Gen Z Has Arrived

Generation Z is now entering the workforce. They’re different from your parents’ generation, Vera. Your parents are Millennials. Their generation is unique, too. I’ve talked about it in the past because it will impact your life. After all, they are your parents.

Generation Z is sandwiched between the Millennials and you (born in 2015). Now that they’re of working age, the surveys and studies are starting to appear with greater frequency. We’re learning more about these young adults. And what we’re learning is fascinating.

Janet Adamy, reporter for the Wall Street Journal, researched this group and reports they are “sober, industrious and driven by money. They are also socially awkward and timid about taking the reins.”

Here are some interesting nuggets. (For the life of me, I will never understand why any person who’s old enough to drive does not want a driver’s license! It was an unheard of occurrence in my generation.)

I’m disappointed by this graph. I wish more people appreciated the benefits of autonomy and working for yourself. And the drawbacks of being beholden to any employer. But it appears Gen Z is a cautious bunch.

WSJ reports that “Demographers see parallels with the Silent Generation, a parsimonious batch born between 1928 and 1945 that carried the economic scars of the Great Depression and World War II into adulthood while reaping the rewards of a booming postwar economy in the 1950s and 1960s. Gen Z is setting out in the workplace at one of the most opportune times in decades, with an unemployment rate of 4%.”

Jean Twenge, a San Diego State University psychology professor whose book “iGen” analyzes the group, observed that “They’re really scared that they’re not going to get the good job that everybody says they need to make it.”

I hate seeing any generation described as “scared.” But I suppose it’s to be expected. This generation was young and at home with their parents when we went through the Great Recession. The experience had to have left some scars, just as it did with the Millennials, the generation that preceded them.

Compared to my generation (the Baby Boomers) and my parents’ generation, this one is racially diverse. And more diverse culturally.

Neil Howe, an generational expert, posits that “the wary worldview of [Gen Z] is further shaped by generation X parents, who came of age in the post-Watergate and Vietnam years amidst a time of economic and global uncertainty and who are now obsessed with creating a safer world for their kids.”

Finally, the Gen Z generation is large. They outnumber the Millennials and quickly will become the largest group in the workforce. In other words, they’ll have an impact, probably greater than the Xers who spawned them.

I’m always intrigued by generational characteristics. It’s a reminder that we’re social beings, impacted by our surroundings and events occurring during our formative years. We like to think we’re individuals, and we are, to an extent. But generational studies show that we’re also members of a group — a generation — and that also defines us, perhaps far more than we like to think.

Of course, there is ample room within your group to navigate your unique path. But you’ll be doing so with the worldview imparted to you and your generation. No one enters adulthood purely unique and individualistic.

The bottom line, at least in my opinion, is generational influences are a reminder to us all that we need to always ask the why question. Why do we think this way? Why do we hold a particular opinion? Why do we value certain things, such as financial security or whatever it might be? Why do we weigh certain factors in our decision-making processes the way we do?

In part, it’s because we were born on a certain date, in a certain place. It’s good, Vera, never to forget that.

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