Post Z Passions

AIA Insights, November 25th, 2014 – How does Purpose fuel Gen X and Gen Y’s Passion and Performance?

What makes Generation Y tick? How do they want to live? What will their passion for change mean when they become the leaders of the global economy in ten to twenty years time? Millennials are rising through the ranks in businesses around the world. Taking a closer look at their values as well as yours will carve a successful path to the future fruition of your organization.

From a Generation X perspective:  Happiness – Just a dream for now 

Gen X aspires to have the true meaning of happiness in the workplace. But at this crucial point in our chaotic lives with our demanding careers, we don’t expect, or even seek out Happiness – just yet. Those of us who do have Happiness are unique and very fortunate because Happiness is such a “nice to have”. The majority of Gen X chooses to settle with content in our careers because so many people depend on us, on our income and stability.

Spanning the ages mid-thirties to late forties, Gen X is all consumed with raising costly Gen Zs (the generation following Gen Y), saving for approaching retirement, paying for university, or caring for aging parents. For now, we believe it would be irresponsible and selfish to do what makes us “Happy”.  We don’t have the choice of tossing our lucrative careers aside to find our true passions when we need to save a fortune for our Gen Zs education and retirement simultaneously. Instead, we seek Happiness outside the office through family, hobbies, travel or creative outlets.

Of course Gen X would like to have Happiness in our careers: where we commute with a smile, have passion for our contributions, enjoy our professions, connect with compatible colleagues, and feel rewarded.  We know it’s out there because we watch Gen Y find it. However, our time will come. Many of us plan to reinvent ourselves when our financial demands ease up. I hear colleagues getting a first or second degree for entirely new careers, consulting on the cuff, and volunteering for the cause they want to work for. Soon it will be our turn to do what makes us “Happy”, for now, it’s just a dream.

Self­-realization – Counting down to our passions

Self­-realization, working in a capacity that fulfills our personal potential, is something Gen X dreams of having – it’s a dream because most of us are not financially ready to put responsibility and commitment aside. To Gen X, realizing and acting on our true calling typically occurs at two different points in our careers: 1) upon our college graduation or 2) upon our children’s’ college  matriculation. That’s it. Realizing one’s talents at an early age is a gift to one’s career and life. We are jealous of those who did, because they radiate joy, not stress. Most of us wait until the time is right, to enter window of opportunity #2.  Generation X does not pursue the more emotional path of self-realization until the stars are aligned to get off the treadmill and jump onto the journey of self-­realization. “Doing what you love” sounds too risky if what we love means depleting our savings accounts.

Why do we wait? Parents of Gen Zs spend more time worrying about their kids’ self-realization vs our own. We do whatever it takes – time, money, and transportation – to help our children realize their professional passions now rather than later. For parents, “it’s never too early” and “we’ll spend whatever it takes” to smooth the path for Gen Z. Generation X is counting down the years until our children go to college, that year when we can FINALLY do what we want.  I hear it all the time:  “seven years left”, “holding on for early retirement”… When the time is right, Gen X will convert themselves from content employers to happy self-realized individuals pursuing their passions. But only when the stars are aligned, when that window #2 opens.

Commitment – Just ask Gen X

The global workforce needs Gen X because Gen X is all about commitment. Seriously, somebody needs to show some commitment! Gen X is the adaptable, eager, responsible and driven generation we desperately need – as role models to Gen Y and as mentors for Gen Z. Many of us have risen the ranks because of our solid corporate commitment, to our bosses, to saving the company money, to corporate travel policies and the list goes on. Gen X comprises over half the global workforce, primarily taking leadersip roles in the world’s corporations and organizations.

Corporations need to retain Gen X as much as, or more than Gen Y because Gen X employees hold the threads of knowledge, history that a computer cannot recite. Gen X tends to stay with a corporation much longer than other generations, especially Gen Y.  Gen X remains committed as long as the company meets a majority of our needs such as work-life balance and a stable future. Gen X deserves the most credit for showing commitment beyond work – family, children, homes, college – even if we don’t like it.  Gen X is so committed to “doing the right thing”, we put happiness and self-realization second to our personal dreams.



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