I have been a part of several recent discussions about what benefits Generation Y and the Baby Boomers bring to the workplace and the world in general but none them spent much time talking about Generation X.
Since I am part of Generation X I found myself wondering why my generation was left out of the discussion. Call me biased but we should be a fundamental part of all of these conversations.
In large part it is because we are the bridge between the past, present and future. We are the people who grew up without the overwhelming influence technology plays today. Many if not most of us entered the workforce during a time when it would not have been unusual to have more typewriters than computers and you carried change in your pocket just in case you needed to use a payphone.
But that doesn’t mean we didn’t have exposure to computers because we are the generation that saw personal computers start to show up in homes. We were kids when video games made their first foray, Pong, Space Invaders, Asteroids, Pac-Man, Atari and Intellivision are all names we remember.
Talk to Generation X and there is a good chance we’ll tell you about how we started to use computers for school. We might even tell you about first forays into social media with chat rooms we found online. Or maybe you’ll hear about the rich kid who had a pager and a car phone.
If you really start digging into what we did when we went into the workforce we’ll have tales about entering during a rough economy and how we toughed it out. Or maybe you’ll hear about the positions we took that helped to usher in the digital age we live in now.
The Advantage Of Being Part of Generation X
The advantage of being part of Generation X is tied into all of the things I wrote about above. We are the bridge between the past, the present and the future.
If you ask how that is tied into business I’ll tell you it means we remember and understand what life was like when we didn’t carry smartphones, post pictures on Instagram or share witty status updates about what we are doing on Facebook.
It is not hard for us to speak to the older generations but we are also young enough to be involved with all of the aspects of the digital landscape. We don’t get lost when younger people talk about social media and the future of technology.
I like to picture Generation X as offering three global attributes:
- We are tech savvy.
- We have life experience.
- We are still young enough to have many years left before we retire.
That is a very powerful combination.
Generational Strengths and Weaknesses
PROS: Most of the respondents in the study (70%) believed that Gen X are the most effective managers compared to managers from the Boomer (25%) or Gen Y (5%) generation. Members of Gen X scored the highest when it comes to being a “revenue generator” (58% of respondents agree), possessing traits of “adaptability” (49% of respondents agree), “problem-solving” (57% of respondents agree) and “collaboration” (53% of respondents agree).
CONS: Gen X-ers scored the lowest compared to other generations when it comes to displaying executive presence (28%) and being cost effective (34%).
PERKS: Gen X respondents ranked workplace flexibility as the most important perk (21%) and are more likely to walk away from their current job if flexibility isn’t available (38% versus 33% of Gen Y and 25% of Boomers).
Based upon an informal survey of my friends many feel like the reason we don’t have as much of an executive presence is not because of lack of ability but because Boomers who haven’t retired occupy those roles now.
Don’t have a comment about the cost effective remark so we’ll let that stand for a moment.
Does Any Of This Really Matter?
I was about 22 or 23 the first time I remember hearing some0ne refer to us as Generation X. I never cared for it and thought it was unfair to tar us that way which I suppose is similar to how some of the Millenials must feel when we refer to them in a less than delightful manner.
In concept it is hard for me to get worked up about Generation X not being included in these conversations because I am not defined by them. I don’t think my membership has ever been the reason I was or was not hired for a position so in some ways these sorts of conversations are meaningless.
But it probably doesn’t hurt to think and or talk about it because sometimes that is how you figure out tools, resources and strategies you can use to advance your career.
What do you think?