The Relevance Emergency: Gen X in a Millennial World

DeniseHolt
Denise Holt CEO and Founder, Social Intel, Inc.

Posted on September 23rd 2013

The Relevance Emergency: Gen X in a Millennial World

self-branding

Last week, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Greg Shove, Founder and CEO of SocialChorus, to discuss social advocacy. However, the conversation took an interesting turn when I asked him to dive deeper into the subject of professional relevancy.

We were at The Social Shake-Up Conference in Atlanta, hosted by Social Media Today, and at the start of our interview, I had an eager question for Greg.  I am aware that he meets regularly with friends and peers to discuss how to stay relevant in a business world where your skill set is overhauled every 3-5 years, and I wanted his opinion. This is something I think about often, and I am frankly puzzled why more Gen X’ers are not more conscious of this, let alone concerned.

Greg’s response:

“I think that generation, whatever you want to call them, is at extreme risk to be made professionally less relevant. To have an income expectation that is driven by what they think is a lot of experience, but less relevant skills, and they'll get caught sooner than they think by 30-somethings that will do that job for less, and I think be more relevant with current tools and technology.”

“I think it's a big issue, and I'm fascinated by it. I'm fascinated with how do you train people, how do you help people to be self-reliant?"

Enter the much talked about concept of self-branding.

Companies are not the big saving grace anymore. There is no loyalty. There is no long term expectation that if you work for a company long enough, they will take care of you.

Gen X has to be careful because their parents were of the mindset that you work really hard in life, and then you get to retire, as if the big point of it all is to quit in the end and relax.  And Gen X still holds some of that expectation of, “Well at some point shouldn’t I be able to relax?”

More than ever before, it is critical that each individual uses these digital tools to brand themselves and establish their own digital professional identity that stands alone, that they can take with them wherever they go. This self-brand should be a direct reflection of your validity through your up to date skill set, your cutting edge knowledge, presence and level of influence in the new media landscape, that forges the path for the future of business.

The thing is, we are living in a world of such rapid growth and evolution of technology, that we cannot allow ourselves to think in old ways. We have to be in a constant state of growing and learning in order to survive and transition with each step of this new growth path.

Here’s the great part though – this stuff is FASCINATING! Maybe it is just a reflection of my sci-fi, techie-girl heart, but I feel so incredibly lucky to be a part of a world that is rapidly evolving into something so fundamentally different from anything mankind has experienced before. When I bought my first smart phone, instantly, I started to refer to it as my “life assistant.” I couldn’t imagine living without it. I viewed being “always on” as an enhancement to life, not a threat or a burden. Augmented reality is a term that makes me feel excited for what's to come. And real-time interaction through social media has become a natural way to share your life with friends and loved ones with whom you wouldn’t have time to remain as close to otherwise. Digital media has made the world smaller and our hearts bigger.

Brian Solis, in his book, What's the Future of Business, refers this phenomenon as Generation C – the connected generation. It includes any age range that has embraced digital media and technology with the same passion and fused behavior as those natively raised up in it.

Millennials, and the “Always On” generation just under them, are synthesized with this technology. Their brains are developing differently. Generations X and above are charged with the task of rewiring their brains to handle the level of open mindedness that comes with letting go of fear, hesitation, and complacency, and embracing the change that is required of all of us who want to maintain professional and personal significance in the years to come.

Do you feel you are relevant in today's business world?  ... Tomorrow's? ... What about five years from now?

What measures do you think people should be taking to safeguard their positioning in the future of business?

One concept that Greg and I discussed is how employee advocacy programs have the added benefit of keeping employees current with the new media landscape by involving them directly in this evolution of change.  I will be delving into this approach more thoroughly in a future article.

These are all ideas that require immediate consideration. Are you concerned? Are you prepared?  You should be.

DeniseHolt

Denise Holt

CEO and Founder, Social Intel, Inc.


CEO and Founder of Social Intel, Inc.

Creator and Host of Social Business Helpline Podcast 

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Co-Creator and Co-Host of the 2014 Employee Advocacy Summit --> bit.ly://AdvocacySummit

Denise Holt is a leading voice in Social Media Strategy and Social Intelligence Solutions

Social business speaker, author, trainer and strategy consultant with comprehensive insight as an educator in the area of Brand Advocacy and Employee Advocacy programs

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Comments

Denise; congratulations on the inaugural post.  I'm looking forward to seeing many more from you!

For us, here at DragonSearch - this is an enormous issue - and for us, it comes down to creating, celebrating, and nurturing an environment of constant self-learning.  When we hire people, of whatever generation, we seek people who have an innate hunger for learning. They're often polymaths, and autodidactic at that.  After all, if you have to wait around for a book or college course, the information has likely already morphed. 

All of that IS a hallmark of being in a revolution. So, as a company, we  focus on this agility of learning, and place it at the center of everything we do.  

Thank you so much, Ric!  

I love your approach, and I agree with your sentiment whole-heartedly.  We are witness to a revolution, and the disturbance won't be pretty for many.  

How great, though, that it doesn't have to be that way.  These same digital tools causing the disruption also allow for democratized learning and growth for anyone who desires to learn and grow.  The opportunity is enormous if you just reach out and grab it.  : )

 

Great article, Denise! This is something we're not talking about near enough.

In their book, "The Start-up of You," Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha talk about the death of traditional career paths and make the case that we should all (regardless of our generation) treat our careers like entrepreneurs do start-ups. We need to be constantly adapting, watching for those pivot points where we can make big moves (into a new role, industry, etc.), and have a fall-back plan in case the unexpected happens.

This dovetails with Brian Solis' Gen C concept. Being connected, building and nurturing our network, always learning and adapting...these are all critical to staying relevant.

For decades, we've seen jobs move to low-cost geographic regions, first in manufacturing, then certain services and even "white-collar" jobs. And now we're facing a coming era of automation from expert software systems that will replace people in jobs that have traditionally been spared from such change. And it's going to happen sooner than we want to believe.

We are indeed experiencing a "relevance emergency," and the change driving it is going to continue and accelerate. Ultimately, Millennials and Gen C are far more adaptive to change than Gen X'ers. Traditions are lovely to have and hold dear, but they're disappearing in business (and elsewhere). It may be cliché, but the new status quo is that there is no status quo. We must evolve with that changing landscape or become irrelevant dinosaurs. The good news is that we have a choice!

Absolutely, Eric!!  Love your input here.  It is right on target.  

Thank you for the article and book reference, too.  

I think you make a great point in stating that the change driving it will not only continue, but will accelerate.  I think that's the key.  People need to be aware that they need to start positioning themselves now in the new media landscape, by establishing their presence and influence, as well as evolving with the new tools through continual observation, awareness, and emersion, in order to adapt.

Thanks again for your comments! 

Great article, and interesting discussion, it is interesting to think about how we might analyze change in what we perceive is such a rapidly evolving time.