Gen X "The Sandwich Generation" 10 Strategic Hiring and Retention Tips

• In your 30’s-early 40's and feel your career has stalled?
• None of the standard workplace incentives motivate you?
• Looking for a company where you really "fit" in?
• Taken for granted, yet feel squeezed by the Baby Boomers and Generation Y?


Welcome to Generation X! We are a small cohort of 44 million and are the filling in the population pyramid sandwich. We are squeezed by two generations who are double our size: the Baby Boomers before us and Gen Y or Millenials who came after us.


Check out my previous article with info on each of the major American Population Cohorts "Are You A Middle Child? Generation X and Adlerian Birth Order"
For the purposes of this article I will use the following abbreviations Xer's for Generation X, GY for Generation Y and BB for Baby Boomers.

Often there may only be one Gen Xer in a particular department or work-unit. We don't automatically have the same-age, cohort collegiality which BB and GY automatically enjoy. If we have friends, we have had to make efforts to relate to others who are quite different from us. By necessity, we have developed strong interpersonal and communication skills. Is it any wonder we crave inter-personal relations and seek friends wherever we can? Many of our personal friends are either older or younger. We rarely find someone our age.

Many Xers have had a rougher, career path than previous generations. We graduated from college in the early-mid 90’s during a recession. While the Baby Boomers were in their prime, we struggled to get a toe-hold in a very competitive job market. Next, we survived the dot.com bust while the BB filled the top management positions. Unlike previous generations, by all indications, the BB generation won’t retire at age 65. Also, Gen Y is graduating from college, they are cheaper hires than us and are continually nipping at our heels. This early exposure to the harshest aspects of the job market, has made us somewhat cynical as well as fiercely independent and in many cases, quite entrepreneurial.

It’s no wonder that many Gen Xers feel like they have been “sold a bill of goods!” By the time Gen X hit the workforce, the cradle to grave employment premise had imploded. The implicit contract between employer and employee never existed for us – like it did for our parents. For us, hard work and loyalty will not be rewarded with security, benefits or a career-long, job. We have been accused of frivolously flitting to new jobs every 3 or so years.We have been in a constant state of turmoil and career flux. Some jobs we took worked out, others were dead-ends which stalled our careers. Like a forgotten, middle child we’ve been taken for granted or left to figure it out on our own. Our parents couldn’t help guide our careers, since all of the rules had changed. As a result, the easy promotions, mentoring and supports BB received, passed us by.

10 Factors for Gen X Hiring and Retention

1. Understand that Gen X has many valid reasons to distrust corporate culture. They have had all of the responsibilities and very few of the perks.

2. HR staff should learn about our values and motivators and incorporate this into the basic fabric of their organization. Gen Xers' needs are very different than the preceding BBs' or subsequent GYs'.

3. We need and continually seek, mutually, supportive work-settings. Companies can help us by focusing on improving collaboration within and between departments. Ask for our input and let us know it's valuable.

4. Create a challenging, varied and intellectually stimulating work culture. This factor is key to both hiring and long-term, retention for Xers'.

5. The hyper-competitive, Yuppie model will smother an Xer and demotivate them.


6. Demonstrate transparency in hiring, retention and promotions. Show what the goals and steps are which will get you to the next level.

7. Acknowledge our pivotal role in the population pyramid. We can bridge the generation-gap and demographic, time-gap between the Boomers and the Gen Yers.

8. Provide training, mentoring and development. Ask us specifically what we need, then impliment it.

9. Plan a viable career path for Xers'. Show us that there are opportunities for career progression if they stay with your company

10. Understand our need for work/life balance. Provide: flextime, part-time work and telecommuting.


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Author: © 2010 - present. All Rights Reserved - Sharon B. Cohen, MA, Counseling Psychology, CPRP.  Career Counselor and Career Transition Specialist.


"Virtual Career Counseling: helping business professionals, reach their career potential!"


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12 comments:

  1. 到處逛逛~~來繞繞留個言囉~~~~.................................................................                           

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  2. Jiang Ting said,"I was browsing online and saw your website. I like your post and justed wanted to leave a comment."

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  3. Relevant, yet in the current market employers really have no need to cater to desires of their employees.

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  4. You're right. Short-term, the deck is stacked in favor of employers. However, if they don't consider employee needs and morale they'll see a mass exodus of staff, when the economy turns around. This scenario is what I observed during the .com boom and bust era.

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  5. We are in our Prime right now. We are less expensive than the Baby Boomers, more energetic, more realistic, and a lot more grateful for the opportunities given to us. We as a generation don't have the same entitlement mentality. And we are more experienced than the 20-something, still job-hopping, still partying Generation Y.

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  6. This is also my desperate hope, that we pull together so that we don't get CRUSHED.

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  7. Do you feel that many Baby Boomers seem to dislike Gen X'ers? It seems as if the Baby Boomers dislike Gen X'ers, band together as a group and, in some cases, actually seem to try to do everything they can to drive them out of the work place.

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  8. There is defintely intergenerational tension and competition for jobs and promotions - especially during this downturn. The good news is that since Gen Xers' have had to struggle throughout their careers, we are very suited to recessionary, career survival... :}

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  9. Do you think that age discrimiation will be the same for us as it was for the boomers?

    I worry that people in their late 30's to early 40's will soon be considered to have aged past their "prime" too much to be hired (as baby boomers always worried about once they turned 40), especially as a woman - I keep seeing all of these hot young 25 year olds in short shirts and high heels everywhere! (But how employable are they over the long term, besides being eye candy?)

    I wonder if any of the "higher ups" from Generation Jones(early to mid-50s)are aware of our specific talents??? They certainly seem to be more receptive than the more competitive baby boomers.

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  10. I think the tail end of the Baby Boomers have a lot more in common with GenX (i.e. those born in the 60's). We remember the party but missed it because we were children. We were the right age for Angry Punk Rock and were overjoyed when Nirvana ousted Michael Jackson. I think a lot of this HR talk about the strict personalities defining the generations is a lot of hog wash. But I do agree that the older Baby Boomers (and a few of the Reagan Era Yuppies of my generation) basically took everything and now do not want to leave a single crumb for anyone else. In that sense, I think we have to somehow take back the workplace.

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  11. The biggest challenge we face as gen x'ers is how the three generations look at making decisions, for example, the promotion process. Baby Boomers feel offended if they are the one with the most senority and don't get the promotion. Gen X'ers feel that no matter how long you worked for the company, the best person should be put in the position. Gen Y's tend to think that just because they applied for the promotion they should get it.

    We Gen X'ers are looked at as a threat by Boomers who decided to retire later in life because we have skills and are adapable to the point where we could make boomers look obsolete. As a result, they may want to promote Gen Y's over us, because they are not as big of a threat to replace them. Gen Y's who get promoted over us tend to fear us also, we can be critcal and that generation hasn't been brought up to handle that. We also tend to be innovative and think outside of the box. Gen Y bosses tend to be reluctant to anything that may cause the apple cart to be overturned, for fear of failure. As a result they look at us as dangerous and unpredictable.

    I feel we are looked at like the main guy on the show MAD MEN, individual, creative, the guy who flusters the upper management by trying to avoid signing a contract and after the lower level workers spend all night frustrated after failing to come up with the art and slogans for an account, will solve the problem with in the first five minutes of a morning meeting, which will only last about 10 minutes and end with the gen x'er saying if that's it then let's end this and get to work.

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