OK Generation Z, cue the well-deserved eyeroll.
You can probably recite these negative associations to your age group in your sleep. While these are unfair generalizations, they’re still real barriers you’ll need to overcome as you enter the workforce.
The good news? Despite all the harsh judgements, you do have a number of soft skills that make you uniquely positioned to prove the critics wrong. So now is the time to learn to use them.
Remember, you grew up during the Great Recession, and while you may not have realized its impact, the economic climate likely drove you to seek stability in your own life. Your generation is more scrappy and resourceful because of the challenging times you grew up in. Employers aren’t expecting this ‒ and that’s good thing.
Here’s how you can turn those preconceived lemons into lemonade:
Channel Your Curious Nature
Previous generations might think more screen time means a disconnect from reality. But in many ways, all that eyes-down time is beneficial. Your generation is connected to what’s happening in the world around you for an average of 10 hours a day via five screens, which surpasses even Millennials.
You’re in-the-know, in large part because you’ve been self-taught since you were old enough to type “Google” into a browser bar.
Take that curiosity and channel it into your college course load. By diversifying your class schedule, you’ll continue to open your mind to new information and perspectives. Classes unrelated to your major can help you think critically about how you bring innovation to your field of study. Also, connect with your academic advisor to build a robust schedule that offers experience across a breadth of interests.
In that same vein, apply to internships that help you grow as an individual and future professional. This is a chance to apply skills you’ve already learned and grow in the field that interests you most. These hands-on opportunities provide chances to show you’re a collaborative team player in a professional role. Don’t just sit and listen. Embrace your natural curiosity, and you’ll be on a strong path toward employment.
Foster Your Entrepreneurial Spirit
People may be surprised to learn that you operate on a results-driven approach. Technology has allowed you immediate results most of your life, and it inspired your drive to produce results the same way.
Making an immediate impact is important to you, and it has harbored a motivated entrepreneurial spirit. In fact, many members of Generation Z are the first in their family to attend college.
Almost 13 percent of Gen Zers already have their own business, and an additional 22 percent plan to own a business in the future.
To help drive these entrepreneurial endeavors forward, keep your eyes peeled for university programs that can help you reach your goal. These can help you build the tenets of entrepreneurship — grit, dedication, and an indomitable spirit — that can be applied to any professional endeavor.
Don’t Let Technology Define You
Tech may be your forte, but make sure professors and potential employers know you’re not one to shun the importance of personal interaction. In fact, most Generation Z individuals crave one-on-one time with peers and mentors. A well-known executive coach, Dina Simon, told Forbes that Gen Zers can make amazing accomplishments with a little one-on-one coaching. That interpersonal quality goes a long way and catches the attention of older generation employers.
You can also use this socializing advantage during college. Certificate programs and a university’s alumni network are great places to find a mentor who has traveled the road you’re about to embark on. And student organizations provide an opportunity to connect with peers who have their sights set on the same path as you.
Now more than ever is the time for you, Generation Zers, to show skeptics what you’re made of.
Take charge, and don’t fight the urge to connect and understand. While everyone else is busy talking about why you’re not ready to join the workforce, keep focusing on the qualities that prove otherwise.
You’ve never hesitated before on jumping into the action, so don’t start now.
Dan Lauer is the founding executive director of UMSL Accelerate, an initiative that fosters innovation and entrepreneurship in and outside the classroom and helps bring concepts from mind to market. Dan is a long-standing, successful entrepreneur who’s founded multiple companies, including Lauer Toys Inc., best known for the Waterbabies® line, which has enjoyed 26 years of continuous distribution and 23 million units sold. Through the UMSL Accelerate, he serves as a catalyst for developing a vibrant ecosystem of students, faculty, and community to inspire innovation and advocate for entrepreneurship. Twitter: @danlauer