There is no joy, in mid-life, trying to find your niche. I mean, seriously, shouldn’t I have found it by now?
Yesterday I sat in the semi-lit office; quiet. The seasoned salesman, one who has become a family friend, had just left after two hours of chit-chat. His visits are always welcome but also serve as a reminder. The manufacturing industry is changing and we need to change with it. With the passing of the guard, from one generation to the next, we forge ahead; finding our new way of life. The baby boomers (post WWII 1946-1964) are transitioning out of the work force and with them; the hands-on knowledge and work ethic. Baby boomers chose a career and stuck with it.
The hubs, thankfully, possesses the talents of his father before him; the art of metallurgy. Both men can fabricate cold, hard steel into useful applications and enjoy working with their hands. Manual labor. But in a world of CNC lathes and precision mechanized machinery, handiwork is no longer needed and small businesses cannot compete with the technology and cheap labor of countries like China. Our niche is in customization, in creating things from scratch. Mass production items can be found for cheaper cost and quality, from overseas. Both the hubs and I’s backgrounds do not lie in this field. Neither one of us are salesman. This family friend urges us to expand; to broker parts and broaden our horizons.
By mid-life I should have already accomplished the things I was set out to do. The middle-aged bellies are supposed to epitomize wealth and succeess. The home, the cars, the toys. Spouses and children. Pets. Materialized dreams that embody life at its most prosperous. During lunch I asked the silent hubs what he was thinking. His thoughts were similar to my own. How do we find our niche in this changing industry, in life?
niche (noun): a job, activity, etc., that is very suitable for someone, : the situation in which a business’s products or services can succeed by being sold to a particular kind or group of people, : an environment that has all the things that a particular plant or animal needs in order to live (excerpted from http://www.merriam-webster.com)
The GenX cohort (1965-1982) is known for being highly educated, activists and proponents for social change. Supposedly our generation does not have the single-minded focus of the boomers before. We change career paths often. We are thinkers but not always doers. Like the MTV videos of the 80s we look slick but sometimes lack substance. But we are not millenials (1982-2000); “the trophy children.” We are in-between. The middle. We are sandwiched between two larger cohorts and will shoulder the burden of Social Security and care for the boomers while establishing careers and families (in that order) amongst entitled people who deserve better with the least amount of work. We also raise the post millenials/generation Z (2000- present); my children, This is the generation of instant gratification. They are products of the digital age: Y2K, iPods, cell phones, texting.