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Gen X could be 'make or break' generation for firms

Tuesday, October 18, 2011  
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Despite being the smallest generation in size, Generation X might be "the most critical generation of all” for employers, according to a study by the Center for Work-Life Policy.

Generation X possesses many skills critical to companies today, according to "The X Factor: Tapping into the Strengths of the 33- to 46-Year-Old Generation.”

Despite having been nicknamed the "slacker generation,” Generation X enrolled in higher education in record numbers. Over a third of Gen X hold bachelor’s degrees and 11 percent have graduate degrees. Women and minorities made up 64 percent of graduates during the Gen X college years. Many of the group’s minorities are the first in their families to graduate from college: 49 percent for African-Americans and 54 percent for Hispanics, compared to 33 percent of Caucasians.

Faced with economic challenges throughout their working lives, Gen Xers have been laid off, restructured, outsourced, reorganized and relocated more than any other generation in modern times. They have mastered change and possess the sort of resilience that organizations need as they face an uncertain future, according to the study.

However, these strengths risk being nullified by diminished loyalty, declining engagement and increasing apathy, according to the study. As Boomers work longer than anticipated, nearly half of Gen Xers feel stalled in their careers.

Debt is a key to many Generation X career choices; 43 percent say their ability to pay off student loans is an important factor in their career choices and 74 percent say the same about credit card debt. The vast majority (91 percent of women and 68 percent of men) are part of a dual-earning couple. More than a third of Gen X women out-earn their spouses.

Gen X is not only highly ambitious, but their ambition is nearly gender neutral: 75 percent of women and 72 percent of men consider themselves ambitious, the study found. What’s more, the group is eager to amplify their talents by learning new skills and garnering new experiences.

The Center for Work-Life Policy study was based on virtual strategy sessions, 10 focus groups, one-on-one interviews and a survey of 2,952 U.S. college-educated men and women in white collar occupations.

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