Generation X: Rediscovering the X Factor
Three months ago
by Melissa Webber
We hear so many sweeping statements about those lucky Baby Boomers who have all now paid off their mortgages and own their large, spacious homes outright, and about those entitled Millennials who would all prefer to spend their money on smashed avocado instead of ever having a mortgage.
We are now even starting to hear these generalisations about Generation Z – those young things who speak only in their native tongue, Emoji, and text each other across the dinner table.
But what about Generation X?
As a proud Gen Xer, please tell me why no one is using tired any old clichés about us?!
When mentioned at all, we are sometimes referred to as the “forgotten middle child” as we are destined to be sandwiched forever between those two influential and outspoken generations – the Baby Boomers and the Millennials. Therefore, we Gen Xer’s would like to draw your attention to a few things, lest you forget about the invaluable contribution we have made to the world since we burst onto the scene between 1965 and 1980.
What Gen X gave you then
As I try valiantly to encourage my kids to choose “outdoor pursuits” over “screen time” and to enlist them in cordless activities such as debating and chess, I realise that I only have myself to blame. While the very first video games were invented by some pioneering Baby Boomers (Pong, anyone?), Gen X has the distinction of being the first generation to grow up playing them. (Sadly, my parents were of the cordless persuasion so I am just no match for my boys.)
It was actually our generation that made Apple who they are today. Sure, we nearly lost them there for a minute after Steve was fired but we saw the light and we got him back and we have all been buying lots and lots of their beautiful products ever since. As graphic designers, we only ever used Macs even though they cost ten times more than PCs, but they were completely worth it as they were so beautiful and so functional – just look at the iPhone that you’re reading this on!
Me in 2000 with my beloved iMac G3 in our Holy Cow! office
Due to the extreme beauty of the original Supermodels and the savvy magazine publishers of the 90’s, our fixation with our looks has now evolved into a world-wide obsession. You’re welcome.
(Please don’t blame yourselves, Elle, Christy, Naomi, Cindy and Claudia.)
He remains the undisputed voice of our generation.
What Gen X gives you now
Unlike our Mums, many of us expected to work before and after having children. Those of us lucky enough to have children and a career fine-tuned the incredible art of balancing work life with family life and best of all, we are always happy to tell you about it. Think emailing a client from the delivery suite and taking “home made” cakes to the day care Christmas party. (Coles always feels like home to me.) We are here to pass on the secrets of our wisdom on this topic – just ask us.
Dissatisfied with the ‘neglectful’, boundary-free childhood we experienced where we were free to roam the ‘burbs on our Malvern Stars and told to be home in time for dinner, we say “No!” to such parental carelessness for our offspring.
Fortunately for our kids, they are scheduled within an inch of their Gen Z lives and what little free time they do have, they spend it wisely on another ground-breaking Gen X invention – YouTube.
“Gen X’s are flexible, independent, skeptical and technologically savvy. They are also increasingly the boss in today’s organisations.”
Believe it or not, a recent Neilsen study** reported that Gen X are even more digitally connected than their Millennial counterparts. Being the first to embrace digital technology when it slowly transformed the world as they knew it back in the ‘90s, they are ready for the opportunities that the age of digital transformation brings and they have the skills to make it happen.
With an average of 25 years’ experience in the workplace, Gen Xer’s can also combine their digital smarts to leverage their traditional business experience. They provide the perfect balance between the conventional business practices of the Baby Boomers and the digital-first approach of Millennials – the ideal leadership credentials for our changing times.
This generation will hold the greatest proportion of leadership positions in business for the foreseeable future and provide invaluable guidance and mentorship to both Millennials and Gen Z as we embrace the future together.
Please stop ignoring Gen X on social media! We are at the peak of our earning capacity and at the top of our game. We are more digitally connected than Millennials (see above) so your digital content strategy should definitely include things like Reality Bites, Doc Martins, Kurt Cobain and Cheezels.
Since the mid-nineties when I first started Holy Cow!, I have watched our world implode (9/11), pick itself up, implode again (the GFC), pick itself up again (Obama), only to face another gradual implosion (in my opinion – Trump). While these events have all taken place in the US, their impact on us in Australia has been incredibly significant. For us Gen Xer’s they have also all taken place during our working lives and for me, while I have been running a business.
Guiding my team and my clients through some of these events has left me feeling very agile and adaptable – as well as very grateful.
Collectively, we have learnt a lot.
Ironically, I love sharing stories of the discrimination and sexism I faced in the early days of Holy Cow! with the amazing young women I have on my team today as these stories really highlight how far we’ve come.
As a young female business owner in the late ‘90s, I received helpful advice such as, “Wear a short skirt to get the job, then a long skirt so they take you seriously.” (This is a true story.)
I also loved receiving letters addressed to “Mr H. Cow, Managing Director” because even the rudimentary database systems of the mid-nineties (the Golden Age of direct mail!) understood that females could not possibly be M.Ds.
Fortunately now, most young women have grown up seeing other women in leadership and entrepreneurial positions as the norm and simply laugh at these examples in disbelief. I am pleased to have played a part, however small, in this new reality.
One of the most common words used to describe Generation X, I discovered, is ‘self-deprecating’. Unaccustomed (and unskilled) as I am at taking a selfie, I think that the time has come for my generation to learn how – we have so much to offer those who came before us and those who will follow in our footsteps.
We quite like smashed avocado too.
Holy Cow! is presenting an event at Vivid Ideas Exchange at the Museum of Contemporary Art at Vivid Sydney 2019:
X Women – How Generation X Women Shape Creativity
For more information and ticket bookings for this event, please click here >