Founder, Creator, Entrepreneur: Welcome To The Stage Generation Z!


Sorry folks, but this will be a long post.

It’s finally time to talk about Gen Z. We’ve only scratched the surface with this new generation but I think we can share a good list of some of their trending attributes. Give it a read and let us know what you think…

Just like every other generation there is contention about when exactly Generation Z (the generation to follow Millennials/Gen Y) starts.  Some suggest that the Millennial generation stopped early (around 1995) and the ’95-’01 group is more Gen Z.  There are plenty of Millennials that would subscribe to that idea as I often hear older Millennials remarking that they can’t possibly be in the same cohort as younger Millennials. I’m sure the same was true for the ’46 Boomer comparing themselves to the ’60 boomer, and likewise for the ’68 Gen X comparing themselves to the ’77 Gen X.  “We can’t possible be in the same generation!?” 

However, the American Marketing Association describes Generation Z as those born after September 11, 2001, making the Millennial generation more 1980 to 2000).  The reasoning, and one which I subscribe to, is that, "all children born after Sept. 11, 2001, will experience a world totally different from all generations that preceded it.” 

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t stress my “iPod on repeat” conviction that a generation is defined not by the specific date in time they start or stop but more by the life experiences that have shaped their outlook & behavior. 

So let’s begin to look at the life experiences of the Gen Z and see if we can formulate some trending hypotheses:

Gen Z are often children of Generation X, but they also have parents who are Millennials.  That’s the timeframe for Gen Z that Growing Millennial Leadership prefers to adopt.

From a macro, worldview, I like the idea of Gen Z’s nickname: The Founders.  This moniker was based on the results of a survey MTV conducted in 2015.  The Millennial (1980-2001, currently 39 and 18), broke the systems of our world in the expansion of internet and technology, producing a consumer-driven market with a consumer in charge mindset (e.g. Yelp, Amazon, Facebook, etc., electing the first black president, pushing the arch of sexual orientation and sexual harassment forward, beginning a larger discussion on education, health care, the environment and politics.  Gen Z or Founders (2001 - ?, ages 18-0) have the self-awareness to know that the systems have already been broken.   They can't be the generation that says we'll break it even more. So instead, they will be the generation to find and build new systems.  They will be the ones to build new systems of government, of civility, of diversity, of consumer markets, of technology and the internet.  They will be the founders of a new way of doing business.

 POST 9/11
This “homeland generation” has known nothing but war with the war on terrorism, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and cyber wars. Since the oldest members of Gen Z were not yet cognizant when the 9/11 attacks occurred, there is no generational memory of a time the United States was not at war with the loosely defined forces of global terrorism. It is likely that both events have resulted in a feeling of unsettlement and insecurity among the people of Gen Z with the environment in which they were being raised. The economic recession of 2008 is particularly important to historical events that have shaped Gen Z, due to the ways in which their childhoods may have been affected by the recession's shadow; that is, the financial stresses felt by their parents.

The Great Recession has taught Gen Z to be independent, and has led to an entrepreneurial desire, after seeing their parents and older siblings struggle in the workforce.

Gen Z is big on entrepreneurship, innovation, and personal brand management. 75% of Gen Z want to convert their hobbies to full time jobs, while 72% of Gen Z want to start a business someday.  61% of this generation would rather be an entrepreneur than an employee when they graduate college based on Upfront Analytics research.  However, something contrary to the previous statistics, a Northeastern University Survey indicated that 81% of Gen Z believes obtaining a college degree is necessary in achieving career goals and while the cost of attending college is incredibly high for most Gen Zers, according to NeaToday, 65% say the benefits of graduating college exceed the costs.  An explanation may be that Gen Z simply sees a college degree as an entry point to getting where they want to in life.  This may change as we see the full Gen Z enter (or skip) college.

Due to the fact that they has access to social media platforms, website builders, 3D printers, and drop shipping platforms, Gen Z is extremely well equipped both technically and public perception-wise to start a business at a young age. The Internet has provided a storefront for Generation Z to sell their ideas to people around the world without ever leaving their house.

Speaking of education, according to NeaToday, a publication by the National Education Association, two thirds of Gen Zers entering colleges are concerned about affording college. No shock there.  But perhaps more impressive Gen Z is revolutionizing the educational system in many aspects. Thanks in part to a rise in the popularity of entrepreneurship and advancements in technology, high schools and colleges across the globe are including entrepreneurship in their curriculum.

In addition, some authors consider that their competencies, such as reading competence, are being transformed due to their familiarity with digital devices, platforms and texts.

Khan Academy and the ability to use YouTube and other platforms to control the speed of their education is keyGen Z needs to control the speed of the information they’re getting so they can get it.  They will challenge traditional norms of school because of the one to teacher connection.  They want more.  They want and need multiple stimuli of information coming at them.  They need to be able to “rewind” information, slow it down, speed it up if they deem necessary.  They are the control generation (control what you watch, hear, learn, etc.).

According to Hal Brotheim in Introducing Generation Z, they will be better future employees. With the skills needed to take advantage of advanced technologies, he proposes they will be significantly more helpful to the typical company in today's high tech world. Forbes contributor Kimberly Fries argues that their valuable characteristics are their acceptance of new ideas and a different conception of freedom from the previous generations.

Despite the technological proficiency they possess, Alexandra Levit of The New York Times argues that members of Generation Z actually prefer person-to-person contact as opposed to online interaction. As a result of the social media and technology they are accustomed to, she says Generation Z is well prepared for a global business environment. Alex Williams argues that Generation Z no longer wants just a job; they seek more than that. They want a feeling of fulfillment and excitement in their job that helps move the world forward. Levit says Generation Z is eager to be involved in their community and their futures, and that before college, Generation Z is already out in their world searching how to take advantage of relevant professional opportunities that will give them experience for the future.

Move over punk and rap, this new generation is a fan of Trap Music, K-pop, bedroom pops and more.  This tends to be niche genres of larger musical interests. 

Imagine never knowing Blockbuster, recording radio hits, or watching cable!  Gen Z is a subscriber generation having only grown up with Spotify, Pandora, Soundcamp, Bandcamp,, WhatsApp, TikTok, YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu where every show, song, and experience is right at your fingertips. Whereas Millennials’ favorite website is Amazon, this generation is more keen to YouTube.

Functional is in.  Brands, by and large, are out, at least as a complete social/status currency. What was important to the Millennial generation (Abercrombie and Fitch, Nike), because of the market all going online and everything at your finger tips, brand identity has become diluted.  When Gen X and Millennials were children what was at the mall was in. Now, Gen Z can purchase from anywhere in the world which makes everything especially if you scored a deal, more available.

Where Millennials want constant access to friends, Gen Z have continuous, ongoing, nonstop “stream” of access to friends. Mobile phone equals digital bond to the internet and to friends for Gen Z; this is the first generation to have widespread access to the internet at an early age (unlike the Millennials who grew into the internet).

Gen Z is also, at an earlier age, dealing with brand identity as their Instagram and SnapChat handles are attracting world-wide popularity.  A “best of self” and “always on display” mentality of this generation will be cause for both positive and negative ramifications.

Privacy?  Don’t expect any from Gen Z.  It’s simply not on their radar.  They don’t care about it and they don’t want to explain why not to you.  It is common for Gen Z to put location coordinates into their minute-by-minute social post.  They want the world to know where they are and who they are.  They believe in sharing their life with the world.  If you’re not sharing, you’re not being a part of the community.  What was the two-car garage and suburban living of the ‘50s and ‘60s, is the social sharing of today.  Sharing is Gen Z’s oxygen

Alas, no generation is without their scars and downfalls.  Because every minute is used to connect and grow relationships via a mobile device, this produces less "face to face” time for the new generation. Gen Z has a heighten sense of feeling more lonely and left out; bullying, mental health and suicide are on the rise.

Research conducted in 2017 reports that the social media usage patterns of this generation may be associated with loneliness, anxiety, and fragility and that girls may be more affected than boys by social media. According to 2018 CDC reports, girls are disproportionately affected by the negative aspects of social media than boys.

Equally, the Fear Of Missing Out and hits of dopamine every time a young adult gets a like, heart, share or comment on social media can be addicting and have long-term challenges.  What happens when you can’t get your supply?  What if you post something with no likes, again and again and again?  This generation lacks basic resilience skills to combat the social pressure that’s placed on them via social media.

Generation Z students self-identify as being loyal, compassionate, thoughtful, open-minded, responsible, and determined.  How they see their Generation Z peers is quite different from their own self-identity. They view their peers as competitive, spontaneous, adventuresome, and curious; all characteristics that they do not see readily in themselves.  This only highlights the idea that Gen Z view others living a more vibrant worthwhile life (via pictures and video) and because of that, are harder on themselves if they are not living up to the heightened standards the social media platforms produce.

As with the Millennials, which introduced the world to DD’s (designated drivers), safer sex and no smoking in public places, Gen Z is generally more risk-averse in certain activities than even earlier generations.  Research from the Annie E. Casey Foundation conducted in 2016 found Generation Z youth had lower teen pregnancy rates, less substance abuse, and higher on-time high school graduation rates compared with Millennials.

Gen Z will care less about gender and family roles.  Whereas the Millennials pushed the overall acceptance of gay, lesbian and bi-sexual roles, Gen Z will push for acceptance of gender neutral, non-identifying, gender changing roles.  To that end, family roles will become even more skewed.

What motivates Gen Z?  They need goals.  They understand things (like college) are a journey.  They work well with roadmaps.

 They fundamental believe previous generations have screwed up this world we live in and on – economically, environmentally, politically, socially, etc.  They may not be completely wrong.  This generation will inherit more debt, a worsening climate, and more political and worldly divide. 

Provide guidance, provide space, provide listening (when appropriate).  Don’t try to outcool this generation.  They’ve heard every joke.  They’ve seen death and terror (via YouTube).

So what to do with all this information?   First, receive the information and be of open mind to it.  What are some similarities?  What are some differences? How might you relate to a son or daughter; how might you relate to a young coworker now that you have this information?

 Do your own research and testing.  What works for you and your staff?  Remember, generations are big, broad brushstrokes of a group.  Each person of that generation is still an individual and can make his or her own decisions.  Likewise, there can also be microcosms of this generation based on geography, socio-economic upbringing, etc. Write it down.

Check out the CAMP Method of Motivation (what competencies, autonomies, meaningful experiences and progress does Gen Z want?) and the Adaptive Coaching model.


*With this generation still being so young, the mentioned trends and highlights in this post are subject to change, morph, and/or grow.  This post is subject to change. Time will tell what this generation is made up of!