As Gen Zers come of age, a new survey finds them more open-minded, driven, industrious, and passionate than the generations before them.
For what feels like most of the past decade, the word “Millennial” has been dragged across pop-culture like an ominous term that’s supposed to encompass both everything that is the world we live in, and everything wrong with it. Millennials or Generation Y, born roughly between 1981 and 1997, make up 35 percent of the workforce, making them the largest working generation in the US. We have a fascination with Millennials—a generation that, defined by the prominence of social media, has been painted by intellectuals and the media alike as entitled, selfish, flighty, and in constant need of validation.
But now, in what could feel like a breather to the profusely critiqued Millennials, another generation is entering the workplace and rising to the spotlight. Gen Y no longer holds America’s future in its hands—Gen Z does. Made up of Americans born after 1997 according to the Pew Research Center, this emerging generation totals to about 67 million people. Though they’re only just entering the workforce, Gen Zers have already been flagged to have a radically different mindset than the generations before them. If anything, they are said to resemble the Silent Generation, born between 1928 and 1945, more than they do the Millennials that immediately precede them.
Gen Z was introduced to the limelight by The Wall Street Journal in September, when the paper published a profile warning the workforce to “Get Ready to Adapt” to the sober, socially awkward wave of Americans preparing to enter the office. Unlike Millennials, who for the most part grew up in a stable time in American history, Gen Z is described as a “scarred generation, cautious and hardened by economic and social turbulence.” Having grown up during the Great Recession, Gen Z is coming of age within an economically scarred society parallel only to that of the America of the Silent Generation, an America rife with the implications of the Great Depression and World War II.
Having grown up in uncertain times, Gen Z craves financial security, and their work ethic is said to be stronger than that of Millennials because of it. According to the University of Michigan’s annual survey of teenagers, the oldest Gen Zers are generally willing to work more overtime than most Millennials are. Also unlike Millennials, they are more interested in careers that can withstand economic crisis than they are in being entrepreneurs. And they like to work alone. While Generation Y witnessed the technological boom, Gen Zers were born into a world of mobile technology and social media. The result is a socially awkward generation that is more digitally inclined than it is skilled at human interaction.
Still, Gen Z paints bright hopes for the future. With an aptitude for technology, the generation is not afraid of artificial intelligence and robotics as much as it is excited for the possibilities of development and growth that come with them. Gen Z is described as the most socially conscious and diverse generation in history, with almost half of its population comprised of people of color. Gen Zers want to do good in the world. In July, the business consultancy EY conducted a survey of 1,600 Gen Z respondents that suggests that the group places a priority on “building something better and leaving something better for future generations,” says Larry Nash, the company’s US recruiter. “They want to have a purpose in their work.”
Gen Z is confident in its future. Not only do respondents of the survey believe that they will be better off both financially and in happiness at work than their parents, but they consider job satisfaction to be as important as money. Gen Z is driven, industrious, and passionate. The cohort is optimistic about both the direction that the workforce is taking, and in the capacity of new technologies to enhance job satisfaction and productivity. Gen Z is excited to take on the world. Now all the world has to do is let them.