Thursday, November 7, 2019

Okay Boomer: 7 Ways to Understand Generation Z in this Time of Change

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The Interwebs lit up a bit yesterday when a young New Zealand politician responded to an interruption by an older colleague while she was giving a climate change speech with, "Ok boomer". The quip highlighted an international age divide that is going on that has some cheering on the younger generation while others are apoplectic. I've been trying to tell everyone I can to get ready for change. The current generation of college students is different from those that came before and they will be a force in the future. They are less likely to sit back and listen to the older generations. They want change and they want it now. I've been reading all I can about what researchers have learned about Generation Z and here are 7 ways to understand generation Z in the U.S. and where they are coming from.

1. They are far more diverse than previous generations. The current generation is much more comfortable with a range of diversity and have less patience for racism and homophobia. They are less white and there are more that identify as mixed race than ever before. They are much more comfortable with LGBTQ issues and gender fluidity. While they are less sexually active than previous generations, they are comfortable in exploring their sexuality.

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2. They are technologically literate and have a range of information at their fingertips. Certainly each generation gets more adept at technology. What makes this generation different, however, is how good they are at finding information and evaluating the quality of the information. Many can smell out untruths online a mile away. They are abandoning social media platforms like Facebook and moving to more interactive sites like Tik Tok.

3. They live in a world that is damaged and blame previous generations. Between climate change and the coarsening political dialogue, Generation Z sees serious problems ahead for them. Take a look at a range of major problems they will face:  large national debt, nuclear weapons, plastic pollution, caustic national leadership, and global climate change. The previous generations knew of the problems and kicked the can down the road to Generation Z. Okay boomer.

4. They value authenticity over a paycheck. While Generation Z still wants all the trappings of American life, they are less likely to chase a paycheck over meaningful experiences. They don't want to work for an organization that is somehow bad for the planet and society. Instead, they will trade a high paycheck for a higher quality of life and peace of mind.

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5. They grew up in the Great Recession and face major student loans. Many in Generation Z saw their parents lose jobs or their savings. Fewer in the generation are looking to universities as a step to a good career. Those that do go to universities are facing major students loans given the increased costs of higher education. Many are highly critical of our current version of capitalism due to these experiences.

6. They are financial planners and don't want to have their parent's financial problems. Because of their experiences, they are much more likely to avoid debt. Many try to live within their means. Many  have side gigs to their full time jobs to save money for education, a house, or travel. While they are still chasing the American dream, it is not the dream of the generation before. They are much more comfortable with less and many embrace minimalism and live far more simply than their parents (smaller house, no car, etc.).

7. They are increasingly alone and seek out authentic relationships. Many in Generation Z live in such a technological world that they have a very limited number of friends. Earbuds, silent discos, and online gaming allow them to interact in a digital world in ways that are personally satisfying. However, with this individual satisfaction comes a degree of loneliness. As a result, Generation Z seeks out a smaller number of strong authentic relationships over large groups of friends.

Of course, these are generalizations and there are definitely exceptions to all seven of these points. Plus there are certainly other trends that could be discussed. If you have any other thoughts on this generation, please leave them in the comments. 

I am very impressed with the current generation of students that I see on campus. They are extremely hard working and they are very engaged with the future. The interaction in New Zealand that I noted in the introduction is not really a surprise given what I know about today's generation. I suspect there will be a tremendous amount of global change as this group starts to take its place on the world stage.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have found the above to be spot in with my own children. They are passionate about leaving the world a better place. They value experiences over things - a positive change! I am excited to see the future with this group in power