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"I doubt many of us picture someone nearing 40 when we think, 'those damn Millennials.'"
Picture a Millennial. Who’s in your mind?
Is it a young person with their nose stuck in a phone, drinking an overpriced Starbucks coffee while somehow simultaneously taking a selfie? Those are some pretty common stereotypes associated with the generation.
In some circles, the term “Millennial” has come to represent a self-absorbed group of entitled young people still depending on mom and dad to pay their phone bill. We hear things like, “Oh, those Millennials can’t get off their cellphones” or “Oh, those Millennials don’t know what it’s like to work a full-time job.”
The truth is, the current age-range of the Millennial generation might surprise you.
Because generational division isn’t an exact science, you can find slightly differing cut-offs for each generational group. I’ll be going with the numbers from the Pew Research Centre, which identify Millennials as anyone born within the years of 1981 and 1996. This means the youngest Millennials are currently around 23 years old, and the oldest are around 38. I doubt many of us picture someone nearing 40 when we think, “those damn Millennials.”
So, if we can’t slap all young people with the label of Millennial, who are they? Meet Generation Z.
“Generation Z” refers to anyone born in 1997 and onward. Also known as the i-Generation because they grew up in a world dominated by Apple, Generation Z are the true tech-natives. They are the first generation to have widespread access to the internet from a young age, making them total pros at all things tech. Has your grandchild ever looked at you like you had three heads because you didn’t understand the ins and outs of Snapchat? Yeah, they’re Gen Z.
Working in higher education and social media means I have to have a grasp on Generation Z, as they make up a large portion of our target audience. This means reading about their interests, which platforms they use, how they like to be spoken to, and so on. Although I’m not usually overly interested in data analysis, I really enjoy the qualitative side of things, and this has become a really cool part of my job. Learning about a generation’s values and characteristics along with what makes them tick is fascinating and beneficial.
Of course, not every member of Generation Z is going to fit all of the presented stereotypes. Like any demographic there will be outliers, but a certain percentage will fall in line with the research.
Members of Generation Z are the children of Gen X or Gen Y, depending on their age. Think of them as the up and comers. Having watched those around them experience financial insecurity, many Gen Z-ers are drawn to fields like entrepreneurship where they gain a sense of independence and control over their own employment. They tend to be more risk averse, having learned from the mistakes of previous generations, but they are creating paths for themselves in career fields that don’t even exist yet. Generation Z has proven to be both religiously and politically agnostic, refusing to sell themselves to any one belief system without good reason. Want to get a Gen Z on your side? You better be willing to dedicate the time to customized conversations explaining why they, as an individual, should believe anything you have to say.
On the positive side, I think our future is in good hands with Generation Z. They value teamwork and don’t take things for granted. Potentially the most promising characteristic about Generation Z is how much they care about the environment. They know they don’t have time to waste and they’re ready to make serious changes in the world.
Do you have a member of Generation Z in your life? Check out their interests and habits to see if they align with the majority! It might even open your eyes to the reasoning behind some of their actions, which may have previously left you scratching your head.
Jill Ellsworth is a writer and communications specialist who lives in Dominion, N.S. Her column appears biweekly across the Saltwire Network. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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