Gen Z are the new kids on the block, and their entrance into the workforce is fast approaching. But who is Gen Z — or Generation Z, Post-Millennials, iGeneration, or the Centennials, as they are sometimes called? What makes them different from the previous generation, Gen Y?
This workforce-bound group of up-and-comers are the generation after Gen Y, AKA millennials. There’s no specific date for when Generation Z starts and ends, but it’s loosely thought as beginning in the mid-1990s and ending in the mid-2000s. Their age group ranges from mid-teens to mid-20s, but these young people aren’t letting any stereotypes hold them back.
Today’s generation of digital natives with entrepreneurial spirit were born during the recession, which gives them a slightly different outlook on life when compared to younger generations. They lived most of their lives, especially their high school careers, during a time of great recession, and therefore are looking for specific goals to be fulfilled in a full-time job — for instance, if they’re marketers, they want a big company with high economic gains and access to well-known brands, and if they’re in medicine or the sciences, they want to be at the forefront of their fields where they can make the most change and affect the most people. And they still strive to have the perfect work-life balance in their future full-time job.
They also really want to get paid.
Another notable aspect of this generation is the fact that they largely grew up along with the internet. From a young age, members of the Gen Z were exposed to advanced forms of technology like the internet, cell phones, and social media. They were practically born with an innate understanding of evolving tech, an increasingly generational trait. This alone makes them a standout group of bachelor-degree holding individuals with an inordinate amount of skills to offer any job they set their minds to.
But just because the post-Millennial generation has a wide array of skills and experiences doesn’t mean they’re ready to enter the big, bad world of the working adult. Here are 10 things Gen Z needs to know before they enter the workforce.
1. Not everyone you work with will be as tech-savvy as you are.
Members of Gen Z grew up with technology and are easily some of the best digital natives out there. A decent percent are even younger than the computer! But either way, this upcoming generation grew up with computers, social media, cell phones, tablets, and other electronics that have become second nature to them.They might then assume that the company they will work at will be full of people who are just as adept, but that isn’t always the case. While mastering new platforms and technologies might come naturally to Generation Z, they shouldn’t necessarily expect their colleagues, or the company itself, to be as masterful. Some businesses are still old school. They aren’t using Slack or Skype to communicate, they do it the old fashioned way: with face-to-face communication. Gen Z should prepare for that.
2. Use your first jobs as a way to establish relationships.
Your first job might not be the best paying. It might not be the most stimulating or be as close to what you majored in as you’d like. You might feel like you’re drowning in work and new experiences. But that’s because you’re not there to be the star, you’re there to learn, Gen Z. You’ll be surrounded by colleagues and managers that could easily take you under your wing. Ask them questions. Use your millennial and baby boomer colleagues to teach you new skills and help you navigate through your new position and company. Your first job post-college, if you’re lucky, will be the start of your dream career. But likely, it will be but one stepping stone towards a successfully stimulating career. Use it to grow your skills, experiences and networks.
3. Speak up and ask questions.
With Google at their fingertips, Generation Z might assume that their first job will provide them will all the answers they are searching for — even without asking for them. Unfortunately, that’s now how the workforce works. Your new job will expect you to ask questions, but it’s up to you to get those answers. You’re young and talented and have experiences that others don’t, so it’s important that you use your voice to continue to learn and grow. In the working world, your colleagues or bosses won’t have the time to lay everything out for you and hold your hand through your role so it’s important you speak up when you need clarification or answers. It’s much better than staying silent and making a mistake or making an inaccurate assumption.
4. Attention to detail is key.
Growing up in a highly advanced technological age, Generation Z tends to focus less on small details and more on the big picture. This comes from their heavy use of social media and other platforms that encourage shorter, broken copy. This means, however, that they need to pay even more attention when working on written materials. But this isn’t important solely for written material, but larger assignments or projects as well. Making sure you understand every aspect of what you’re creating is vital to a successful project.
5. Know what you’re looking for.
This might be an obvious one, but it’s a lot harder than you think. It’s inevitable that you’ll get offered a job you think you’ll love, then soon regret accepting. It’s par for the workforce course, but one of the perks of being a member of the Gen Z is that you have a knack for doing your research. Use your Googling skills to your advantage. Research the position. Research the company. Make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into so you won’t be disappointed once your job gives you a task you didn’t know you signed up for.
6. You don’t need to (and won’t) have it all figured out.
This might sound paradoxical considering the previous point was to know what you’re looking for, but this goes far beyond knowing what you want. This isn’t just advice for Gen Z, a large percent of those entering the workforce think they’ve got the answers. Be confident in your decisions, thoughts, and beliefs, but know that they will change. You will make a mistake. You’ll send the wrong email, you’ll offer up an idea that no one likes, you’ll think you have all the answers but they won’t be right. Gen Z grew up being able to express themselves to their fullest potential—whether that was through social media platforms or through portable technology that made global communication as easy as a few clicks. But just because you have experiences and exposure to thoughts, beliefs, and ideals that previous generations didn’t doesn’t mean you’ve got all the answers.
7. Moving ahead takes time.
Gen Z might think that with a few face-to-face conversations, an enthusiasm for their position, and a higher education will ensure they will quickly rise up through the ranks in their new job. This is sadly just not the case. Moving up takes time. Getting a promotion, and even a raise, is a task that takes sometimes years. That isn’t meant to be discouraging, just realistic. You have to put in the time and effort to be rewarded, and it’s not as easy as the movies make it out to be. You’ll be frustrated at times, angry even. You’ll probably hate your job and your coworkers at one point or another. You’ll envy the success of your peers and wonder why you aren’t seeing the same upward movement, but that’s all a part of life. It takes time, and soon younger generations will be looking at your success with envy.
8. You’ll spend more time than you think working.
We all have a dream, a dream where our work/life balance is perfect and we wake up refreshed and our workdays are exactly 8 hours and everything gets done in those 8 hours. Then we go home, grab drinks with friends, and have enough time to make it to a late-night movie. Unfortunately, the working world just isn’t like that anymore. What Gen Z needs to know about the workforce is that they will almost always be working. They will be checking their email from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to bed. They’ll be at the office first thing in the morning, and will stay well past when the sun goes down. This is not because of a short attention span or a lack of work ethic, but because it takes a lot to thrive in the world of business, and the post-millennial generation is a driven group of people that won’t let themselves fail.
9. Social media isn’t private.
You’ve heard it all before I’m sure, but considering most of the young people that make up Gen Z grew up on social media, it only makes sense that most of their lives are on these platforms. It’s generational, of course, but as you enter the workforce it’s important to take a step back and look at your social media history. You are the digital native generation. But just because you’ve put your blood, sweat, and tears in getting your Twitter followers to reach a certain threshold, doesn’t mean you can say or do whatever you want with it. Stay away from any negativity, swearing, and general meanness. Don’t be vulgar or crass. Don’t use your social platforms to harass or divulge intimate information. Your future bosses will be checking. And a few embarrassing posts could mean the difference between you and another person vying for that very same position. Millennials were warned in the same way, but this younger generation has spent more time on these platforms, and therefore there is more content that needs flushing out.
10. Learn how to effectively manage your time.
Time management is key when it comes to the working world. There will be deadlines that need to be hit. Projects that need to be completed. Clients that need to be kept in the loop. And there are only so many hours in the day! It’s important that the younger generations puts their internet skills to good use and invest in some organizational tools like Trello to keep them on task and focused on their short term and long term goals. If they can’t manage time effectively, they will be of no use to their employers. And there’s nothing worse than saying you can get something done, and failing to do so. Make sure to communicate and update your bosses whenever possible—whether that’s with a face-to-face interaction of via email. Either way, let them know you’re managing your time appropriately and they will continue to give you the work you crave.