All posts by Kelly (McCarthy) Barner

Is Generation X The Forgotten Generation?

Is Generation X the equivalent of the middle child? Is it the forgotten generation? Unsurprisingly there’s more to the generation than that.

“In general, middle children tend to possess the following characteristics: people-pleasers, somewhat rebellious, thrives on friendships, has large social circle, peacemaker.” (Parent Magazine)

Generation X includes adults in their mid thirties up through age 50. They – or I should say WE – are younger than baby boomers and older than Millennials. There you go! I’ve now summed up everything most people know about Generation X!

But there is so much more to our generation – especially when you look our potential for career development. Baby boomers are retiring and Millennials are just getting started, while Gen X is transitioning into the vast majority of leadership positions.

Even though Gen X’ers are an up and coming group, we don’t get much attention. We are the forgotten middle children in a crowded professional landscape. And yet, we are also the answer to many of the professional challenges being faced by our older and younger peers.

An Inter-Generational Bridge

A 2014 article from The Pew Research Center stated, “…in most of the ways we take stock of generations – racial and ethnic makeup; political, social and religious values; economic and educational circumstances; technology usage – Gen X’ers are a low-slung, straight-line bridge between two noisy behemoths.”

If you look at most of the writing about the generations in the workplace today, commentary that isn’t about Boomers or Millennials, is about how they struggle to work together. Clearly a bridge is exactly what they need.

By combining the traits of people in Generation X with the characteristics of middle children, we are given a unique opportunity to help ourselves, our peers, and our companies by being independent peacemakers who are ready to blaze new trails and leverage the power of our networks to make change happen.

Dear Baby Boomers, Share your wisdom and we will make your legacy soar

While not all you baby boomers are on your way out, the vast majority of you have gone as far as you are going to go professionally. Making sure that your career experience is not lost to retirement requires it to be passed down to someone who can understand it.

You lament that you have little in common with Millennials, making it hard to connect and communicate with them. Gen X, on the other hand, shares quite a bit with the Boomers, and we are in line to fill your positions next.

By passing along your wealth of knowledge to Gen X, you ensure that your legacy lives on and that the organisation achieves a kind of continuity. This also takes advantage of a whole new range of opportunities, and helps translate the lessons of the past to the conditions of the future.

Dear Millennials, We can help you make your revolutionary ideas a reality

Despite the fact that we seem just slightly less old than everyone else you report up through, we aren’t as established as you might think. We have seen a lot of change come to the workplace – we’ve driven some of it.

We’re (almost) as tech savvy as you are, and we have a lot of experience with change management. We also know a thing or two about how to work the room, and have the connections that will help us sell your ideas in a way that respects their spirit while making them seem achievable.

By working together with Gen X, you can take some of those wild new ideas you’re so famous for and make them possible – without having to wait until you are in their thirties.

Take it from an X’er that was in her 20’s about 15 minutes ago – you are going to be 35 in a flash.

From One Gen X’er to Another

Baby Boomers and Millennials have an edge in that they are getting a lot more coverage than we are, but we must accept some level of responsibility for that as well. The advantage of being – well – ignored, is that we have lots of extra time to prepare ourselves for the professional roles still to come.

Get an MBA, earn a certification, take a class, build a diverse network of colleagues, and do it in a way that is uniquely ‘X’.

We want to be connected to our colleagues, which is made easier by the fact that (unlike the Millennials) a lot of us will pick a general area of professional focus and stick to it over the course of our career.

Many Gen X’ers have families, which means we have an incentive to commit to a company for a few years at a time – simultaneously increasing our impact at that organisation and boosting our earning potential.

On the other hand, we aren’t bound by geography, which might otherwise see us spending our precious networking time in Flinstone-esque ‘Lodge’ meetings with local procurement professionals.

We are fortunate to have at our disposal sites for virtual networking that allow us to form new relationships quickly and easily, not to mention all over the world. With this power, we can leverage ideas across industries and continents in a way that our predecessors could only dream of.

The biggest challenge for Generation X is defining our own identity. The best way to do that is by leaning on each other. Not to the exclusion of the other generations, but in a way that allows us to leverage and amplify the power of our own generation.

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