They’ve never heard the sound of dial-up Internet, set the VCR to record a show or used T9 to text. To them, a magazine is an iPad that doesn’t work. FOMO and twerk are part of their everyday vocabulary.

Born into an era of high-speed internet, Gen Z (ages four-to-20) is touted as being well-educated, ambitious, worldly, collaborative, even genius: the opposite of the entitled and lazy Gen Y. Seven million Gen Z-ers live in Canada and they’re expected to enter the work force over the next year. If the research is right, Gen Z is getting ready to rule the working world.

Twelve is the new 19

Don’t let them fool you. There’s a lot more going on in the minds of Gen Yers than who to Snap Chap and what to Instagram. While Gen Y has been bogged down by the idea of having it all, Gen Z might actually find a way to #haveitall.
If 20 is the new 30 for Generation Y, “12 is the new 19” for Gen Z, according to Bruce Tulgan a market researcher who has been studying youth for two decades. While Gen Y is criticised for a failure to launch, Gen Z has witnessed the missteps of Gen Y and taken notes. Gen Z wants to make an impact on the world, buy a home and save their money.

According to Schwabel, founder of Millennial Branding, “since Gen Z has seen how much Gen Y has struggled in the recession, they come to the workplace better prepared, less entitled and more equipped to succeed.”

First the workforce, then the world

According to a widely publicized study by marketing agency Sparks & Honey, 60% of Gen Z (also known as “screenagers”) want to have an impact on the world, compared to just 39% of Gen Y (also known as adults who still live with their parents).

Take Tavi Gevinson, the 18-year-old media mogul who gained Internet fame at the age of 12. Gevinson’s online magazine, Rookie, features stories about pop culture, feminism, fashion and adolescent social issues. Forbes listed Gevinson twice on their 30 Under 30 in media list. From the Mylie Cyrus’ of Gen Z, to the young scientists and entrepreneurs, Gevinson is in good company.

There’s Ann Makosinski, the 15-year-old who won a Google Science Fair for inventing a flashlight that converts heat into energy. Meet Moziah Bridges, the 12-year-old with a bow tie company that has $150,000 in sales and five employees. Jack Andraka, a high school student, used Google and free science articles to invent an advanced test for hard-to-detect pancreatic cancer. Andraka cites his “teenage optimism” as playing a role in his success.

As a member of Gen Y (I’m 25) still trying to sort out my place in the working world, the thought of a younger, so-called better generation biting at my heels is scary. So scary.

In my life, 30 is indeed the new 20. I don’t expect to feel secure in my career or living arrangement for at least another few years. But at least I’m old enough to buy a drink at the bar. I can afford it; I still live with my parents after all.


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Nicole Wray is a member of Generation Y and a regular contributor to Workopolis.
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