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Generation X at Work: Styles and Preferences

It’s 1965. Malcolm X has just been assassinated, the Vietnam War is raging, divorce is running rampant and the economy is in the crapper. The children born amid these incredible levels of chaos and change develop a never before seen sense of independence and self-reliance, and it’s these characteristics that define them as they begin to enter the workforce twenty years down the line.  This is Generation X.

Latchkeys Through and Through

One is not the loneliest number in this case. An increase in working moms forced the Ferris Buellers and Samantha Bakers of the world to spend a large portion of their youth without parental supervision which, according to a Family Relations study, causes children to “become more independent, self-reliant, and resourceful than peers who are constantly supervised.”

Lucky for them, too, as it meant that they were better equipped to cope with the economical tragedies that struck in their days of young adulthood. “I think a huge influence on us was the stock market crash of 1987, even though, maybe, at the time, you weren’t even aware that it would be important,” said Jeff Gordinier, author of How Generation X Got the Shaft But Can Still Keep Everything From Sucking. “But I mean, that happened October 19, 1987; I graduated from college in 1988, so just a few months later, and lo and behold, I couldn’t find work. That affects your sensibility. It changes what you expect.”

And so it comes as no surprise that Generation X has a reputation for focusing on increasing employability over climbing the career ladder. It’s simple logic: the more skills one has, the better their chances of finding work.

Ready for Any Kind of Weather

Today, Generation X is at career mid-point. They are tenured employees with families, and they expect the time and flexibility that allows them the work-life balance their own parents couldn’t offer. They still prefer to work independently, and are often noted for being at their best when given a goal and not told how to accomplish it.

In many ways, this generation also acts as a bridge between two of the largest groups of people in history (Baby Boomers and Millennials). When it comes to technology, for example, they are tech-savvy enough to use it all but because of their upbringing, are wary of and can navigate through moments of failure.

“Gen-Xers understand how the Boomers can be so perplexed by the new crop of workers, always connected to their mobile devices and social networks,” write Joe Frontiera and Dan Leidi of The Washington Post. “We also get the Millennials’ confusion at the workaholic tendencies of their Boomer counterparts, who sometimes don’t seem to have lives outside of the office.”

Packaged up, these qualities make a mediating generation capable of making hard and fast decisions. Next up: the tools and trends born from this mindset.

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