Gen Xers: A Guide to Generation X in the Workforce

Jennifer Herrity

Updated June 9, 2022

Published December 12, 2019

Jennifer Herrity is a seasoned career services professional with 12+ years of experience in career coaching, recruiting and leadership roles with the purpose of helping others to find their best-fit jobs. She helps people navigate the job search process through one-on-one career coaching, webinars, workshops, articles and career advice videos on Indeed's YouTube channel.

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Generation X is a generation of professionals who are helping to shape the current workforce. Many Gen Xers, as with other generational groups, share similar values and characteristics and by learning more about Generation X and how they function in the workplace, it can help better improve how you work with them.

In this article, we take a look at Generation X, specifically this generation’s shared characteristics and the common jobs they often pursue.

What is Generation X?

The Generation X demographic ranges from 1965 to 1980. However, Gen Xers born in the 1960s might share more values with baby boomers, while those of Generation X who grew up closer to 1980 sometimes connect more with millennials of Generation Y. 

Members of Generation X play a critical role in the workplace today. Most Gen Xers have at least 20 years of work experience and are ready to accept the challenge of leadership as baby boomers retire. Gen Xers’ upbringing and values can shape the way they work and how they lead others.

Related: Gen Z vs. Millennials in the Workplace: What Are the Differences?

Comparing the generations

Here's a general outline that compares the basic descriptions of each generation:

The Silent Generation/Traditionalists

  • Born before 1946

  • Traditional, loyal, seek comfort

Baby Boomers

  • Born 1946–1964

  • Focused, goal-oriented, disciplined

Generation X

  • Born 1965–1980

  • Independent, value work-life balance, entrepreneurial

Generation Y/Millennials

  • Born 1981–1994

  • Confident, results-oriented, collaborative

Generation Z

  • Born after 1994

  • Competitive, tech-savvy, independent

Read more: 5 Generations in the Workplace: Their Values and Differences

Common characteristics of Generation X individuals

There are a few personality traits and behaviors that people born in this generation share. While not every Gen Xer may have these characteristics or values, it’s not uncommon to find them identifying with the following:

1. Gen X values autonomy

Per the Pew Research Center, Generation X is known for being self-reliant. As a result, many Gen Xers value independence in their work, with many of this generation preferring to receive a basic objective and then finding their own way to achieve it. Since Gen Xers often hold leadership roles within an organization, they offer the same autonomy to their team members as well. 

2. Gen X expects flexibility

For Generation X, flexibility means being able to complete tasks how and when they want. According to FamilySearch.org, because of what Gen Xers have lived through, they’ve become flexible in all aspects of life, including work. These employees will work hard to meet their deadlines and complete their work as long as they have the freedom to decide the processes and time required to reach their goals

Many members of Generation X have thrived as workplaces become more flexible and remote. The ability to come in early and leave early, or come in late and stay late, gives them the flexibility they seek. Similarly, members of Generation X often get excited at the prospect of working from home or remotely to spend more time on personal pursuits. 

3. Gen X expects clear goals and deliverables

Gen Xers like working toward a clear goal and with clear expectations. Meeting a specified objective can make them feel accomplished and help them stay motivated in the workplace. When beginning a project, they may ask several questions to gather all of the requirements, then develop their own plan to complete it. When working as managers, Gen Xers often offer basic requirements for their team members and are comfortable offering guidance as needed. 

4. Gen X pursues education

For many Gen Xers, a college education was a necessity rather than a luxury. The rise of Generation X leaving for college coincided with a decline of manufacturing jobs in the workforce. This generation used college as a means for professional advancement. Pew Research Center data shows that the number of Gen X men and women with college degrees was 1% and 6% higher respectively, when compared to the previous generation.

In the workplace, this emphasis on education may Gen Xers to continue seeking additional training in order to advance their careers. As managers and leaders, they may invest more in training programs for employees. 

5. Gen X is comfortable with technology

This generation is directly responsible for the rise of modern technology. With this said, many Gen Xers are very comfortable with technology like computers or smartphones, along with learning new software or programs. They can use technology to assist in making their jobs easier, and many pursue jobs in the IT industry.

Common Generation X jobs

Members of Generation X are incredibly diverse and can fit into almost any job profile. However, the most prominent fields Gen Xers are attracted to are computers and management, construction and transportation. Conversely, members of Generation X are significantly less likely to enter fields related to farming, personal care or education.

According to Indeed’s Hiring Lab Chartbook, Gen Xers have had time to grow their careers, which is why they’re leading in management. They have learned from past generations and are taking on leadership roles on their own.

Here are some common jobs a Gen Xer could pursue today. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the salary link for each job title below:

Diesel mechanic

National average salary: $25.48 per hour

Primary duties: A diesel mechanic performs work on trucks and trailers. They may perform preventative maintenance, such as oil changes and battery tests, or make repairs on certain parts. Diesel mechanics could work in a shop or travel to the location of the truck or trailer. In shops and garages, diesel mechanics perform cleaning duties and maintain parts and tools inventory.

Warehouse manager

National average salary: $62,227 per year

Primary duties: A warehouse manager coordinates all activities within a warehouse. They develop storage and shipping logistics, review inventory and ensure employees follow safety procedures. Warehouse managers may also plan schedules for employees and oversee their work. In some cases, they may need to communicate with clients and vendors. 

Human resources director

National average salary: $94,103 per year

Primary duties: A human resources (HR) director oversees an entire human resources department. They develop hiring and training plans, monitor employee relations and ensure departments follow employment laws. HR directors could also manage payroll and employee benefits, such as retirement and health care plans.

Software architect

National average salary: $133,227 per year

Primary duties: A software architect develops the entire scope for a program and oversees its execution. They help develop timelines, make decisions regarding which programming languages to use and manage development teams. In most cases, software architects are involved in making high-level decisions while the rest of their team implements their plans.

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