Gen X and the demise of lifetime employment

Generation X (Xers) refers to the cohort of the population born between 1960 to1980, in 2011 they are aged 31 to 51 years old.  Xers are the main generation who have had to deal with the ‘demise of lifetime employment’. This group developed their first career schemas during the 70’s and 80’s when the expectation of work was that it was for ‘life’.  New Zealand following WW2 until the 1980’s was an insular economy and the Muldoon Government instigated radical employment policies that signalled to workers that the government was committed to offering many secure jobs in state-owned enterprises (SOEs).  Xers had been taught by their parents and other Baby boomers that once one pursues an occupation it sticks for life. However, political change and ‘deregulation’ in the 1980s resulted in sale of SOEs, loss of many jobs, high unemployment and a change in emphasis in the labour market towards labour Capitalism. Following soon after that, major economic Globalisation over the 1990’s until to now further catalysed the changing nature of careers.

Xers now have to deal with short-term job contracts, redundancies, professional training and learning how to generate satisfaction from working as a short-term contractor rather than as a life-long employee. Bettins Lankard, a researcher at Ohio State University,  states that Xers place little faith in job security and tend to see every job as a stepping stone to something better. However, for many this transition has come during their lifespan and was not desired. Individuals have varyingly adapted to this new labour environment and some are not adapting or coping well.

Many of Careerology’s clients are Xers finding the career journey a very rough ride moving from job to job, occupation to occupation, despite their best efforts to find a ‘perfect’ job.  It comes as a shock to find that their is no perfect job and that to create career satisfaction we need to adjust our mindset and attitudes to create satisfaction from our work whatever we are doing at the time and to be ready for transition when it comes.

Generation differences between Baby Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y (modified from McGulgan, 2010).

Baby boomers Gen X Gen Y
Work values Personal gratificationPersonal Growth

Team work

Personal Uniqueness

Self-relianceAutonomy

Independence

Entrepreneurship

Diversity

HonestyIntegrity

Diversity

Responsibility

Team work

Work ethic IndividualisticSelf-absorbed

Competitive

Materialistic

Relationship focused

Team players

Sensitive to feedback

Uncomfortable with conflict

Respectful of authority

Comfortable with changeCynical

Pragmatic

Flexible

Adaptable

Multi-tasking

Creative

Resourceful

Autonomous

Goal-oriented

SocialConfident

Optimistic

Achievement oriented

Community oriented

Educated

Street Smart

Technology savvy

Team workers

Socially aware

Altruistic

Multi-tasking

Practical

Work preferences Linear career pattern“live to work”

Job security

Power

Career progression

Transitory career pattern“work to live”

Work life balance

Lack of job security

Informal approach to work

Meaningful workFlexible work

Mentoring/Feedback

Rewards must closely match effort

Co-operative

 

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