Gen X was born from 1965 – 1980. They are the children of the Baby Boomers and are currently between 40-54 years old. This is the generation known as the “latchkey kids” so called because they had to unlock their apartments or homes after school because there was no one at home. This was in the time when mothers joined the workforce in large numbers. It was also a time of increased divorce rates and there was no or very little after school care available.
Why are people born from 1965 – 1980 called Generation X?
With all the other generations there was something that defined them. For instance, after WWII there was an increase in births and people born at that time came to be called Baby Boomers.
With Generation X there is no such defining moment in history.
The term can be traced back to a novel by Douglas Coupland entitled Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, in which he discusses the lives and lifestyles of young adults in the late 1980s.
The name suits this cohort well, with the “X” referring to a lack of identity and direction that members of Generation X experience. They are also referred to as Gen X.
Who are the Gen Xers?
Generation X falls between the Baby Boomers and the Millennials. Being the smallest in number and with not much financial sway, their impact on society is limited. They are defined by their position between the other two larger generations.
Pew Research says this generation is stuck in the middle: This generation forms the demographic bridge between the predominantly white baby boomers and the more diverse millennials. They also fall in the middle of other demographic measures. For instance, their political attitudes also fit between those for the more conservative Baby Boomers and the more liberal Millennials.
What it comes down to, is Generation X is indistinct. They are sometimes referred to as the “lost” generation.
Characteristics of Generation X
Respect for marriage
Generation X approaches marriage with caution. With their experience of divorced parents and being the first generation latchkey kids, they have a distrust of marriage as the “happily ever after”. When they do settle for marriage, they are determined to make the marriage work.
Independent, resourceful, and self-sufficient
The fact that Generation X is independent, resourceful and, self-sufficient is another effect of their growing up in a time of two-income families and rising divorce rates. There was no mother to provide lunch or tea and help them with their projects. They had to get on with things as best they could. These characteristics have translated into an appreciation for independence in the workplace preferring to do their work as they see fit and detesting micro-management.
Rejection of authority and structured work hours
Generation X questions authority. They prefer an informal work environment Gen X managers often create innovative workspaces like coffee lounges and coworking spaces for their workers. The work-hard-and-play-hard mentality is attributed to them.
Passion for work-life balance
Working members of this generation have introduced the workplace to a new idea that has been embraced by all generations: the idea that you can have a successful career and a fulfilling private life. All-work-no play is not their motto.
Because they value work-life balance Generation X pays close attention to the physical distance between their home and their office. They prefer a job location that saves them time traveling.
This is the first generation that grew up with technology. Computers, video games, cell phones, and later email and the internet were part of their young lives. In the workplace they are quick to implement new technology and see technology as a way to work more efficiently.
This generation is also making a huge contribution to technology in the persons of people like Elon Musk, founder of five companies, Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet and Google, and Satya Nadella CEO of Microsoft.
Bold and flexible
Being self-sufficient, this generation is not afraid to leave a company and to look for better prospects. Gen Xers are known for their strategy to change jobs frequently as a way to make progress in their career. They are not the type to spend their entire working life at one company.
They are willing to change jobs and adjust to a new environment which is a testament to their flexibility.
Interesting facts about Generation X
Chernobyl was a defining moment in the lives of Generation X. The horror of that nuclear meltdown brought home to this generation the very real dangers of nuclear power generation.
The explosion happened on 26 April 1986 in Ukraine, then a republic of the former Soviet Union. Huge volumes of radioactive materials were released into the atmosphere.
The AIDS crisis
Gen X were pre-teens and teenagers when AIDS showed up in 1981. It first showed up in gay men in California and New York but the world soon realized that this was not a gay disease when women started contracting the disease.
This was a new invisible enemy that has so far has claimed the lives of 30 million people. This event fundamentally influenced generation X’s attitude towards sex. This generation’s exploration of sex was not carefree, it was influenced by the fears that the epidemic instilled in them.
Fall of the Berlin Wall (1989)
The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was a big moment for generation X. It was a change from the big tragedies and threats they had witnessed up to then. They watched on TV as soldiers handed down roses to people, while people cheered and cried.
While the wall, a symbol of the decade’s long Cold War was coming down, this generation saw a glimmer of hope for mankind - hope that humans can see the folly of their ways and make amends.
A childhood of video games
Millions of Gen Xers grew up playing video games. Their formative years were went hand in hand with developments in the video game industry. In grade school they used an 8-bit Nintendo and later moved on a Gameboy. Later the lucky ones could upgrade to a 16-bit Super Nintendo and when they got to college the popular 32-bit PlayStation gave them hours of playing pleasure.
Contributed tech giants to the world
Generation X counts world-class computer scientists and entrepreneurs amongst their ranks, people whose influence reverberate through our everyday life.
Gen X lay the groundwork for social media as we know it today. They were the first generation that grew up with access to home computers; they were the first teenagers that socialized online using online bulletin boards and email discussion groups.
This generation founded the first social media platforms including MySpace in 2003 and Twitter in 2006. Generation X is directly responsible for the establishment of Facebook, the ultimate social media platform. Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, admitted that Friendster served as a model for Facebook. Friendster was a social networking site founded in 2003 by Gen Xer, Jonathan Abrams.
Multi-award-winning software engineer Linus Torvalds (December 28, 1969) gifted the world open source computing which greatly advances software development worldwide. He is the principal developer of the Linux kernel, which became the kernel for the Linux operating system.
One of the most famous and powerful people today is South African born engineer, inventor and entrepreneur Elon Musk. Musk is CEO of Tesla and SpaceX and his other companies are SolarCity, Starlink, The Boring Company, Hyperloop, and OpenAI. His companies are disrupting at least eight different industries.
Google, the world’s answer to every question, was founded by two Gen Xers, Sergey Mikhaylovich Brin (August 21, 1973) and Larry Page (March 26, 1973). Larry also invented Google's search ranking algorithm "PageRank."
Satya Nadella (August 19, 1967) heads Microsoft; Sundar Pichai (July 10, 1972) is CEO of Alphabet and Google, Susan Wojcicki (July 5, 1968) is CEO of YouTube, Sheryl Sandberg (August 28, 1969) is COO of Facebook and Lei Jun (December 16, 1969) is founder of Xiaomi Inc. one of the largest technology companies in China.
World leaders who are Gen Xers include the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, the Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau, British Prime Minister (2010 – 2016) David Cameron, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad.
Generation X started out as the so-called lost generation, but things have changed. Now in the middle of their working careers, they are changing how the workplace looks and operate. The generation that grew up with video games now increasingly take on business leadership roles.
They have given the world social media, without which we can’t imagine our lives. And they are running the biggest tech companies. Not so lost, after all.