#Nextchat: Gen X - The Invisible Generation

I was born in July 1963, several months before a defining moment for the Baby Boomer generation occurred—the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.  I was a “latch key kid” – I walked home from elementary school to an empty house because both of my parents worked.  In fact, I started walking to school by myself in first grade after everyone else had left the house. I wasn’t supposed to use the record player but nearly every morning I used those few minutes before school to play a 45 of Tommy Roe’s hit song “Dizzy” over and over again. [If this last sentence made no sense to you, you are probably a Millennial.]

The U.S. space program had a tremendous impact on me. I remember watching the first moon landing on a small black and white TV in 1969. I remember where I was when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded in 1986 (at work) and I remember what I was doing when the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster occurred in 2003 (checking emails on AOL at home).

My oldest sister got married when I was 11 and divorced a year later. My parents divorced when I was a freshman in college, leaving me to find my own way in the world. Three of my four siblings married and divorced as well. The same three never went to college. I—the youngest—was the first in my family to get a master’s degree. My next oldest sibling – born in 1961 – is working on his master’s degree now.

I am a member of Generation X.

Generation X refers to the group of people born after the massive group known as the Baby Boomers. The birth years which define Generation X vary depending on who you ask. Some say Gen Xers were born from 1965 through the 1970s. Others start the generation as early as 1960. This means that in 2012, Gen Xers are in their early 30s to early 50s—prime working years.

A May 2011 article in HR Magazine describes the group this way: “At 45 million, Generation X pales in size compared to Baby Boomers and therefore is often overlooked. These latchkey kids grew up as the divorce rate doubled and the number of mothers raising children and working outside the home soared. Members of Generation X were often left to their own devices after school, with the television as a baby sitter. This generation saw the invention of the personal computer, a deregulated airline industry and multiple recessions. They became technologically astute, more mobile and highly educated, as they went back to school when they couldn't find jobs. Self-management, pragmatism and cynicism are traits associated with Generation X.”

Generation X is sandwiched between two much larger generational cohorts. Thus, their perspectives and needs sometimes don’t get quite as much attention as those of other generations. In fact, even though I have reported on generational issues many times on SHRM Online, I recently noticed that I too have focused more on Baby Boomers and Millennials than my own generation.

Please join @weknownext at 3 p.m. ET on November 14 for #Nextchat with special guest Rebecca R. Hastings, SPHR (@SHRMDiversedit). Rebecca is a writer and editor who covers diversity and employee relations issues for SHRM. She has written several articles on Gen X and the multi-generational workplace. We'll want to hear your thoughts on the following questions:

Q1. Does Gen X get as much attention in the workplace as Baby Boomers and Millennials? Why/Why not?
Q2. What are some ways employers can motivate and engage members of Gen X?
Q3. What strengths and unique perspectives does Gen X bring to the workforce?
Q4. What kinds of employee relations issues are most often raised by members of Gen X?
Q5. What are some stereotypes about Gen X that lead to misunderstandings?

Q6. What hinders Gen X from advancing in their careers and how can employers prepare Gen X for leadership roles?
What hinders Gen X from advancing in their careers and how can employers prepare Gen X for leadership roles?

The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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