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The Hidden Reasons Why Gen-Xers’ Career Prospects Are Rising

Source | FastCompany : By ALEXANDRA LEVIT

I got into Northwestern University despite far-from-perfect SAT scores and missing the valedictorian spot by one grade. If I were a millennial, I would have had much longer odds. Born in 1976, I’m a late Generation X-er and have had less competition for everything pretty much all my life.

You’ve heard of Generation X. Due to plummeting fertility rates, the media called our birth years the “baby bust.” Gen X includes those born between 1964 and 1979 and is bookended by the massive baby boomer generation (those born 1946–63) and the even more massive millennial generation (those born 1980–95). Historically, we’ve either been ignored or called slackers by pop culture and advertisers.

But we’re more influential in the modern workforce than we tend to get credit for and are about to become more so. And if the coming baby boomer exodus from the workplace is just revving up and Gen-Xers are next in line to fill the roles boomers retire from, it won’t just be a sheer numerical advantage that plays to our favor. Here’s why.

FILLING A COMMUNICATION SKILLS GAP

While these are sweeping and probably unfair stereotypes, you don’t have to look far to find organizations urgently prodding their more senior employees to get with the technological program. Meanwhile, hiring managers and recruiters are pointing to a “soft skills” gap among recent grads and championing emotional intelligence as a job skill.

So while millennials may be unfairly caricatured as socially inept much the way boomers are wrongly dismissed en masse for poor technical chops, the trends in companies’ staffing needs are unmistakable. Gen X-ers, on the other hand, may be more likely to prove communication maestros by comparison.

We grew up socializing without devices in our hands. Whether it was learning to cope with the neighborhood bully or sweet-talking our parents into letting us stay home alone while they went on vacation, many of us knew how to use words and persuasion to problem-solve and solicit cooperation.

Anna Garvey at Social Media Week called Gen X the “Oregon Trail generation,”referencing the 1980s adventure game that had millions of kids glued to their schools’ desktop computers. The idea was to get your wagon to Oregon before you lost all your oxen or died of disease. Oregon Trail and games like it showed us how to tinker with this new and strange technology and become masters of the machine.

Heading off to college and our first careers, the electronic age really started heating up. As Garvey aptly put it: “We came of age just as the very essence of communication was experiencing a seismic shift, and it’s given us a unique perspective that’s half analog old school and half digital new school.”

To be sure, not every Gen Xer grew up the same way or acquired the same skills through their experiences. But our careers have tracked the rise of the digital workplace, and the foundation that’s given many of us may pay dividends in helping us navigate the boomer brain drain.

Read On…

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