My youngest daughter was born in the early 80’s, but she refuses to be grouped in with Millennials. In her defense, she did learn to type on a typewriter as opposed to a PC and didn’t own her first laptop until college. She can use a library card catalog, knows the difference between the white and yellow pages, and writes in cursive. She wouldn’t know which way to swipe if her life depended on it, but she’s also too young to be a Gen Xer. So, where does she fit? The answer comes in the form of a newly formed micro-generation called the Xennial generation.

Xennials were born between 1977-83 and fit snugly between Gen Xers and Millennials. Like Gen Xers, Xennials grew up in a non-digital world. They didn’t text their friends, they called from a landline, and they weren’t constantly being photographed or videoed by a parent with a smartphone. However, most middle class families had a family PC with a dial up modem by the time Xennials were in their mid-teens. So, while they might have had a digital-free childhood, they were introduced to technology early enough that they are able to navigate it like they grew up with it. Most Xennials will still prefer a text to a phone call or an email to a face-to-face meeting, but they also recognize the benefits to meeting in person (but only occasionally).  

Xennials are cautiously optimistic. They are old enough to vividly remember the events of 9/11, but are too young to remember the aftermath of the Cold War. They know all of the words to Ice, Ice Baby but also love them some Bruno Mars. Like a Gen Xer, they believe success is best earned through dedication and hard work, but they aren’t against cutting corners and becoming an overnight success either. Unlike a Gen Xer, a Xennial does not worry about losing their job to a more qualified Millennial, but they also don’t expect to become CEO within the first year (or maybe even ever and they are ok with that). If the Gen Xer is a cynical realist and the Millennial is an expectant optimist, then the Xennial is a realistic, ever so slightly cynical optimist.

A Xennial brings the best of both the Gen X and Millennial worlds into the classroom, but they can also be difficult to motivate. Financial security is important to them, but not to the same degree as a Gen Xer. A Xennial wants to do what they love, but they also want to be paid well for it. They aren’t likely to be willing to give up their happiness for more money or vice versa. Xennials did not grow up receiving participation trophies, but they do value achievement awards. Expect your Xennials to respond well to personalized recognition and to strive to be the best whenever a prize or award is on the table. A Xennial might not strive to change the world, but they will work really, really hard for a Target gift card.

Encourage your Xennials to be their personal best and watch them bloom!