BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

T-T-T-Talkin' 'bout HIS generation ...

I've been following Dan Schawbel since the days when I was actively penning The Job Stalker blog over on Chicago Now, and had read and reviewed his previous book a few years back. So I was pleased to have his current publisher, St. Martin's Press, send me a review copy of his new release: Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success. I've actually been “sitting on this” for a while, as the book showed up in early June, but the release date isn't until September 3rd … I asked if they'd prefer to have the reviews come out closer to that time, and they said they would, so shifted this one down the “to be read” pile a bit.

I must admit, I find Schawbel's books (etc.), frustrating … and have been vocal about my disagreements on many particulars … but it is pretty clear that these are based on “generational” factors rather than him being necessarily wrong in what he's saying. Schawbel has carved out a niche for himself, being the career guru for “Gen Y”/millennial workers, and what he writes is based in their worldview and the specifics of their evolving life cycle – while I'm coming to this as a crusty old “Boomer” (like most of the baby boom generation, I still have a very hard time imagining myself and my co-generationists as “old”, but one doesn't have to go far – any recent pics of, say, Mick Jagger or Jimmy Page will do – to be presented with rather daunting evidence to the fact). One of the most notable elements in this book is how it very clearly addresses these differences ... there is a fascinating chart in here that compares Boomers (born 1945-1964), Gen X (1965-1981 – which does not include Billy Idol of the band by the same name – who is two years older than me!), Gen Y (1982-1993), and even Gen Z (1994-2010 – my kids' category) on a dozen attributes: core values, attitude towards education, mode of communication, management style, work ethic, form of entitlement, and view on job changing (among others). Most of these seem dead-on (how did he know that I primarily communicate via a land line?), and aside from the chart, he has sections “coaching” the Gen Y readers about what to expect in interactions with co-workers (supervisors) of other generations. It's amazing that it's as “foreign” as it is from both sides of that divide.

There were a couple of data points in the chart which were particularly interesting … one being the size of these “generations” - there are 76 million “Boomers”, 45 million “Gen X” folks, a whopping 80 million in “Gen Y” (especially notable as they represent the shortest span of birth years), and only 23 million in “Gen Z”. Another set of numbers which is telling is “average tenure on the job before switching” … Boomers stay 7 years, Gen X stay 5 years, and the average for Schawbel's Gen Y cohort is a paltry 2 years (Gen Z is largely not in the workforce yet).

From the “Boomer perspective”, Gen Y are the kids who grew up with “everybody gets a trophy” coddling, and so have very little perspective on what is actually deserving of reward … the book doesn't shy away from this, though, and Marcus Buckingham presents this portrait in his Foreword:
      ... members of Gen Y are accustomed to constant, immediate feedback. Forget annual reviews; they want weekly or daily check-ins with their supervisors. And we know they're used to that feedback being overwhelmingly positive. They are accustomed to being praised for their uniqueness. The result is a challenging set of expectations. Nearly 40 percent of Gen Y … {believe} that they should be promoted every two years. An even more eye-opening statistic: Only 9 percent believed that their promotions needed to be warranted by their performance.
Now, (I suppose, being a Boomer) I find much of Schawbel's advice here incomprehensible, much in the same way I found his earlier book occasionally delusional. He obviously takes the attributes of Gen Y as something to be accepted (and rewarded?) while most sound like deep character flaws to me. He encourages his readers to become experts in their specific niches (dismissing the generalist in favor of “one trick ponies”), and become “leaders” … yet most of this has to happen within the first six months on a job – at which point the Gen Y kid needs to be either moving up to that corner office or moving on to the next gig. It's probably a good thing for Gen Y that they have Gen X as management buffers between them and the Boomers, because most of what is advocated in a “career development” mode here would make me never want to have any Gen Y people on staff … zero loyalty, zero reliability, all “about them”, and grossly unrealistic expectations of reward – an entire generation of mercenaries, single-skill cogs looking for the most accommodating machine.

Highlighting this was the section on “Intrapreneurship” - building entities within your current company's structure … he has a list of factors, good and bad, about going this route, and the attitude that's reflected in these is somewhat horrifying:
Intrapreneurship allows you to create new positions and advance your career faster than you might have been able to on the regular track. The connections you'll make and the supporters you'll have behind you will allow you to potentially skip entire layers of the corporate hierarchy.
Intrapreneurship is less risky than being an entrepreneur because you'll have the corporation's resources available. If you're an entrepreneur, you could be financing your idea with credit cards or borrowing from friends and family. If the idea goes belly-up, you could be out a lot of money and relationships could get strained.
Intrapreneurship can be a bridge to becoming full-on entrepreneur later on. By starting your own business on the job – on your employer's dime and time – you're gaining the skills, understanding of the process, and the confidence you'll need to run a business without your company's help in the future.
Wow. Just wow. Is everybody “playing the system” these days? This stuff reminds me of “black hat” SEO – stuff folks do because they can, to hell with the ethics. It makes me think that there's a good reason the economy is going down the toilet!

OK, so that's my being “reactive” over this stuff. The book is actually full of some very good advice, especially for its target audience. Schawbel presents lists of various elements of one's career which are solid, and applicable across the generations, including a couple of dozen “soft skills” (and how 71% of employers value “emotional intelligence” over IQ), and a detailing of “leadership traits” which was very good. While the focus here is for everybody reading it to be a “leader” (and all the children are above average in Lake Woebegone – must be all those trophies), the specific job search and career growth advice is solid (I was pleased/amused that I was already practicing most of these in terms of on-line reading, networking, and skill augmentation – so it's not just for the millennials!). This is likely to be a very aggravating read for Boomers, but is no doubt a great resource for the Gen Y folks it was written for.

Promote Yourself isn't officially coming out for another couple of weeks, but the on-line big boys have it for pre-order at a rather remarkable 40% off. This will no doubt be out in the business/career brick-and-mortars everywhere as soon as September rolls around. If you're in the target audience, you should probably pick up a copy … if you're not … well, it's sort of an anthropological study of a population that may represent what the future looks like.

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Tags: book review
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