How Gen Xers Approach Their Careers After COVID


As vaccination rates rise and the pandemic fades in the United States, some generations are inward-looking.

Consider, for example, millennials, some of whom are embracing this The New York Times calls the economy YOLO – a cheerful acronym for “you only live once”. They leave stable, well-paying jobs to travel, write screenplays, and enjoy the freedom and flexibility of remote working by relocating to exotic locations.

In a similar vein, there are the baby boomers – millions of whom are leaving the workforce years earlier than expected due to COVID-19. Fortified by big 401 (k) accounts and valued real estate values, they are, according to Bloomberg, in a “rush to retire in a new mindset life is short”.

Generation X did not get the memo. Generation X people, those born between 1965 and 1980 (including me), were among the least likely to have moved during the pandemic, the least likely to have lost their job, and the best to adapt our current jobs at remote work.

Millennials have YOLO. Generation X has the status quo.

Gen Xers don’t make many immediate decisions after the pandemic due to our stage of life and constraints. We have children firmly in schools, also working spouses or partners, aging parents to take care of, and the home equity needed for impending tuition payments. Not to mention the fact that we are in our peak income years.

Then again, just as millennials love avocado toast and baby boomers are egotistical, Gen X is a bunch for whom cynicism is a love language, and there might be other strengths. sociological issues at stake. “Generation X came of age when all kinds of commitments and promises were broken,” said Jason Dorsey, who heads the Center for Generational Kinetics, a research firm in Austin, Texas.

Megan Gerhardt, who studies generational diversity in the workplace at the Farmer School of Business at the University of Miami and a Xer herself, said she sees what’s happening based on average age getting mixing with generational identity.

“Generation X is sandwiched between two very large generations who have different life stages and commitments than we have now,” said Gerhardt. “This allows them more freedom and mobility with this new post-pandemic reality.”

And yet, “It’s also very Gen X of us to be like, ‘Good. We are going to stay here and fend for ourselves. Don’t worry about us. “”

There is, however, an alternative explanation. Maybe Gen X isn’t drastically changing their lives because we don’t want or need it.

Smack amid middle-aged engagements

Generation X is in the midst of middle age, and life-changing decisions are neither easy nor straightforward.

Uprooting is easier for Gen Z, whose oldest are 24, and millennials, who are between 25 and 40. Millennials, in particular, are less crowded than past generations. they delay wedding, children and buying a house, but not always by choice. Meanwhile, baby boomers, aged 55 to 75, are the richest generation in American history.

To be clear: the demographics of the post-pandemic workforce are still unclear, and how and where the numbers land are yet to be determined. Many millennials stick to their day jobs, buy homes in the suburbs, and adopt familiar rituals of adulthood. And many baby boomers plan to punch the clock for many years to come.

Moreover, these YOLO-type trends only occur at the margin; Not everyone can afford to quit their job in their 30s or go out for sunset in their 50s.

But for Baby Boomers and Millennials with a cushion of cash, the world is their oyster and the job is for the birds.

It’s not a sentiment Gen X relates to right now. Take, for example, Steve Morrow, a 48-year-old financial analyst who lives in the greater Phoenix with his wife and two school-aged children. “I hear about a lot of young people quitting their jobs or moving to a fun and exciting place, but now is not the right time for us,” he said.

Then again, if Morrow feels a hint of regret for an unlived life, he is quick to point out the recklessness of quitting his job in an uncertain economy or leaving and relocating to a vacation destination. “You have to make do when you have bills to pay,” he said.

Alison Huff, a freelance writer who lives outside of Youngstown, Ohio, with her husband and two children, feels the same. She said she wouldn’t dream of moving or cutting expenses, especially because her elderly mother moved in with her last year. “I look like an old fool, but I want stability,” she said.

Turnkey children, all grown up

No generation is monolithic. Each is made up of tens of millions of people with different cultural backgrounds, perspectives and circumstances. And yet it is also fair to say that groups of people are shaped by the political and cultural events that occur when they come of age.

“There’s always something going on when you’re young that shapes your worldview,” Larry Samuel, founder of Age Friendly Consulting and author of numerous books including “Aging in America,” mentionned.

The larger generation experienced World War II and the Depression, which made people strive for stability, he said. Baby boomers have come of age amid countercultural chaos but also post-war economic expansion, which allowed them to get so rich. The Xers were bred in the shadow of an economic downturn and an era of “foreign danger”.

“They had their own trauma, whether it was the

recession
or being uncontrollable kids who were left in front of the television or not being able to get the kinds of jobs and career paths their parents enjoyed because the economy had gone. out of breath, ”said Samuel, a baby boomer.

Indeed, Gen X’s cynicism and risk aversion have deep roots, said Dorsey of the Center for Generational Kinetics. “Gen X saw their parents get laid off and all kinds of benefits were cut. Gen Xers are skeptical about whether Social Security will cover their needs or whether it will exist even when they retire. There is a lot going on. with this generation because of what they went through growing up. “

It resonates with Melissa Meyer, a shopkeeper in her early fifties. The economic fallout from manufacturing plant closures that occurred during his childhood in the 1980s in Milwaukee left an indelible impression. As a result, Meyer, a single mother of two, manages her life and career with some paranoia. She drives an old car that has paid for a long time and admits to hiding her vacation money, lest she be tempted to spend it stupidly.

Meyer views post-pandemic adventure seekers with a mixture of envy and doubt. Reality hurts, after all. “I guess I could throw my middle finger in the air and quit my job to work on my music, but it’s not practical,” she said.

Here Now

Granted, not all Gen Xers stand still. Some move, change jobs or go back to school.

But for the majority of Gen Xers, post-pandemic work and family life is going as usual – and that’s fine. We have already spent decades building our careers, families and social circles, and as the pandemic emerges, many of us feel like we are where we want and need to be. COVID-19, in all its horror, sparked a middle-aged sense of prospect and mellowing contentment.

Even Meyer, despite his global Gen X weariness, told me that coming out of this pandemic year gave him a renewed sense of purpose and meaning. “My children are a gift. Same with my parents. It is an honor to take care of them.”

Ron Passaro, a 44-year-old composer who records films, has no plans to leave Manhattan, where he was born and raised. His partner, Rachel, has a daughter he helps raise and he visits her parents who live nearby twice a week.

There are times when Passaro feels nostalgic for the lack of spontaneity in his life, but they are rare. These days he feels sentimental. “Family trumps everything,” he said. “I don’t need fancy adventures. I appreciate what I have.”

Margit Detweiler, a 53-year-old content strategist and founder of TueNight, a community for Gen X women, also remains in Brooklyn. She has a large social and professional circle, and the city also offers easy access to Philadelphia, where her elderly parents live.

Detweiler doesn’t have any big changes going on, but she isn’t ruling them out. “The pandemic has been a time for Gen X to take stock and think about what we want the rest of our lives to look like,” she said. “We’re always willing to take risks, just more calculated risks, and not without a lot of research.”

The cynicism that Gen Xers are famous for has come in handy during the pandemic, she added. “We are tough,” she said. “We are survivors.”


About Timothy Cheatham

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