Sandwiched between the Millennials and the Boomers, Gen X has been overlooked, undervalued, and all but forgotten. Born between 1965 and 1980, they should now be in the prime of their careers, and they are stuck in the middle of a recession. The Boomers in front of them are hanging on. The Millennials behind them are flooding into the workplace putting pressure on them from below.
This generation deserves a break! There is not a single member of Gen X that can’t recall in vivid detail the day they sat in school and watched the Challenger Space Shuttle explode on television as their horrified teachers struggled to respond. They also remember 3-Mile Island, the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, President Reagan being shot, the Jonestown suicides, and Chernobyl. All of this mixed in with the tanking of the economy in the late 70’s.
Having come of age among the televised failures of politicians, religious leaders and corporate titans who laid off thousands, they have never had much trust for the system or the Boomers who came before them. As the first latchkey generation, they have grown up to be self-sufficient and independent. In their careers they have been self-reliant and not very impressed with authority. As a result, they have too often been labeled as loners and left to fend for themselves.
Some feel this is the generation that is still trying to get launched. Tamera Erickson in What’s Next, Gen X?, offers some wise counsel to those in this generation and to those who are trying to work with them. Her final chapter makes a strong case for why they are the leaders we need now. I agree.
They are taking on leadership roles in growing numbers and when this recession finally ends, we will see a lot more of them in prominent places. It is time to finally connect with this group and give them the respect they deserve.