this is a column about job search rather than the career problems of a disaffected generation, regardless of how justified they may be. Yet, these are interesting results. They provide a glimpse into this economy from an age perspective. While I hope it’s not the case, many of you will retire (forced or otherwise) with this “recession” being the unwanted exclamation point on your career. Meanwhile, the Gen-Yers will have the luxury of time to overcome this bump in their career. The Xers, however, don’t quite have that luxury. What’s important here is that your job interview most likely will be with a hiring manager from the Gen-X generation. Typically, as the job candidate, we might assume that this hiring manager is totally satisfied with his/her career progress. In light of the above information, this may not be the case. Some, if not many of these Xer hiring managers may well fall within those 63% who are dissatisfied with their own stalled career. They might be ready to move on to greener pastures themselves and begin a job search of their own as soon as the economic conditions improve.

From a job search perspective, here’s the take-away. If you’re either a Boomer or a Yer, how do you read these stats when you’re sitting across from a Gen-X hiring manager? According to Irvine, these folks aren’t too thrilled with you. If you’re a Boomer, they see you as not going away. If you’re a Yer, they see you as getting all the attention and crowding them out before they’ve had their place in the sun.

Here’s one possibility: Look for ways to help them while you help yourself. True, as an outsider looking in, there’s not much you can do to impact the career growth opportunities at the company where you’re interviewing. But you can ameliorate the potential distrustful feelings of this hiring manager by addressing Question #3 of the “5 Must Answer Interview Questions” (Are you a team player? Can you be managed?). While careers and promotions for Gen-Xers may be stalled now at many companies, the next best bet is to be a star as a team player. This will reflect well on your immediate supervisor.

Remember that the hiring manager who interviews you has career issues too. Take yourself out of the job search mode for a moment and view life from the hiring manager’s perspective. Ask yourself, “How could I make life easier for this person if I worked for him?” “How could I help to make this person a star in this company?”

By using some of the answers you identify, you may well hit just the right button that wins you the job.