A peak into the life of a (stereo)typical Gen Z-er named Aidan. Gen Z-ers value clear expectations, frequent communication, and yes, frequent promotions. Once you know more about where Gen Z-ers come from you’ll be better prepared to lead them into the workplace.
To learn more about Generation Z’s expectations for the workplace, check out this e-book.
When it comes to technology, you may never catch up.
Forget record players, cassette tapes, and Walkman MP3 players—Aidan has never even owned a CD. iTunes came out when he was only five years old and the iPod Shuffle, Nano, and Touch meant Aidan always had his music at his fingertips.
Forget about dial-up internet, too. Aidan has been continually connected to the internet since he got his first smart phone at 13 years old. It was a nice upgrade from the phone (sans internet) that he started using at just 9 years old.
By the time Aidan hit high school, most of his classmates had tablets—many schools were giving them to every student as an essential school supply. Until then, Aidan’s only personal computer was his phone (or his family’s shared desktop), so it took him almost 3 minutes to get fully comfortable using a tablet.
More importantly, with that device he learned how to use the internet to research responsibly using trustworthy sources (like Wikipedia and Google Scholar) and how to effectively collaborate with classmates (with tools like Google Drive). Technology and the internet are natural resources for Aidan.
Aidan joined Facebook at just 12 years old and Instagram and Snapchat only a year later. Because, like many Gen Zers, Aidan is uncomfortable with confrontation, he preferred connecting with and following very like-minded people and organizations. Unfortunately, this has made him highly susceptible to groupthink, even now.
The Great Recession had more of an impact than you realize.
Aidan was only 9 years-old when the housing market initially crashed in December of 2007. Some of his most formative memories were made during the recession. He wasn’t old enough to understand everything that was going on, but he remembers his mom losing her job and having to move to a house with a smaller backyard. Even though Aidan’s dad used to stay home with him while his mom worked, Aidan’s dad had to go back to work in 2008.
For the rest of his childhood, Aidan and his older brother had to entertain themselves until their parents got home at night. This wasn’t that hard to do as they had TV, Wii Sports, video games and even social media to keep them occupied. Unfortunately, this served to increase their dependence on digital media.
Aidan may have had a different college experience.
Aidan enjoyed high school and worked hard. He graduated with a respectable 3.3 GPA (B+ average), but unfortunately still ended up just below average for his high school. His multiple extra-curricular activities and community service clinched acceptance into his first-choice college, but his below-average GPA disqualified him for most scholarships. This excessively competitive scholarship market combined with his family’s setbacks during the recession (see above), left Aidan with only one option to pay for his education: student loans.
Weighed down by the prospect of so much debt, Aidan opted for a less traditional college experience. Instead of partying and meeting new friends, Aidan put all his focus into a heavy course load and a part time job. He even stayed on campus to take summer classes. Through this hard work, Aidan was able to graduate a full two semesters early (saving him quite a lot of money).
As a graduation present to himself, he buys his very first laptop (his high school tablet is quite outdated now) to help him look more “professional” to the older generation (who look down on tablets for reasons unclear to Aidan). Now with a diploma in hand, and only $40k in student loan debt, Aidan starts looking for full-time employment.
Freelancing nurtures “big ideas.”
With diligent job hunting on internet job boards like Monster, Indeed, and LinkedIn, Aidan landed interviews for some really great jobs, but it still took him more than few months to find a job where he really felt like he could thrive. During this unexpected “free” time, he started to teach himself how to code by watching YouTube videos and studying online. Burnt out from all the job hunting, he dreams of the day when he can launch his own business and be his own boss instead of scrambling for employment from someone else.
With his newly developed coding skills, he starts designing an app that would help users stay as up-to-date as possible with all the latest “hipster” trends and local movements. Aidan knows that his generation loves the simplicity of subscriptions and ease of delivery services, so he hopes to one day add an option where the customer can have a monthly “hipster box” delivered. This box could include beard oil and beard combs, vape juice, coupons to the coolest local specialty coffee shops, and even tickets to upcoming concerts and events. He’s really excited about it.
Entering the world of employment may look different, too.
But before Aidan finishes the app, he finally gets a job offer for a position he thinks is the perfect fit. But before he officially accepts the offer, he looks up reviews about the company on Glassdoor and even looks at the company’s previous press releases on their website. Aidan is very impressed with this company’s strides to reduce their carbon footprint, as well as how much diversity they have in their senior leadership. So, he accepts the job.
Aidan and his boss hit it off really well. During his interview, they discovered that they have a shared love of funny sports memes, which they now send to each other outside of work as they are connected on Twitter and Instagram.
Aidan still works on his mobile app business on the side and really believes it could take off. His dream is to one day be his own boss, just like his grandpa back in Chile, and be able to put all his time into his own company.
Luckily Aidan has a great manager.
About a year later, Aidan still hasn’t been promoted. He worries he’s doing something wrong—not performing as well as expected. In his mind, exceeding expectations results in rapid validation. Aidan really wants to see progress. He wants to know where his career is going and learn the skills to make a life for himself and maybe even run his own business someday.
Aidan approaches his boss with his frustrations, hoping she will be understanding and will give him some direction and feedback.
Lucky for Aidan, his manager has received training on how to coach her employees, specifically Gen Zers. Aidan has appreciated his manager’s support as he adjusts to the workforce, and their relationship remains strong. They set goals together to help Aidan progress in his role within the company, and also feel like he is progressing toward his ultimate career goals.
Aidan is planning to stay at this job for a while. He likes bragging to his friends about his great manager. He appreciates the feeling of financial stability, especially since he still has years left to fully repay his student loans. He feels valued because his manager invests extra time in providing clarity, short-term and long-term goals, and plenty of feedback.
All of these things have pushed Aidan to be receptive and open to developing his skills. In other words, Aidan has become coachable.