Where is Gen X?

I’m a card carrying member of Gen X. Well, I would be if Gen X could bother to form an organization print cards for other Gen Xers. As such, I’m disturbed by a recent trend I’m seeing. Gen X is not getting out there and participating in their communities.

Last week I attended the IGDA meeting here in Ottawa. I know a number of people working in digital media here that are my age. Did I see them at the event? Nope. When we should be leading my example, supporting the next generation through our experience and time, are we out being visible? I’m afraid I’m seeing the opposite. Our cohort is staying home.

Could this be blamed on the size of Gen X? After all, Gen Y out numbers us 2:1. What I’m seeing at local events is that Gen Y to Gen X ration is closer to 10:1.

What are we doing? Are we preferring to stay at home with our young families? Are we succumbing to the “what’s in it for me?” stereotype? Have we as a cohort been hit so hard by recent economic events that between working two jobs we just don’t have time for anything else? What’s the problem here?

When I was in my 20s, it seemed that every local industry event I attended there were tons — TONS — of older people there willing to help, lend their experience, in their profession and community. Today when I attend these “older” networking events there are still many active Boomers present and willing to help. Even in retirement they are still getting out there.

Any Gen Xer that has made it this far is probably thinking “why should I care?” I’ll tell you why. We are being judged right now. Corporate executives, business leaders, investors, are asking themselves if we can be trusted. If we can lead. Make a difference in the world. Does the CEO pass the mantle of leadership to Gen X or hang in there 10 more years until his children are ready. Does the VC trust $1M to someone in their late 30’s or their early 20’s. We are being judged and coming up short.

This is our time to shine, to grab the brass ring. And as a generation we aren’t even bothering to show up. Instead of getting out there, being visible, helping the younger workforce, we instead choose to stay home.

Our apathy is starting to become visible. At the IGDA talk, the speaker — a local Gen Y CEO — mentioned that when he started building his local network, one name kept coming up. It’s great there was someone from Gen X he could connect with. But there should have been 10 names of great, experienced people he could meet, not one.

I met with an entrepreneur who recently moved back to Ottawa. He confided the problem he had connecting and building his network. Many of the local Gen X entrepreneurs couldn’t be bothered to come out and have coffee with a stranger. I’ve also had trouble rallying the network of my peers to do something as simple as review my pitch. For comparison, no problem reaching out to Boomers or Gen Y. They are more than happy to help.

Here is my challenge to fellow Gen Xers. Next time there is a community or professional event, come out and support it. Prove that we can show up and provide leadership to others. Sure there may be nothing in it for you — but everything for US.

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