We were born between 1964 and 1982; today we are roughly 20 to 38 years old.

We are a generation who grew up with computers and the Internet; they are second nature to us. Our parents wondered, why couldn’t we just go to the library? Many of us have never even set foot in a library. For us, technology makes the world go round.

We have been viewed for years by network marketers as a demographic group with incredible potential—yet also one of the most difficult to target successfully.

We are “Generation X”—and we are ready for networking.

Growing Up in the Land of Plenty

Our generation is also one that grew up with a perpetually booming stock market. When “Black Monday” struck in 1987, even the eldest of us was barely 23 years old—and thus had little or nothing at stake. The stock market went on a tear ever since. The decade from 1990 to 2000 saw one of the greatest bull markets in history. We never knew anything else. Companies during this period were vigorously growing and hiring; there was a seemingly endless wealth of opportunity for young and aspiring job-seekers.

Then came the dot-com phenomenon—the “bubble” in time when a company with a .com tagged on would go public at $10 per share and rocket to $100 or more in a matter of days or even hours, producing a bumper crop of overnight millionaires.

Many of these success stories were younger than we were! Many of my college friends hired on with some of these Internet start-ups, lured by offers of stock options and vast growth potential. Ignoring their parents’ advice (“look for job security with established companies”), they threw caution to the winds, bought a new lifestyle—and loaded up on debt.

More risk, sure—but way more potential.

I had a friend who accepted a position at E-Toys in those heady days. He was set for life: good salary, ton of stock options, looked like a sure thing. Only a matter of time before he’d be a millionaire. Little did we know.

An Internet Casualty

Meanwhile, I became a stockbroker, lured in by a lush Beverly Hills office, the hype of driving a Porsche and earning $100,000 per year in my first two years. I soon found out that we had a problem: the Internet.

The Internet offered a wealth of information. That was the challenge: I was an information broker. In the old days of stockbroking, the brokers had access to far more information than their clients. They recommended stocks based on this information, and clients paid great commissions for the advice. The Internet changed all that. The clients suddenly had access to that same information: “Why should we pay hefty commissions for trades we can research and select ourselves?”

Start-ups like E*Trade and Ameritrade began to thrive. For as little as $20 per trade, people could now do their own stock trades online. Pretty soon the trades were down to $14 per trade and dropping (“8 bucks per trade,” trumpeted Ameritrade). My stockbroker days were quickly dwindling. I had two choices: be a casualty of the Internet, or catch the wave and join a company with great growth potential.

Enter Network Marketing

In early 1998, my father started telling me about an Internet technology division that his networking company was launching. I had seen the income and lifestyle networking could provide. After too many dreadful mornings peeling myself out of bed at 5 A.M., the ability to be my own boss and set my own hours certainly appealed to me. It seemed a perfect fit: I could teach my father technology, he could teach me network marketing.

We had our challenges in the early days; start-ups, particularly technology start-ups, never go smoothly. But the hard work and persistence paid off: the division thrived.

However, it was difficult to target Generation X’ers. Why did they need another income stream, when they were “set for life” with their dot-com stock options? Besides, most had not been in corporate America enough to despise it and want something different.

Growing Wiser in the Land of Less

Then the the dot-com bubble burst.

Countless Internet companies went out of business. Even E-Toys, once the hottest IPO ever, went bankrupt. The marketplace was stunned. Many of our generation watched in disbelief as their coveted stock options and 401K’s became virtually worthless overnight.

Meanwhile, our Internet start-up continued to grow and thrive—thanks to the sound nature of the network marketing strategy. Instead of spending millions of dollars in upfront advertising costs on television, radio, and billboards, we pay the advertising budget to reps upon sale of products and services for their “word of mouth” advertising. It simply makes sense.

Today, in this time of uncertainty, Generation X’ers have become more open-minded again. “There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” our parents had cautioned us; now we know what they meant, first-hand! The stock market has been on a “bear market” downturn for two years now. Many who held even solid “Blue Chip” company stocks in their 401K’s are worth much less than they were. The year 2001 saw roughly two million layoffs. The recent Enron debacle—the largest bankruptcy in history—topped it off. Now everyone can see the truth: there are no “safe havens” in corporate America—even with the most prestigious of companies.

With the writings and teachings of authors like Robert Kiyosaki (Rich Dad, Poor Dad) and Robert G. Allen (Multiple Streams of Income), network marketing is getting much more positive publicity and professional endorsement. In today’s business climate more than ever, network marketing makes tremendous sense.

Gen-Xers know it—and they’re ready for it.

Eric Karlen is a 27 year old network marketer who lives and works in Las Vegas, Nevada.