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How Successful Gen Xers Avoid These 4 Common Pitfalls

Gen Xers, born between 1965 and 1980, face unique career challenges and opportunities.

For us, gone are the days of riding our bikes around the neighborhood every afternoon with our friends, practicing our WWF moves on each other in the front yard, playing football in the street until the street lights turn on, drinking water out of the garden hose, perfecting our dance moves with MTV music videos, endlessly playing Mario Brothers and Duck Hunt on the Nintendo, or spending our Saturday mornings watching cartoons with a bowl of cereal in our PJs...

Life is different for us now.

We are hardworking adults with countless responsibilities.

We have real bills to pay.

We provide for our family. We support our aging parents. We're responsible for the upkeep of our vehicles... our house. Our mortgage.

In the words of Dewey Finn in the movie School of Rock, "The legend of the rent is way hard core." (one of my favorite movies of all time, by the way...)

Our careers are the vehicles that keep our lives on track. We value them and pour ourselves into them.

But if we're not careful, we run the risk of falling into some common pitfalls.

A Bit About Generation X:

Generation X is often referred to as the "forgotten" generation.

Why? Because we are sandwiched between the Baby Boomers and Millennials, both of which have garnered a lot of attention because of their own unique developmental climates and unique characteristics.

But what about Gen X? The generation who grew up in after-school care. The generation that knew life both with and without the internet. The generation whose decisions today now impact the generations that came before and after us.

Our numbers are growing in the business and leadership sectors, and rightfully so. Not just because of our experience at this stage in our life, but because of the dexterity that we uniquely possess because we've had to be agile due to our family dynamics growing up and the technology boom within our lifetime.

I'm a GenXer myself and have experienced a pitfall or two at various points in my career. Overcoming them hasn't been easy, but it's been possible thanks to having an awareness of what they are and using the strategies discussed here to come out victorious over them.

Both through my own experience, and through conversations with other Gen Xers, I've compiled this short list of common pitfalls and share my thoughts about each one.

What are they? How can we make sure that they don't prevent us from living a full life? How can we use this information to achieve the success we crave and deserve?

Let's explore some of those common pitfalls that Gen Xers face and how to avoid the ones that might be wreaking havoc in your own professional development.

1. Career Stagnation:

Gen Xers may feel stuck in their careers and struggle to find opportunities for growth and advancement.

Why? For a variety of reasons, one of which being that our generation was taught to value longevity in a role and loyalty to our employers.

Although there is value in being a loyal long-term employee, it is detrimental to your overall life experience when you remain employed with an organization that doesn't value your contributions and adds more responsibility to your plate without the recognition of a title change or salary increase.

The creep of added responsibility is one that happens over time. And unless you're aware and learn to proactively advocate for yourself, you could end up feeling overwhelmed, burnout, and frustrated because you see your career isn't advancing the way you deserve. What's more, you see that you begin falling short on managing your other major responsibilities because you're pouring so much of yourself into work.

When you feel this way, it's usually more difficult to advocate for yourself for fear of not sounding professional or grateful for having a job. So most stay quiet, continue taking on more responsibility, and the negative effects compound leading to career stagnation.

To avoid all this, proactively seek out new opportunities for learning and development. Stay up-to-date with industry trends. Inventory your "other duties as assigned" responsibilities and negotiate a title change and/or a salary increase. Inform your leaders how you prefer to be recognized for a job well done. Keep your resume and LinkedIn updated.

There is an entire world full of opportunities out there for you, whether with your employer or elsewhere. Don't forget that.

2. Lack of Work-Life Balance:

Gen Xers may struggle to balance work and personal responsibilities, which can lead to burnout and dissatisfaction.

Why? Because we're hard workers. We take great pride in our work and we value quality outcomes. We take our responsibilities seriously. Our agility make us capable of managing lots of responsibilities and easily seeing solutions to problems. And because we grew up outside with neighborhood friends, we have the social skills that enable us to pull in the right resources at the right time to get things done.

But I digress...

We want to create a better life for ourselves and our families. So we put our heads down, do the work in hope that someone will recognize all we're doing and tap us on the shoulder for a promotion. Sometimes that happens, sometimes it doesn't, but we keep hope that it will. In the process, our bodies, mental health, a families suffer the fallout.

To avoid this pitfall, Gen Xers are wise to recognize the importance of self care and prioritize it.

Set boundaries and communicate your needs to your employer and colleagues.

Make time to eat healthy meals. Move your body. Enjoy your down time. Spend quality time with your friends and family. Sleep. Reengage with your hobbies. Take a well-deserved vacation without feeling guilty.

Allocate time to do whatever it is that refills your cup. Prioritize it, and do it.

Enjoy the life you're working so hard to support. You deserve that and so do the people around you.

You only get one life. Make it count.

3. Lack of Clarity on Personal Values and Goals:

Gen Xers may struggle to define their personal values and goals, which can make it difficult to make intentional career choices.

For many of us Gen Xers, our identity and goals are restricted to our careers and/or our roles within our families. Beyond that, some of us have difficulty even knowing what we truly value as human beings, why we are such a gift to everyone around us (personally and professionally), or what we want out of this one life we get to live.

Not knowing these things, we run the risk of getting caught in the grind of everyday life, slipping into a mediocre routine, only to realize (sometimes later than we might want) that time has passed us by without us really enjoying that time.

Avoid this pitfall by taking the time to reflect on your values and life goals. Use them as a guide for career decisions and life choices. Find ways to make the most of the time you have now.

Make memories. Share experiences with people you love. Continue in a way that is meaningful to you. Start creating a legacy that you're proud of today.

4. Failure to Develop Strong Networks:

Gen Xers may overlook the importance of building strong networks, which can limit their access to new opportunities and ideas.

I see it myself on LinkedIn. There is a sea of LinkedIn profiles out there that just exist with little to no activity whatsoever.

No interaction with others except the occasional "like" of someone's post, or a single word "congratulations" comment when someone in their network is celebrating a work anniversary or has moved to a new position.

In my coaching sessions with clients, when I recommend growing their network by building relationships with their network contacts on LinkedIn, I often see that familiar "deer in the headlights" look, followed by resistance.

Having a strong network means more than just passively "knowing" people or being connected to them on LinkedIn. It means proactively building mutually-beneficial relationships with them.

I encourage you to embrace this unique social media platform and speak with other professionals without fear.

People on LinkedIn are just that - people. Just like you.

Actively seek out networking opportunities and prioritize building relationships with peers, mentors, and industry leaders.

Share your authentic self with them. Discuss your values and goals with them. Ask them questions and explore mutual interests. Get to know them. Move the conversation to a virtual coffee chat over Zoom when the time feels right. Let them know the real you and you get to know them in exchange. Find ways to be of service to them and they are likely to do the same for you.

The possibilities that could open up for you and your career just by doing this are limitless.


If you're a fellow Gen Xer and have made this this far into the article, do yourself a favor: stay committed to your personal and professional growth to achieve success in your career and a deeply satisfying life.

Don't allow your career to stagnate by loyally taking on more and more at work without being properly valued or proportionately compensated for your efforts.

Create boundaries. Prioritize work-life balance.

Authentically advocate for yourself and the value you bring to the professional table. If your organization isn't willing to give you what you need in exchange for what you give to it, be prepared to keep your options open with an up-to-date resume, LinkedIn profile, and strong network.

Clarify your values and goals, both for your life and work. Use those as your North Star as you make decisions according to your needs as well as those for whom you are responsible to care for in your life.

Stay proactive, open minded, and committed to continuous learning and development.

Build a strong network and don't be afraid to let people know the real you.

Enjoy your family and friends. Share meaningful experiences and create memories together.

By doing these things, you'll avoid some of the common career pitfalls that Gen Xers can sometimes fall into and get back to enjoying the one life you get to live.


Grisel Scarantino, MA, ODPC is a Career Success Optimizer. She helps seasoned professionals grow their career success, satisfaction, and work-life fulfillment. Grisel is a coach, consultant, speaker, author, home chef, enjoyer of life, Bigfoot enthusiast, and lover of funny dog videos. If you want to fall back in love with your career path, grow your success, and better enjoy the life that you're working so hard to support, visit her website at and schedule your complimentary call with Grisel today.

Connect with Grisel on LinkedIn.


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