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Generation Z. Born to heal the global economy

Mai Fenton
08 June 2020
4 minute read

Rewriting our economy, just in time

Independent. Debt-aware. Empathetic. Woke.

Generation Z – the kids of today born from 1997 onward – is a point of fascination in the media right now. We’re all keen to call out the traits that define them, and small wonder. With the youngest millennials largely past the graduation phase, and the oldest Gen Z sniffing out career paths, the world is under-prepared for their seismic influence, despite the fact that most Gen Zs had smartphones before they were teenagers.

A group of teenagers

Who are they?

Entrepreneur released a great infographic in 2019, walking us older generations through the defining factors, stats and characteristics of Generation Z. Baby steps for Baby Boomers, you could say. The headline here is that a whopping 41% of Gen Z, when asked, said they plan to become entrepreneurs, and 45% reckon they’ll create something that’ll change the world.

They’re not that bothered about buying an education that comes with a shed-load of debt, and they’re more inspired by their peers who are already out there making a dent (this could be making the world a better place or earning loads of money, or both). 98% of US Gen Z own a smartphone (let’s just pause on that, shall we? Considering that the first iPhone was released in 2007), and they influence around $600 billion in annual spending.

They understand tough times (and turning them around)

Generation Z can’t remember life before the aftermath of 9/11. Growing up, they witnessed a global recession, and their Generation X parents grappling with a new financial and professional playing field. Many of them are graduating virtually, under coronavirus lockdown restrictions and facing unprecedented uncertainty.

This entrepreneurial generation don’t need to tear up the rule book. Covid-19 has already done that. Here’s how they’re going to let it go, and start things afresh.

They’re born that way

So, Generation Z have grown up in the fallout of one financial crisis and are staring down another one, as they graduate. Resilience, creativity and thinking outside the usual confines often flourish as a result of a crisis, and Gen Z are busy monetising these attributes. That’s the essence of an entrepreneurial nature.

A Gen Z mentality is, by necessity, one of shake it off, empathy and grit. It shrugs at the last of our Baby Boomer ways (a job for life, mortgage, final salary pension and, in many ways, comfortable homogeny) and aims deeper, higher and wider.

They know the tech

Whilst the world discovers Zoom, Houseparty and smart TV functionality they didn’t know they had, Generation Z are way beyond.

Coronavirus has forced millions of people to use technology in ways they didn’t ask or plan for, and the lesson is: we should have been there anyway. Generation Z are miles ahead, in some cases building the tools we’ve leaned into so heavily, and showing us where the money is.

It’s a positive combination for the economy, because at the very point that older generations are buying into these new platforms and devices – with no real end in sight – Generation Z, the world’s next entrepreneurial superstars, are ready with innate digital intelligence to guide and influence the next big products, services and solutions.

This McKinsey study explains that early exposure to the internet, social networks and mobile systems has conditioned Gen Z to be,

“hypercognitive [...] very comfortable with collecting and cross-referencing many sources of information and with integrating virtual and offline experiences.”

Woman holding a phone

Coupled with a socially conditioned entrepreneurial nature, tech in the DNA at this level is a powerful asset, and we’ll all benefit from it.

Diversity isn’t really a ‘thing’

Gen Z will be the most diverse generation in US history this year, according to Deloitte. One in four is hispanic, 14% are African-American and 6% are Asian, according to the Pew Research Center](https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2018/11/15/early-benchmarks-show-post-millennials-on-track-to-be-most-diverse-best-educated-generation-yet). They also have a completely different line on gender and gender fluidity.

Diversity is and should be a big deal for older generations. But for Generation Z, it’s another bit of DNA. This means fewer barriers and misunderstandings, and more time for collaboration and a global view. Really handy tools for future entrepreneurs, keen to tap into someone else’s ‘otherness’ and share a bit of their own.

Whilst established companies and grad schemes scratch their heads on getting more women into the technology sector, Generation Z are shunning the traditional roles on offer, coding as a sideline and building their own next generation hybrid retail solution.

Selling, not Saturday jobs

How many times have we accused social media of numbing the minds and prospects of younger generations? Limits on screen time show extremely positive outcomes for our mental health, but we may be missing the point, at times.

Generation Z don’t see screen time limits in the same way that we do. Brought up within the internet, balancing on and offline life isn’t something they’ve had to creakily learn whilst unwinding with adult colouring books and Sudoku.

The usual suspect, social media, has actually opened up this generation’s ability to perceive, learn, create, monetise and enter the world of work. Rather than a Saturday job at their local pub (and who even has that, nowadays?), selling their OOTD* straight to Depop is, well, just a better use of time.

It’s also a great pathway for a budding entrepreneur, and if one outfit can have that much clout, what could something really important spark?

*Outfit of the day. Come on people, even millennials know that one.

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