They don’t look for careers, but two-year projects.

They expect flexible working arrangements so they can go to the gym in their lunch break, or work remotely.

They prefer text or email to picking up the phone.

They know what they want, want to get there fast and are perhaps more than any other living generation to tell employers upfront about what they expect.

They think nothing of having thousands of followers on Instagram or Snapchat — the curation of which qualifies as a second job for some.

They are strongly motivated by financial security, socially conscious and more realistic than their forebears — the Millennials.

Meet your new co-workers, Generation Z.

Also known as the: iGeneration, iGen, Internet Generation, Deltas, Centennials, Founders, post-Millennials, Gen Tech, Gen Wii, Net Gen, or Neo-Digital Natives (a step beyond Digital Natives who primarily communicate by text or voice, while neo-digital natives use video or movies).

The origin of the name is not clear but some credit a 2012 USA Today-sponsored online contest. Readers were asked to choose the name of the next generation after the Millennials and Generation Z was suggested.

Roughly defined as those born between the mid-1990s and the mid-2000s – there is not yet a consensus for ending birth years – the first members of Gen Z are graduating university and joining a workplace near you.

That’s if they haven’t skipped university and are concentrating solely on their own business, which they started online.

“People are a bit braver about starting their own thing,” says Richard Lloyd, director of technology and digital recruitment company Halo Consulting.

“In their mind it’s not as hard as it used to be … because it’s so easy to have a platform. You only need one idea and it can grow legs … think of something like My Food Bag. We need these guys coming through with these fresh ideas and challenging things.”

Lloyd, who has two or three Gen Zers in his office and works with companies hiring many more, says they were recently described to him as being so confident and goal-focused that “they don’t actually look for careers”.

“They look for projects, and that could be a two or three-year project, and then they’re off to the next thing.

“One thing you hear all the time is ‘succeed fast or fail fast’. I think they go, ‘Well, I’ll either be good at this or I’m not and I’ll go on to the next thing’.”

Gen Zers are starting to outnumber other generations.

There are about 983,000 people aged between 10 and 24 in New Zealand, compared with just over a million Millennials, 929,000 Generation Xers and 817,000 Baby Boomers, according to Statistics New Zealand.

‘Ah, kids and their social media’

Natural Sugars New Zealand social media manager Raman Mahi, 21, says older colleagues are keen to learn more about social media. Photo / Supplied
Natural Sugars New Zealand social media manager Raman Mahi, 21, says older colleagues are keen to learn more about social media. Photo / Supplied

As part of his role as a social media manager in Auckland CBD, 21-year-old Raman Mahi helps older colleagues untangle the intricacies of social media.

They’re interested in it despite the occasional lighthearted teasing about his role, he says.

“I though older people would be like, ‘ah, kids and their social media’. But they are really interested, I think because they don’t have a grasp of it. It wasn’t there when they grew up.”

It’s a part-time role for Natural Sugars New Zealand that fits around his advertising studies at Auckland University of Technology while also giving his career a head start.

Like most Gen Zers, when he’s working full-time he hopes his career will bring flexibility and variety.

“Social media is something that can be done anywhere … sitting in one place all day isn’t the greatest thing. “You have to move with the pace that everyone’s moving.”

Millennial Sonia Mackie is only 13 years older than her colleague Mahi.

But the generation gap between the young man and the mum-of-one feels as wide as that between the telegraph and the tweet.

“This generation is very based on technology … that knowledge they have makes you feel quite old.”

Mackie’s Gen Z colleagues prefer text or email to talking on the phone, and are extremely motivated, the operations’ manager says.

“They know what they want and they expect to get it quickly … with my generation you put in the hard yards and worked your way up.”

The younger workers are a welcome addition to the office, she says.

“It’s good to have the younger generation come in and teach you about the technology and the cool things you can do.”

Two other Gen Zers work at Natural Sugars, and Mahi has connected with them in the traditional way of his generation, by asking for their Instagram handles. He hasn’t asked the same of his older colleagues, “Because I don’t expect them to have any.”

Getting ahead without time-wasting

Annelise Katz set up her own business so she could have a flexible job around her university studies. Photo / Jason Oxenham.
Annelise Katz set up her own business so she could have a flexible job around her university studies. Photo / Jason Oxenham.

Annelise Katz has never had to advertise her business beyond her own social media channels.

And if the 20-year-old hadn’t started Nails on Cornwall two years ago, she probably would’ve spent too much of her day battling Auckland traffic to do something she didn’t enjoy for little reward, she says.

She knew there had to be a better way to pay her university fees than getting a job at a bar, helping someone else get ahead. “When I left high school I realised I needed a job while I was at university … but I wanted a job with which I could have flexible hours and I also didn’t want to travel across town to go to a job.

“That’s so much time-wasting.”

So the summer before university she trained in nails and set up Instagram and Facebook pages. Her business — run from her flat in Greenlane — now has 930 “mostly young” Instagram followers and 300 “mostly mums” Facebook followers.

As her peers head off to their traditional student jobs — tending bars, working the drive thru and serving flat whites — Katz is home, she’s warm, she’s doing something she enjoys and she’s earning “quite a bit better” than the minimum wage many of her friends make.

Gabrielle Maguire is among Annelise Katz's many clients since she started her home-based manicure business two years ago. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Gabrielle Maguire is among Annelise Katz’s many clients since she started her home-based manicure business two years ago. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Those earnings — her cheapest manicure is $30 and takes about 40 minutes — are helping pay for the real dream, her commerce and property studies at the University of Auckland.

“I think about money and my future a lot. I’m very aware that university costs a lot more these days, buying a house costs a lot more and living costs a lot more.”

Nails aren’t forever — she’ll quit the business when she graduates and gets a corporate job.

But less student loan debt means she can get on with making the life she wants, including raising a family in her own home in the city she’s always called home.

“For me, buying a house is really important. I feel like I wouldn’t want to start a family unless I had a house … in Auckland it might not be feasible until I’m about 32 and with a partner.”

She spends more than a third of her roughly 13-hour work week promoting her business on social media.

She never considered any other way to advertise.

“I’m very tech-driven and naturally can work things out with technology, even if I haven’t done something before I can figure out how to, just because I’ve grown up with it.”

Companies ‘starting to wonder’ about Gen Z

GirlBoss founder Alexia Hilbertidou knows Generation Z pretty well - she is one, and her work focuses on them. Photo / Supplied
GirlBoss founder Alexia Hilbertidou knows Generation Z pretty well – she is one, and her work focuses on them. Photo / Supplied

If there was a School of Gen Z, Alexia Hilbertidou might just be the head teacher.

The 19-year-old spends most of her working life talking to other Gen Zers.

The women’s rights activist started GirlBoss New Zealand as a 16-year-old high school pupil concerned by the lack of young women pursuing science, technology, engineering and maths careers.

She now has a 8000-strong subscriber base for her free mailing list, thousands of social media followers and a calendar full of speaking engagements at schools and businesses — many seeking insight into Gen Z, Hilbertidou says.
“People have heard about Millennials, attracting and retaining Millennial talent, but now they’re starting to wonder about Generation Z talent.”

Her generation are more competitive and financially literate, she says.

“Millennials are more idealistic and experience-seekers. Gen Z are more realistic and security-seekers … I think growing up during the GFC [global financial crisis] means they save more than Millennials.”

The Defence Force was among the organisations to seek her input on our youngest workers.

But Hilbertidou sounded a warning that appearances could be deceiving about how well prepared Gen Z are for a fast-changing world.

“Just because someone knows how to play a game on a smartphone at the age of 5 doesn’t mean they know things like robotics or coding. There’s a huge gap between creating through technology and being a passive consumer of technology.”

Other challenges include mental health — Generation Z land squarely in New Zealand’s shameful suicide rates, which are the worst in the developed world for 15 to 19-year-olds and second worst for under 25s, and which were highlighted by the Herald’s Break the Silence suicide awareness campaign last year.

Hilbertidou thinks social media and 24/7 news feeds make her generation “over connected and overwhelmed”, but that same technology also meant they could jump-start their own dreams, in her case starting a successful advocacy platform with a tiny budget.

She has skipped university, and knows other Gen Zers planning the same, but she’s unsure if that’s a generation-wide trend.

United States studies she’s read show fewer young people are going to university, but that may be the result of local economic pressures, she says.

“I have no doubt in fields such as law, engineering, medicine there are no shortcuts to success … for me as an entrepreneur I sometimes question whether the time and opportunity costs of gaining a tertiary qualification is the most efficient move.

“Gen Z want access to knowledge and skills as and when they need it, and they want to apply it to a real-world context immediately.”

‘I’ve wanted to be a gamer since I was a kid’

Ari Greene-Young quit school after he was offered a job to be a professional gamer. File photo / Michael Craig
Ari Greene-Young quit school after he was offered a job to be a professional gamer. File photo / Michael Craig

Auckland teen Ari Greene-Young is among teens taking the path previously less travelled, quitting school last year after he was hired to play video games internationally.

The 17-year-old told the Herald in January he was paid to train 12 hours a day, six days a week for a weekly game broadcast online.

He and his team live with their manager and coach in a flat paid for by the competition’s organisers.

“I’ve wanted to be a gamer since I was a kid.”

Free digs and doing something you’ve dreamed of since you were a kid — Greene-Young might just be the poster child for single-mindedly chasing the life you want, something his generation seems to excel at.

Right in the thick of Generation Z

Georgia McGillivray, founder and chief executive of The Social Club, says flexible work options are key to keeping Generation Z employees. File photo / Supplied
Georgia McGillivray, founder and chief executive of The Social Club, says flexible work options are key to keeping Generation Z employees. File photo / Supplied

At 26, Georgia McGillivray just missed Generation Z, but as the chief executive of a Grey Lynn company set up to connect social media influencers — most of whom are Gen Zers — with brands they want to work with, she’s “right in the thick of it”.

A third of the Social Club’s staff base is under 24.

“The key difference with Gen Z is the flexible working thing. More and more we pay influencers who are usually contractors. Some of them, their full-time job is to create content, and there’s more and more of those.”

With their own staff they had to offer more flexible working arrangements — concessions such as mid-afternoon gym breaks or working remotely one week a year from locations as far away as the US.

“Compared to my parents’ generation they expect a lot. They’re lifestylers — they want to spend as little time as possible in the office. We try and understand their needs and accommodate them as best we can … it doesn’t work for an employer otherwise.”

Source: NZ Herald

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