In a world obsessed with identity, which generation you’re part of means way more than it used to. Gone are the days when “generation” meant which decade you were born in–now, the generations serve as labels that indicate how hard you work, how much you care about the planet, or how good you are with technology. Despite the blanket statements, each generation is shaped by the world they were born into and have a reason for being the way they are. Think about the major events that happened in your lifetime that caused you to sit up and take notice of the world around you. Every generation has those moments, and understanding them can help bridge the gap between us all. To help you in that journey, we’ve listed the top characteristics for each generation below — and what you should know about them.
Baby Boomer Generation
Age Range: Baby Boomers came into the world between 1946ish-1965ish.
Name Origins: Some might not know where the term “baby boomers” comes from! It refers to the “baby boom” that came after World War II, not the “ok boomer” posts that plague the internet today.
Milestone Events: They are one of the older generations now, but what baby boomers experienced in their youth were some major cultural moments.
- Many boomers ranked the moon landing as one of the most significant events in their lifetime, which would surely shock the younger generations who grew up with high-resolution images from fancy telescopes.
- Boomers also grew up during a time of significant global conflict, with nearly half of the men being drafted to fight in the Vietnam war.
- Boomers are sometimes criticized for being backward thinkers, but they rarely receive credit for the counterculture they created in their youth. Younger generations forget that the people who are now their grandparents also led the free love movement to protest the violence and war that affected their generation so profoundly.
- They have a strong work ethic and tend to stick to one path.
- They are resourceful in their personal and professional lives.
- They are team-oriented.
- They maintain a strong sense of national pride.
Age Range: Generation X came into the world between 1965ish-1980ish.
Name Origins: The term “Generation X” can be traced back to Canadian writer Douglas Coupland. After reading Paul Fussell’s 1983 book Class: A Guide Through the American Status System, Coupland borrowed the term for an article and then used it in his 1991 novel Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture. According to the source, the term refers to a group unconcerned with societal pressures and status. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?
Milestone Events: The major events for Generation X are the foundations of our current society. These events formed the forward-thinking, independent, and technological Generation Xers in the world today.
- The Fall of the Berlin Wall is rarely discussed amongst the youth today unless it is in a history class. For Gen X, the fall of the Berlin Wall signaled the end of a terrifying purgatory period as Germany reunited. As the 1990s approached, Gen X was able to enter adulthood without the constant threat of possible nuclear war.
- The Watergate Scandal affected our culture so deeply that we still attach “-gate” to the end of whatever scandal is trending at the moment–think #slapgate at this year’s Academy Awards. For Gen X, this major political event invited them to think more critically about the institutions around them and how much they were willing to participate.
- The members of Gen X are no strangers to technology. From the first personal computers to the earliest video game consoles (R.I.P. the Atari 2600), Gen X grew up alongside the technology we all use today.
- They are independent and have been described as the “latchkey generation.”
- If you need a hands-on approach to solve a problem, you should look to Gen X.
- They are more informal than the generation before them, both professionally and with their fashion.
- They are technologically savvy… but don’t rely on technology for every single thing they do.
Age Range: Gen Y came into the world from 1981ish-1996ish.
Name Origins: Generation Y is the official name for this generation because “Y” comes after “X.” However, we all know this group more commonly as “millennials” because they entered adulthood around the turn of the millennium. Easy to remember, right?
Milestone Events: The major events for millennials happened mainly after the year 2000 and changed the institutions that Generation X fought against.
- September 11th, 2001, was the most significant event for many generations and impacted the world in a major way. Millennials grew up in the shadow of the horrible event. The subsequent increase in national security and the war on Iraq shaped the way millennials viewed foreign policy forever.
- Millennials were taught to follow the path set before them. Many were told that getting a college education would set them up with a great job and the ability to eventually own a home. The American dream! However, as older generations remained in the workforce and the price of higher education skyrocketed, the Great Recession left many millennials unable to buy homes or move up in their careers.
- Millennials were the first generation to grow up in the age of the internet and in a truly high-tech society. Most had smartphones by early adulthood and have chronicled 90% of their thoughts on some form of social media for the last decade.
- They are tech whizzes! Most millennials are familiar with older technology and have adapted with it. If you need help fixing a setting on your phone or putting the TV on the right channel, you need a millennial.
- They are used to rolling with the punches and adapting easily to new situations because the world has changed so quickly and dramatically during their lifetime. They are comfortable switching career paths and lifestyles as needed.
- They value meaningful motivation in all aspects of life and thrive on feedback.
Age Range: Gen Z came into the world between 1995ish-2007ish.
Name Origins: Generation Z follows the same pattern as Gens X and Y. Since they’ve practically had access to the internet out of the womb, they are sometimes referred to as “iGen” or the “internet generation.”
Milestone Events: It is tricky to determine the significant events during Gen Z’s lifetime – because those events are still happening!
- Gen Z has never lived in a world without technology, so the online world and IRL blend seamlessly into each other from their perspective. This also caused Gen Zers to grow up more quickly because they had early access to the internet, while other generations didn’t log on until adulthood.
- Though most of them were children at the time, many Gen Zers point to 9/11 as one of the most significant events of their lifetime. Many remember watching it on television in elementary school and have felt the national effects ever since.
- They are diverse. Social justice and gender equality are water cooler topics for Gen Z. The legalization of gay marriage, the Obama administration, and global conversations online have all led to a more inclusive worldview. They are also the most racially and ethnically diverse generation.
- They are environmentally conscious. Gen Z has been hearing about the ozone layer since they came out of the womb and note climate change among their top concerns.
- They are vocal technology experts. Not only did Gen Z have access to technology since they were babies, they know how to use it to communicate. Social media has allowed Gen Zers to shout their opinions into the online void for most of their lives, and they are not afraid to do so.
Remember, this is merely a general guide, and each individual has quirks that may not align with what we’ve discussed here! One baby boomer might be a technophile, and someone from Gen Z may have never owned a smartphone. Regardless, we are all individuals trying to make it in this world, and we all have something to contribute! If you like this content and want to learn more about how to bridge the gap between generations, you can sign up for our newsletter here and read the archives here!