The Gen-Z Challenge: Finding Your Voice In A Chaotic World


Recent statistics indicate that Generation Z (folks between the age of 13 and 23) make up just under 20% of the population. If your child is part of this cohort, then you’ve been privy to the unique struggles and advantages that have unfurled as the 21st century trundles along. Unlike Millennials, this generation is often wary of smartphone addiction and binging on digital content. We are beginning to see a backlash against trends that have created an anxious feedback loop in much of today’s youth population.

This conscientious streak goes far beyond digital culture; in interviews, young people reference the deep-seated need to align their personal values with work values, describing the approach as work-life integration, rather than work-life balance. Another common sentiment is the idea of collaboration over hierarchy – young people don’t want to be bossed around and if they feel like they’re being condescended to, they are likely to find another job.

Because they grew up during the financial crisis, they are also wary of going into debt or applying for a mortgage, since this can lead to a sense that you’re obligated to stick with a job even if you hate it.

Some folks in the older generations may say that holding a job you don’t like is an important rite of passage. It is undoubtedly true that suffering through a difficult job for six months or a year can be a valuable learning experience, as long as it is perceived as a stepping stone on the way to finding your true calling. Even in a dream job, there will always be menial tasks that are not suited to your strengths; the ability to persevere and complete these tasks with a smile will make you indispensable.

Of Summer Jobs, Internships & Scholarships:

The quest for work-life integration can start as soon as your child becomes an articulate teen with a sense of personal values and a coherent (or even semi-coherent) worldview. Past generations may have imagined a starker divide between childhood, student years and adulthood, but the younger generation does not perceive these lines so clearly.

By encouraging your teen to volunteer, work a summer job or consider interning in a field that interests them, you might help them develop independence and discover what kind of career they are inherently interested in. There are ample youth job opportunities in film and entertainment, for example, and a summer break or post-high school year spent assisting a professional film or television crew may help your teen identify their strengths and areas of improvement, whether or not they continue to work in the industry.

The younger your teens engage, the earlier they’ll be able to build a résumé and express to interviewers how they see themselves growing. Applying for a competitive scholarship or internship requires your teen to look inside themselves and consider what is most important to them and what they’d most like to pursue. Surely this will change over the years, but in today’s strange and chaotic world, it’s immensely valuable to do some soul-searching at a young age.