The Forgotten Generation

By Phil Gérard

Sometimes I wonder if we exist. Certainly not in popular (HR) literature. No one ever praises us, nor complains about us, writes about us, quite frankly, no one ever talks about us at all! I am sure you feel my pain, fellow Gen Xers.

Gosh, it is impossible to pick up a magazine, a journal, or skim an HR blog without reading about how to harvest the talents of millennials, and how baby boomer bosses should work with them to unfold their full potential. Offer me one more webinar on how wonderful millennials are and that we all just have to deal with their eccentricities and I will scream.

To avoid receiving millennial death threats, I will qualify that I am shamelessly exaggerating for dramatic purposes, but there is a bit of truth to be discovered in my exaggerations.

When I started my career in 1997 I was not often asked about my opinion or what I felt about something or what the company could do to keep me engaged. I had to fight for my job and prove myself. I had to go out there and perform. I remember one of my favourite bosses saying to me (and it was the best advice): “You are not ready for the director job yet. Raise a couple of 6 and 7-figure gifts first and then let’s talk”. So I did.

I attended a very interesting seminar on generational differences in the work place and the presenter made a comment along the lines of “Just because someone is older they don’t necessarily know more…” Ok, I get this but then the thought continued… “I would be more likely to ask a younger person than me – that’s who we learn from”.

Whoa! We are generalizing here, which is always problematic. Yes, there are clear advantages in involving a fresh perspective on things. I.e. I should likely hire a millennial to run my blog and other social media and correct me every time I am tempted to say that I am twittering about things. But experience does count for something too, especially in fundraising. Money talks!

So let’s not, in our conversations about building a great team, forget our Gen Xers. We might not be as vocal about our talents and competencies, but we can get stuff done. Many of us have actually spent many years in the trenches raising some serious money, often for a very humble salary I might add, to substantiate the senior positions we then moved into. Gen Xers will likely be part of your succession plan, boomers!

I truly believe it is so important to appreciate the power of diversity on our fundraising team. And diversity includes colleagues from different generations, who are all adding their own flavour to the team.

One thought on “The Forgotten Generation”

  1. Great blog today, Phil! I am a fellow Gen-Xer, so I could relate to many of your points, especially about appreciating the power of diversity and perspectives from many generations.

    At one point in my career, I was privileged to work on a team of 8 that had a staff member from each age group – 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s. It was wonderful!

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