Mid-career blues: Are Xers being sidelined?

Posted July 27, 2010 in Career Management, Latest News & Insights

At one of our Spring executive events, panelist Paul Ronan of Ontario Parks spoke of windows of opportunity.  Sometimes a window will open and then close again really quickly.  One of the keys, from Paul’s view, to managing your career is to know when to go through these windows and seize new opportunities.  In watching several colleagues in the early stage of the GenX cohort (born 64 to 68) begin to struggle to move from Director level to VP level lately, I wondered if an entire generation’s window of opportunity has closed.  And, if you’re in that co-hort what can you do about it?

It was probably the conversation I had with a VP of HR about their top talent program that raised the first flag for me.  The VP (who is in her late 40’s and has been a VP for about 15 years), said something along the lines of “maybe we’re going to have to look at people we wouldn’t usually look at for our hi potential pool.”  Meaning, that their cultural norm was to look into the pack of 20 and 30 year old up and comers to see who should be groomed for more senior positions.

Fifteen years ago, when Gen Xers were in their late 20’s and 30’s “hi potential” programs were barely talked about because there was no place to track them.  The boomer ceiling was tight.

Now, for early cohort GenXer is that, if you were never given the opportunity to raise through the ranks early in your own career, there may be “positional bias” towards your ability to move forward.  So, what do you think?  Do you think Gen Xer’s are starting to get jumped over for promotion?  Take our poll and check in again next week.  We’ll see what kinds of strategies we can come up with to help frustrated Director level Xer’s bust through to the VP ranks.


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  1. Mark Godenho says:

    I believe this will change over the new few years primarily because of the aging population we have. Sure there weren’t many ‘programmes’ for us Gen X’s but as the baby boomers move into retirement the GenX’s will be the oldies i.e. the ones with the most experience. It’s understandable this is a cause for concern now but time will solve the problem. When shareholders are looking for new senior management they will surely value someone who is older with more experience.
    I guess the real question is how much value do these ‘programmes’ really provide for the younger generation?
    As I once heard an army drill sergeant say:
    “youth and speed have got nothing on age and treachery “

    • LeaderTalker says:

      Hi Mark… I hope you’re right. Unfortunately, I’m a little bit skeptical about boomers actually fully moving out of the workforce fully. My deepest, darkest fear is that they’ll stick around as “consultants” taking all the great projects at ridiculous rates leaving Gen X with… ???? On the flip, I know tons of really fantastic Xer’s that are just opting out fully from the organizational grind to start up their own gigs (Is Dan Pink’s Free Agent Nation prophecy finally coming to pass??) It will be interesting to see how all this unfolds over the next 10 years. Really appreciate you reading and commenting (love the quote by the way… might have to make that a Fast Friday one).