Updated: Nov 21, 2021
The Forgotten Generation. The Sandwich Generation. The “Middle Child.” These are some of the names that have been given to Generation-X, who are sandwiched between Millennials and Baby Boomers and have not gotten as much media attention. A recent Business Insider says, “They came of age as "latchkey kids" and, as adults, experienced three recessions and a technological transformation from the dot-com boom to social media.”
Gen-X, who were born between 1965 and 1980 and who will outnumber Baby Boomers by 2028, are the only generation that had an analog childhood and a digital adulthood. The world shifted beneath their feet. Gen-X women watched their mothers, the Baby Boomers, hit the glass ceiling as they entered the workforce in droves, and Gen-X themselves battled the stubborn gender norms of the status quo.
Today many Gen-X women are working full-time while being the caregiver for children or aging parents—or both (the average caregiver is a 49-year old working woman). We’ve seen the effects of the pandemic on women, who have left the workforce in droves, in part because the majority of caregiving duties continue to fall on women’s shoulders and those duties increased during the pandemic. And while Gen-Xers tend to have above-average incomes, they also carry debt.
To find out how Gen-X women can remain resilient as they have during past periods of economic and social upheaval, I spoke to business and career coaches Jackie Ghedine and Mimi Bishop, co-founders of The Resting Mind. They focus on helping Generation-X women build their worth and their value so that they can generate more wealth. Here is what they had to say about busting the myths Gen-X women have been told, and action steps for living more fulfilled lives.
**This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Corbett: Why did you name your company The Resting Mind?
Bishop: I'm fascinated with understanding how powerful our brain is and how we as humans haven't even been able to scratch the surface of what is possible. Your resting mind is your subconscious mind, and our goal is to optimize that. About 95% of our day is driven by our subconscious. We're really going through our days on autopilot. Being able to move women specifically from this resting mind place, that is a lower energy, to a higher mind place by changing subconscious beliefs and habits is so powerful. If we are able to move it by only 2% or 3%, it makes a tremendous difference.
Corbett: A lot of the messages we receive have become internalized and unconscious. A common myth Gen-X women have been told is “work hard and you’ll get promoted.” Many might have discovered putting our heads down and getting things done doesn’t guarantee a promotion. What’s a better way to rise up into leadership?
Ghedine: Always ask for what you want. From the work that we've done with women that are 40-plus, they were told to be the first one in and the last one out, and you'll get recognized. That is not the formula for success in the corporate world. We need to really unravel that belief and understand that we need to own our worth and articulate it in order to rise up [into leadership positions].
Corbett: What advice can you give on how to own your worth?
Bishop: Your worth is based on your internal perception. It's what you think of yourself, and not what everyone else thinks about you. My advice would be to not search outside for that validation, because that's so fleeting. The only person that really gets to tell you how amazing you are is yourself. That's where it starts, because you could rely on the outside world for all of that validation, and it disappears in a second. Often women are taught we are valued for what we can do for others—for our caregiving ability or how we show up in the workplace.
Once you become really rock solid on your own principles and values, it goes back to tapping into that energy, because you start to recognize what feels right to you intuitively. An energy misalignment can look like lots of stress or anxiety. You’ll start to know when your energy is off, because your energy translates as emotion. That is an opportunity for you to take a pause, start to recalibrate and remind yourself what you stand for. Do more of what makes you feel like you're in alignment with your value, and then you’ll be able to go out there and speak it.
Corbett: So it’s about being more conscious and intentional rather than operating on autopilot?
Bishop: The brain is hardwired, so it takes a lot of effort and awareness to start to change those patterns. We very often will go back to thoughts that we've had because those are hard-wired into our brains. We need to take a very conscious effort to start to shift them little by little. And that's where the real change happens.
There'll be a certain amount of discomfort, and sometimes we may think that's a red flag that means I shouldn't be doing this. It just goes back to the many expectations that have been put on Generation-X women, that we should do it all. We should take care of our parents. We should coordinate meals. We should run a big business. We should drive our kids all over the place and do it perfectly. We can't sometimes. It's okay to not do it all and to not do it perfectly. That's really a myth that is very hard baked into our generation.
Corbett: Yes, many Gen-X women may believe the idea that we have to “do it all.” Do you think this leads to increased feelings of guilt when we can’t?
Ghedine: There's a lot of layers to that. Many women are nurturers by nature, so the way many of us have fueled our worth is by doing for others. We will do for others before doing for ourselves. The other side of that is we grew up in this latch-key generation where we had to be very independent, yet we were quite lonely. The pendulum almost swung too much the other way, where we didn’t want to be an island unto ourselves. To compensate, we nurtured and took care of everything.
We have been conditioned to believe that having it all means doing it all to maintain it all, and we need to unravel that. Ruthless prioritization is the key to finding satisfaction in your own life. Yet even when Gen-X women do that, we still tend to put our needs last. Why do pilots tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first? Because if you can't take care of yourself, you can't save your child or anybody else around you. That’s the reality we need to recognize.
Corbett: How might this mindset have impacted Gen-X women in their careers?
Ghedine: One of our strengths, and also our weakness, is our ability to be so resilient. We came into the workforce and there was a recession. Then there was the dot.com bubble and then 9/11. Now there is a pandemic. Gen-X women have been a generation of bad timing. These things have happened, and it's caused us to be incredibly resilient and resourceful.
At the same time, sometimes we use that to our detriment, because we are not asking for what we need. We're blending in, just taking care of business in the background. I've heard this over and over: ‘If you want to get something done, ask a Gen X-er.’ That’s great, but on the other hand, we also need to be valued for that.
When we become the workhorse and then want the promotion, the first thing that our employers are thinking is, ‘Who's going to do all that work?’ So their fear of losing you in that spot actually hurts you, because you've done so much they're thinking about how they're gonna backfill you, not how that skill can be translated.
The other part of that is we grew up with Baby Boomer parents who told us to stay at a company for as long as you can. So what many Gen-X women have done is they've stayed in their corporate jobs for a really long time, and after 10, 15, 20 years, they get laid off. Then they’re financially behind, because your salary increases much more when you move companies. You've been with the same company and you haven't grown. You haven't learned new technologies. You haven't been exposed to as much. Now you're out in the real world at 40, and unfortunately corporate America is minimizing what that means and that experience. We have this opportunity to shift that dialogue. It is incumbent upon us to demand our worth with the revenue we add and the money we should be getting.
Bishop: Another thing that Generation-X women are all about is security. That really bites us in the end, because we may stay at a job because we value security, and then we get pushed out. Security is an illusion. Corporations will swear up and down, ‘No, it's not because of your age,’ but we see it happen over and over where this age range is the first to get pushed out. Now we're scrambling looking for another job, and it's hard to get back in. If we've taken those chances and made the jump between companies, you’re more likely to get a 10% increase or even 20% increase versus a 2% yearly increase. There is no security, so moving on is a way to expand our wealth.
Corbett: What advice do you have for how to navigate this, increase our earning potential, ask for what we want and strategically place ourselves for growth? Gen-X women have another 30 years of working, so that’s still a long career trajectory.
Bishop: We need to close the worth deficit so that we can get to our wealth. With our clients, we help them articulate their worth in such a way as to show how you're different and the benefits that you deliver.
So often we hear women going into an interview really just hoping they’re a fit. It's also part of our job to say, this is what I do, this is my value, and this is how it's a benefit for you and your company. That changes the entire conversation, because you're truly marketing yourself by showing how your value can be applied. You're selling yourself in such a strategic way to help companies see, ‘wow, this really can be applied to my bottom line.’ That's where we're going to see the conversation start to shift, because people want our wisdom. It's worth a lot.
Ghedine: The first thing is to know you are in your prime. It’s the perfect time to leverage all of the skill and wisdom you’ve gained by packaging that and starting to demonstrate how much value we bring to different organizations, or even ourselves. Many of our clients have decided they don’t want to continue in corporate, but to start their own thing. Does ageism exist? Yes, but it isn’t the definitive barrier to entry. There is so much opportunity out there. Time hasn't run out. If you want your tomorrow to look different than today, just take a different action today and tomorrow will look different.
Article originally published in Forbes.