My name is Amanda and I’m a member of Generation X.
We’re the Regan-era latchkey kids who turned into flannel-clad slackers. We came of age in an analog world, then had to scramble to catch up at the dawn of the Digital Age. We started our careers at a time when pensions were disappearing, jobs were heading offshore, and the stock market crash of 1987 ushered in a recession. A recent article in The Washington Post helpfully recounted, “When a recession in 1990 and ’91 – no, Millennials, yours was not the only recession – drained the nation of hope and career prospects, Gen X got a menial job and aspired to nothing much at all.”
The result was a generation that grew up cynical, angry, and profoundly insecure – or so goes the common perception.
That line of reasoning makes a lot of sense. Generation X is small, just 66 million, bookended by two much larger generations – the Baby Boomers ahead and the Millennials behind. In most of the ways researchers understand and define generations – their racial and ethnic makeup; political, social, and religious values; economic and educational circumstances; their technology usage – Gen Xers, per Pew Research, are a low-slung, straight-line bridge between two noisy behemoths.
As such, we’ve rarely been “doted on membership” in the way that others have. Baby Boomers have been a source of media fascination from the get-go (witness their name), and continue to be a bedrock for many organizations. And Millennials have been the subject of endless stories about their expectations around the workplace, their philanthropic leanings, their voracious technology use, and their grim economic circumstances.
Caught between Boomers and younger Millennials, Generation X has been, from the point of view of this author, neglected and ignored.
But a funny thing happened on their way to age 50: Gen Xers became the undetected influencers of their younger and older generations. We’re taking management roles and mentoring younger coworkers, and we’re likely doing it under the radar. Gen Xers, incidentally, are among the most highly educated generation in the U.S.: 35 percent have college degrees versus 19 percent of Millennials. And Xers, like Elon Musk (Tesla Motors, SpaceX, and Solar City), have created innovative startups whose explicit aim is to make the world a better place. Many others in his cohort followed in Musk’s footsteps: A whopping 55 percent of startup founders are part of Gen X.
How can your organization hitch your wagon to our star?
Members extract value from the organizations to which they belong in very different ways along their career journey. For Gen X those benefits include the information they’ve come to rely on to take their career to the next level. It means making learning and events convenient for those of us trying to balance the reality of our work alongside caring for young children and aging parents. It means appreciating the time worn value of a well done email as a means to get your message out, and not throwing it all away to chase the latest fad. And it means so much more.
Join us next week for “The Gen X Files,” our deep dive webinar into what makes these members tick and how you can drive engagement among this small, but mighty, demographic. To quote two of my favorite icons from the era, “The truth is out there.”