by Mike McNamara, updated Jan 27 2020
Generation X was tagged as 'the alienated youth', 'latchkeys', the MTV generation, and the ever enduring term 'slackers'. These 40 to 55 year olds were the first to adopt a digital lifestyle and fully embrace social media.
Today they are living up to their reputation by being identified as the age group that is spending more time on Facebook than any other. I frequently spend time with my X clients reminding them not to live "outside-in", competing for affection from their peer group via social media posts.
Although you are sandwiched between two huge generations (Millennials and their parents the Boomers) Gen X'ers make up a third of the U.S. workforce population and nearly 82% are either working or actively looking for work today.
It shouldn't be a surprise then to note that a significant part of our client portfolio is made up of these late 30's, 40's, and 50 somethings.
What might be a surprise is how uniquely advantaged Generation X'ers are to be successful based solely on their birth order and age. To see how, check out this article titled "Gen X'ers. Now's the Time" .....
"Gen X'ers. Now's the Time"
I think my Generation X clients are in an amazing position that they rarely take advantage of. They are often referred to as the "latchkey or MTV Generation". As they were heading into their formative years, divorce rates were peaking and the country's focus was changing, in particular spending and social services began to shift from child care to the ballooning senior population.
Gen X'ers make up a third of the U.S. workforce population and nearly 82% are either working or actively looking for work today. It shouldn't be a surprise then to note that two-thirds of our client portfolio is made up of these late 30's and 40' somethings. Also relevant is that TalentBlvd is largely made up of Gen X age staff and contractors. I personally feel an affiliation as I straddle the X'ers and Boomers. My observations are pretty simple and probably predictable regarding X'ers, including:
They got the rug pulled out from under them. They watched their parents and other Boomers follow a very traditional path up a corporate ladder. Then organizations started to become flatter and opportunities started to dried up. It literally is a game of "who moved my cheese".
They are in their "tired thirties and forties" as my wife has labeled them. The socioeconomic pressures are paramount in their lives. Big mortgages, car payments, young children with extracurricular activities after a full day of daycare or school. Lives are filled with social pressures and responsibilities. Identities, acquaintances, friends and social circles are driven by their children's school and activities.
They introduced Boomers and even Millennials to the world of technology and the internet. Boomers might have taught Gen X'ers how to use a spoon but they taught the Boomers how to order a set via Amazon.
They are independent and pioneers. Their focus is inward, constantly looking for self development and questioning their self-awareness. Funny, and predictable, when I get a request to review a reel and resume from a Millennial, if I respond critically and point out opportunities I rarely hear back from them. When I challenge the content of a X'er it's 'game on' brother. They will dive deep to make improvements, constantly tweaking and striving for their perception of perfection.
I'm excited to get the opportunity to coach multimedia professionals as they are reaching their late 30's and early 40's. It's the perfect convergence of skill, experience, and physically/mental ability.
At a high level, there are three themes over the course of our careers. These three themes are literally broken into 1/3 equal pieces. There are three main themes to my coaching with my Gen X clients, specifically........
If you are 35 to 55 years old, you should:
1. Consider how you leverage your unique position as a connector, the bridge. You sit between two generations that have significant communication challenges. You are a translator because of your ability to connect with your Boomer mentors, coaches and managers and hungry Millennials.
What this really means: You bring value in roles that rely on communication of change or strategy. Traditional broadcast media and digital multimedia platforms are no-brainers but also think about corporate communications. For example, when Amazon rolls out a new benefits program to it's 500k multi-generational staff members it's a Gen X'er that's perfectly suited to write, produce, and host the video content to communicate those changes.
2. Begin to think about how your skills and experience can be an outlet for a side hustle. You have built a terrific toolbox of cross function experiences. Because the workforce has been flattening your entire career, your network is probably more valuable than you think because it stretches across functions, companies, and industries. Even if you have spent your entire career in broadcast news, the collection of your three year agreements is extremely valuable because of your diverse multiple market and management experiences.
What this really means: You are going to 'time-out' at some point in your 50's. Hopefully it's a voluntary move but in reality it rarely is. You should be prepared to bridge your career from an employee to an entrepreneur if necessary. These side hustles can turn into a lucrative next chapter.
3. To some extend, begin to reduce debt load. You'll need flexibility to adapt and move later in your career. The more diverse experience and living debt free will give you incredible opportunities. The days have come that making a life will become more important than making a living.
What this really means: First, see above. Your prime earning years are going to be behind you quicker than you think. You need a 401k more than you need a new BMW!
In summary, I'm super bullish on the careers and opportunities of Gen X'ers. If you can recognize your opportunity as a bridge or translator, you should be able to weave that into your brand as an important differentiator. Why are you more qualified to reach Millennials than a Boomer and vice versa? More on this from a Cristina Mendonsa "A Fresh Agenda" podcast:
One last note, I think this generation is critical to establishing values such as work ethic, tolerance, and diversity. Equally important is recognizing and celebrating traditions as they get passed from the post WWII Boomers all the way down to the iGen's and Z's. As the bridge and translators, we're counting on you!
About Mike McNamara:
Mike has held C-Suite, Executive and Senior Sales, Marketing, Business Development, and General Management roles with Equifax, Cox Enterprises, WW Grainger, and Federal-Mogul Corporation. Mike has led sales, service and operations organizations of over 1,500 associates and accountable for P&L responsibility in excess of $250M.
Dedicated to giving back, Mike formed The MBAR Group in 2009 with the sole intent of providing pro bono career and business consulting services. Today he coaches a number of high profile media personalities as well as holding advisory board positions guiding a number of multimedia and small business startups.
Mike has a BS degree from Michigan State University, and MBA from the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University. He is a past chapter President of the American Marketing Association. Mike and family split time between their adopted state of Missouri and family home in NW Michigan where their philanthropic causes include The Kingdom House - St Louis, BACN in Benzonia, MI., and Samaritan’s Purse, Boone NC.