1965–1981 | Roughly 46 million
“I’ll never forget the Challenger [space shuttle] disaster because for most kids who were of the age when that happened, we were in school, and everyone was watching it on TV at school because there was a teacher going into space and that was a big deal.
The other big thing was the coming down of the Berlin Wall. All those years of knowing the Berlin Wall had been there, then all of a sudden it was just being torn down by people my age and younger, which was pretty amazing.
I remember when they were making movies about my generation, like Reality Bites and that kind of thing. We were called the slacker generation, which is such a misnomer. That’s not what Generation X is at all. Flexible was the word that I had in my mind, and I think that’s because things changed so quickly in our generation.
We’ve had to be flexible, and so it’s made us question when things don’t change.”
About Generation X
Generation X grew up with the fallout of many of the social changes that began during the Baby Boomers’ time. Among them: scandals in government and religious institutions, large-scale corporate downsizing that came with globalization, and changes to prevailing work and family structures – including mothers in the workforce, after-school “latchkey” care, and a high rate of divorce. This experience has left them with a more independent and skeptical approach to life, work, and family.
Generation X remembers the end of the Cold War, tragedies and successes in the space program, Operation Desert Storm, and the advent of personal computers, as well as the start of some troubling trends: the AIDS epidemic, the rise of crack cocaine, drunk driving, tainted Halloween candy, and the faces of missing children on milk cartons.
Generation X Trends:
The major events that impact each generation occur when they are adolescents and young adults. This youthful period of their lives is often when their worldviews and opinions form and can be influenced by a variety of factors – things like the economy, media messages, prevailing family structure, and major news events of their time. Here is a high-level snapshot of what life was like for Generation X.
Their reality growing up: Change is constant in every aspect of life
Defining moments: Challenger disaster, Berlin Wall coming down, Operation Desert Storm, divorce, “latchkey kids,” International Space station, HIV/AIDS epidemic, personal computers
Where they went for information/entertainment: Television and early Internet
Their values: Flexibility, work-life balance, skepticism, independence
Who they admire: Successful outside-the-box thinkers
Their goal: Enjoy life with a balanced approach
A typical “life path”: Navigate a world of constant change, where the social and family structures their parents relied upon no longer exist
What they consider professional work attire: Business casual
Communication style: Relaxed, casual, e-mail
Organizational style: Decentralized and results-driven
Strengths: Adaptable, independent, flexible, creative, tech-savvy, productive, open-minded, not afraid to ask “why,” work-life balance
Challenges: Reluctant to trust
In a word: Balance
Other things to know about Generation X:
– Generation X, as a relatively small generation, sometimes feels left out and misunderstood.
– These independent, self-sufficient, skeptical individuals are also experts at sniffing through a marketing ploy; to them, transparency is important.
– They’re the last generation that routinely used handwritten notes and letters to communicate.
Generation X Views On:
Work: Work smarter, not harder. Employees should not be micromanaged; they should be given tasks and judged by results. Work can be done anywhere.
Church: Faith is meaningful. The church as an institution should be questioned.
Education: Education is a great opportunity and should be pursued. However, you should beware of the “get a degree and then land your dream job” formula; it no longer works.
Parenting: You should provide opportunities for your kids in the form of various extracurricular activities, but also have family time. Safety is important, and screen time should be balanced with the real world.
Generation X Wisdom:
“The only constant is change.”
“Strike a balance in life.”
“Be skeptical first and build trust with time.”
To really get to know Generation X, talk to them and ask about their stories and experiences. Questions like, “What was life like for you growing up? What national events or movements do you remember most? What were the cultural messages of your day? How have these experiences influenced your views today?” are great conversations sparkers.
Thanks, Generation X, for teaching us balance! I appreciate you.
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