Gen Z Distinctives

generations

We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. Psalm 78:4

The next generation consists of two groups:  one is the millennials whose age range is around 23 to 38.  Those aren’t hard and fast ages by the way, but just a general bracket.  The other group is called Gen Z – those under 22.

Gen Z is different. If you ask them if they are a millennial, they will quickly tell you that “I am not one of them.”   They are now old enough that we can follow some of their trends.

While they have many similarities with millennials, they have some notable differences which are the topic of this post.

Gen Z are generally more frugal, more anxious, more private and secretive, more restless, more digitally savvy, more nurtured, more entrepreneurial and finally, more inclusive than millennials.

They are more frugal. They are savers, not spenders. Gen Z has seen mistakes of the millennials when it comes to financing their college educations. As a result, most are much more likely to be wary of college debt. That’s a good thing.

Gen Z are more secretive and private according to a report by the Global Web Index.   They often use the vanishing message of Snapchat – more so than prior generations.  They are more individualistic and independent, with the majority often preferring to learn alone and be alone than prior generations.

They have seen the benefits and detriments of social media and its impact on the millennials.  Millennials fell prey to cyberbullies, stalkers – even to employers who searched their posts on Instagram or Facebook before interviews.  Gen Z is weary of “social sniping” and Facebook is now “old news”.

They are more anxious prior generations. Anxiety is commonplace and almost the “norm”. This generation suffers “from more mental health problems than any other generation in U.S. history”, according to Tim Elmore.  Elmore continues: “Both secondary schools and colleges report an insufficient number of counselors available to serve students seeking help on campus.”

They are more restless. Developing their identity to the realities around them has caused them to be more fluid. Many derive their identity from social media which only exacerbates the roller coaster ride. While their options for life are so wide and can be explored like never before, it is an arduous process for them when they are dealing with a shifting and volatile self-image.

They are more digitally savvy. No surprise that they spend the equivalent of a full-time job on their devices (9 hours).  The downside: According to the National Institute of Health study, kids who spend more than 7 hours a day digitally are more likely to experience premature thinning of the cortex. That’s the part of the brain that processes thought and action. They often multitask on five screens versus two for millennials.  Ouch!

They are more nurtured.  In fairness, this is not entirely their fault, but the fault of the helicopter parents who try to put their kids in bubble wrap to keep them safe and develop their self-esteem.  Protecting a child from all adversity  robs them of the experiences they will need as adults. 

Adversity and some level of stress is one of the best predictors of high life satisfaction according to Kelly McGonigal, a Stanford University psychologist, in her book “The Upside of Stress.” She suggests that “embracing and adapting to stress can provide important opportunities for personal growth.”

They are more entrepreneurial.  Studies show that Gen Z are more likely to volunteer their time (nearly 1 in 3), and 72% of high schoolers want to start a business.  They want to be “no-collar” workers, not just white collar or blue collar, which is probably a result of two recessions in this century.

While they may be more confident in their willingness to strike out on their own, they have to balance that confidence with the fact that they are risk averse.

They are more inclusive than any prior generation. Gen Z is more willing to be accepting of people regardless of race, sexual orientation, backgrounds or gender.  While global warming is the hot issue for millennials, equality – racial and gender – is the top issue for Gen Z.

As a result, they are most connected to the LGBTQ  community because of their innate individualism.  Their individualism also makes them more interested in leadership than millennials according to 2017 survey.  They will be leaders, not followers in years to come.

These are complex characteristics, and the challenge is to take these traits and mold them into the next generation of leaders.  They will have a large impact on the world, but they still need guidance and direction.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  A mentor can help Gen Z navigate their goals through the muddy waters of today’s culture.

FURTHER RESEARCH:  Trends of Gen Z – Global Web Index

Seven Characteristics that Distinguish Generation Z – Growing Leaders

Gen Z Unfiltered – an excellent book for parents and mentors by Tim Elmore.

The Upside of StressKelly McGonigal

WORSHIP: Listen to We Fall Down by Chris Tomlin.

MentorLink: For more information about MentorLink, go to www.mentorlink.org.

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