X Marks the Spot

Image by Mcanden

Pamela Chan, M.Ed/Editorial

Every day you will see an article in print or online about how Millennials and Generation Z are making contributions to the workforce after the core Baby Boomer years. Cue the content about the workplace expectations of Millennials and Generation Z; tips on how they should be led by managers; reasons why they like to feel challenged; skillsets that they bring to their jobs; discussions about their technology talents; and, aspirations for work/life balance when they start to hit the parenting, or parenting and more senior employee years, full on.  What is missing in these conversations is discussion about the talents, challenges and aspirations of the generation of workplace employees following Boomers – the Generation X cohort who were born from the mid 1960s until 1980.  

GenX employees were the first generation to use computers while they were in school and university, and started their careers using online technology.  They brought their own expectations, skillsets, discussions about technology and aspirations for work/life balance into the workplace.  And they’re still marching to their own beat.

It hasn’t been easy for Generation X employees.  Entering the job market in the early 90s during the second worst recession related to young adult unemployment, after the early 1980s recession, was not easy.  Having a large bubble of Baby Boomer employees ahead of them meant that they had to take a number and wait before they could access a management position.  Just when they thought more opportunities might open up, Baby Boomers delayed their retirement (think results of the late noughts recession and its effect on retirement investments) or returned to the workforce as consultants.

For some years now, as Baby Boomers retired their now adult offspring were keen to step into their shoes. Can you blame them? After all, many of these Boomers held senior positions in the corporate world – including in the world of news media.  Could this explain the abundance of workplace articles discussing Boomers and Millennials that completely neglected to mention that there is a generation of employees who fall in between? Or is there another explanation?

It’s a mystery.

Nobody is saying that you have to be over a certain age to merit attention or that Millennials and Generation Z haven’t made impressive contributions to the world of work.  Millennial Mark Zuckerberg wasn’t even 30 when he hit his stride with Facebook. 

Speaking of Facebook, former Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg is a member of the Generation X cohort.

What Gen X employees do deserve is to have their mere existence and contributions acknowledged in the media and, more importantly, in the workplace. In a recent poll, 52% of unemployed Generation X adults who were polled reported that they hadn’t been invited to an interview in the past year. 52%! That’s a disturbing figure by any standard. These employees have many good years of work ahead of them.  They’re not dinosaurs.  They are conversant in all of the latest and sexiest priorities in the workplace – technological advancements included.  Many Gen X employees are the names behind these technological innovations. Meanwhile online and in print, TV and film media, you won’t see them depicted much- unless they wearing shapeless clothing and holding BBQ tongs – but they’re there. (And their clothes aren’t baggy, by the way.)

Gen-X employees have put in many solid and often unglamorous years in the workplace trenches.  They didn’t expect the corner suite by age 30. Although many did achieve this.  Conversely some of them never fully launched and ended up living off the grid for ideological reasons.  Warning – many Gen Xers have well developed activist chops and many have maintained their well informed views and activist approaches on topics that matter to our society. 

Generation X is an eclectic generation.  Never underestimate their insight, creative talent or drive!

Emily Carr relaunched her career in her late 50s and Martha Stewart is promoting her latest course in online ads by saying that she started her business when she was 50. These women were in their 50s, folks!  For Gen X employees this means they are right where they need to be.  There are countless Gen X workplace rockstars and solid employees out there who are innovating and stirring up much needed solutions out there.

Sheryl Sandberg isn’t the only one leaning in.

So pay attention journalists and online publishers.  The next time you make a TikTok or Instagram reel, or write an article or post about the corporate culture and climate of the workforce, don’t forget to mention the people who were born between 1965 and 1980.