The digital age and the Great Recession have impacted all age cohorts in the U.S. though millennials seem to get the most coverage in the news. However, another cohort has emerged that is an even greater byproduct of the digital age and the Great Recession – Generation Z (1995 present).
Already a large group, estimated at 73 million Americans, Gen Z’ers have witnessed the trials and tribulations of their older millennial siblings (crippling debt and difficulty launching careers) and we are finding that they are already learning quickly from their challenging environment.
Even more than their older millennial siblings, they have known no other era than the digital age. Thus, it is clear why Generation Z gravitates towards DIY education and online skill development. A recent survey of high school students revealed that 52% used YouTube and similar sites for their research projects. From a very early age, members of Gen Z are displaying a self-directed attitude which is no surprise for a generation that always had a huge amount of information at their finger-tips.
Furthermore, it is more common in classrooms to witness teaching methods where students are offered a problem, teachers step back, and groups of students are allowed to collaborate and come to a resolution.
Problem-solving and collaboration-based methods plus Gen Z’s obsession with DIY education are good indicators as to why so many of them envision their future as entrepreneurs and not employees, according to another survey of high school students that revealed 61% answered the former.
One key astounding fact is that they are by far the most likely to be from interracial parents – hence why they tend to easily embrace diverse environments. They are also likely to have a global network (with varying degrees) via the various social networking sites.
Of course, like any generation, there are drawbacks as well. Some professionals raise concerns about their shortening attention spans (which one study claims has been reduced on average to 8 seconds from 11 seconds), spending too much time in front of screens, their high likelihood of panicking in absence of their devices, and lacking situational awareness.
However, given the complex, uncertain, and volatile world that they inherited – Generation Z has adapted successfully to date. With characteristics being displayed such as agility and taking initiative, many appear to be equipped with the skills necessary to navigate further disruption – ask them and they’ll tell you it’s all they know.
**A follow up blog on the Gen Z generation will be published later this month by the author.
Jeremy Zogby is Partner at John Zogby Strategies LLC