Have You Heard of Gen Z?

Have you heard of Generation Z? It would seem the media hasn’t either. As I browse through various news outlets there continues to be an overwhelming number of articles referencing millennial college students. Yes, there are plenty of millennial college students, but the mistake in the messaging is that it makes it sound like millennials are traditionally college-aged students (18-22). For those that take issue with generalization a portion of the population, I understand, but it is worth exploring the impact people’s lived experiences and the impact they have on their lives.

For those that are confused, let’s take at look a some general characteristics of Gen Z:

That means that millennials are now between the ages of 24-39. Yes, millennials have grown up and there are real differences between these two generations. Unfortunately, they’re often lumped together into the “young” people category, but as we know from the issues of race and gender, for example, there are real problems when you choose to ignore the differences among different populations of people.

Gen Z currently outnumbers all other generations with approximately 74 million in the U.S. How they internalize the challenges of today, as well as our reactions, will have lasting impacts on the way they live, lead, and spend. They grew up post 9/11, during the Great Recession, which may impact how they are navigating the nation’s response to Covid-19, especially as it relates to continuing their education. Additionally, these individuals have an entrepreneurial spirit, which influences their education goals so campus leaders and employers would benefit from finding ways to offer transferable training to ensure they remained engaged and committed to the organizations they are currently affiliated with. Another point to consider is that although they use an average of 5 screens, these individuals prefer their privacy and are not as tech-savvy as other generations typically assume, especially when intuitive features are not in place. Finally, Gen Z represents 40% of consumers so businesses should be mindful of their business practices and the constant threat of the cancel culture movement.

Likewise, millennials are trying to navigate an uncertain present and future while reflecting on the lessons of their past, however, one of the major differences between these generations is that many millennials are serving as leaders of their respective industries. As such, conflicting views of how to manage the current crisis are expected, as is concern about the future. Millennials are often criticized for their lack of commitment, but once again the economy is showing no mercy and many millennials are reverting to what they know, which is that you must save yourself before you can save anyone else. While some are leading with veiled panic, many more are reminiscing on the many other challenges the nation has faced

Historically there have been many examples of generational clashes, but the world should pay close attention to the impact of today’s crisis on the youngest generations. The ripple effects of today’s crisis will impact our future in ways we can’t imagine. Now’s the time to wonder about the world around us, what’s working and what’s not, and how can we work across all generations and identities towards something better for ourselves and future generations to come.

For more information about Gen Z check out this presentation I did at the 2019 Lamar University Provost’s Kick-Off or visit my 2018 blog, It’s Gen Z, Not Millennial.

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