Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Gen-Xer with attitude

Another in our new series—guest posts from my students in the NYU masters program in public relations: This defiant declaration comes from a typically "skeptical," "realistic," "ironic," "distrustful," and "creative" gen-Xer, Susan Rucci.


Twenty years ago Nirvana released “Nevermind.” Kurt Cobain’s raw lyrics reverberated among Generation X who used the album as a rallying cry for their disenchantment with the political and economic times.

I’m one of them—an X’er in age and attitude. Kurt Cobain was speaking for me. 46 million of us were born between the mid 1960s to late 1970s. We often feel like the overlooked middle child, sandwiched in between Baby Boomers and the Millennials.

In noting the “Nevermind” anniversary, I realized had Kurt Cobain lived, he would now be a middle-aged man. So, who are we today? For one thing, we’re older. Generation X started turning 40 a few years ago. Unlike baby boomers who crave a parade for every milestone, X’ers did this one quietly. Perhaps we did it too quietly. It’s as though businesses and marketers have forgotten all about us. But ‘You Oughta Know” about us, to borrow loosely from singer and fellow X’er, Alanis Morissette.

We have money. We also have parents who have money. The Boston College Center on Wealth and Philanthropy estimates a $71 trillion intergenerational wealth transfer from 1998 to 2052. Generation X will be on the receiving end of much of that. We may be the last generation, for the foreseeable future, to inherit substantial estates from their parents. With Social Security and Medicare teetering on the brink of extinction, we’ll need that money too. We’ll be relying on the private sector for more of our needs as we age.

If you want our business, then understand who we are: Educated. Independent. Technologically adept. Realistic. Practical. Cautious. Ambivalent. Skeptical. Ironic. Distrustful. Creative.

Don’t call us slackers. It’s not true. We’ve worked harder for less money, less benefits and less job security. All the rules keep changing on us. Yet, we survive and thrive. Reinvention.

Here’s who we are: Jon Stewart, Michelle Obama, Jay-Z, Julia Roberts, Ben Stiller, Anderson Cooper, Jennifer Lopez, Eminem, Jennifer Aniston and, you betcha, Sarah Palin too.

The refrain from Nirvana’s “Smells like Teen Spirit” sums us up really well. Cobain raged, “Here we are now, entertain us!” Yep, and if you do it right, we might just buy what you’re selling too.

Susan Rucci went through a brief but meaningful “flannel shirt” phase in the early 1990s. She is reinventing herself as she pursues a Master’s degree in Public Relations from NYU. For 20 years, Susan worked as a network news producer at CBS News and Good Morning America. @susanrucci loves Twitter too.


Anonymous said...

Boomers had Watergate and the Vietnam War to define their generation. Gen Y has had the Internet and the integration of technology into every human activity. What defines Gen X? What do they rally around or disdain? Is there a flag they all salute - or burn?

Susan Rucci said...

Gen Xers often rally around tough economic circumstances. We entered the workforce in a recession and worked for less money than the previous generations. Interestingly, Xers set the precedent followed by Gen Ys, etc...of jumping from job to job. We often chose personal freedom over allegiance to an organization simply because organizations were choosing less allegiance to their employees. Xers at midlife are facing economic crises again...many are out of work or working for less money(or freelance). I just heard a piece on NPR that documented how Xers have been hit harder by the housing bust than any other age group. We bought at the height of the housing boom and now many of us are stuck with homes and mortgages under water. We also rallied around Michael Jackson's moonwalk on Motown's 25th anniversary. An Xer can tell you where he or she was when MJ brought the magic to the stage that night.