“I can’t believe you’re thirty already.”
“Can you share all your wisdom with me? You seem to have so much experience.”
“What? You don’t look that old!”
This last year, I joined the thirty, flirty, and thriving club (shoutout to Jennifer Garner in 13 Going On 30). At first, being in the 30s age bracket scared me. I felt like my youth was ripped away all of a sudden. I felt like people would start expecting me to settle down, get serious, start a family, and plan for retirement. Here I was still feeling my twenties, but now I was labeled as “old” all of a sudden.
Growing up, I was always around a wide range of ages. I was encouraged to learn from everyone because we all have something to teach. This continued when I was a teacher working with middle and high school students. Rather than feeling a separation between the student and teacher, I felt like an older sibling or peer – knowing we both had things we could learn from each other.
The more I could level with those in different areas of their lives, the more I could understand their thought processes and feelings. This allowed me to not only grow closer but learn from these individuals as well.
It’s like I was Jake Sully from Avatar trying to learn from the Na’vi. The Gen Zers accepted me as their own. I could blend in without drawing much attention to my aching, aging, frail, thirty-something-year-old body. We laughed at the same TikToks. That was an accomplishment.
Though I joke about the age gap with my Gen Z counterparts, I truly love and adore working with them. As someone who is pivoting into the realm of Advertising and Marketing, I know the importance of networking and seeking all opportunities to learn from the industry. This, in turn, placed me in many situations where my colleagues and peers were younger than me (e.g., internships, networking field trips.. etc.). Likewise, my recent adventure with the NMGZ Community allowed me to learn wholeheartedly from Generation Z.
Lessons from the youths:
1. Speak up
From the get-go, the younger generation has so much they can talk and share about. They’re politically and socially conscious because of how much information is at their fingertips. They are so confident when it comes to something they believe in. Without fear of judgment, they speak up about their beliefs so confidently. If they see something that doesn’t align with their values, they will make it known. They do not doubt their ability to make change in the world. Age doesn’t define the impact of change a person can make.
2. Challenge the status quo (Hey Siri, play “Stick to the Status Quo” by the High School Musical Cast)
Sure, millennials grew up with the internet like Gen Z, but Gen Z received the refined/edited/finalized version of the internet. They know how to work the system, if not better than many. Processes that may have been around for a while have been tweaked, altered, and refined. Gen Zers look to save time and be efficient. What’s that quote? Ah, it’s “work smarter, not harder.” So when someone looks to change a long-established work process, don’t shake it down. See if it works and can it save you time for that extra coffee.
3. Have heart and be authentic
The annual Edelman Trust Barometer shows us that consistently every year, people’s trust dwindles in companies and entities that do not “put [their] money where [their] mouth is.” Having authenticity in your work and being a good global citizen is most important for Gen Z. Gen Z looks at supporting those that align with their beliefs – that’s what makes cancel culture a scary thing!
4. Keep learning
My recent adventures with the NMGZ community showed me how much hunger and excitement the Gen Z have in wanting to learn. Sure, they’re young, and some are still in the education sector, but they yearn to learn more and question more about everything. Several came up to me asking for advice and hoping to learn from my wisdom (what made them think I possessed that?). There is no expiration date to learning, as there is no point in adulthood where you’re done learning.
5. Love Taylor Swift
A little plug, but we all love Taylor Swift. If anything, she has been a connecting piece, a bridge, a rope that ties us together. Whether that’s one Taylor Swift song to get everyone up and singing together during karaoke (I suggest “Love Story” – Taylor’s Version) or asking which leg of the Eras Tour they went to, Taylor is queen. Well, so is Beyoncé, but I mustn’t digress.
Of course, these lessons are just a small part of what we can learn from Generation Z. There are reasons why companies these days find it imperative to listen to the younger generation – they will be future leaders.
According to the World Economic Forum, by 2025, 27% of the workforce will comprise Gen Z. It’s a fact that we all have something to share, so listen to the younger generation.
Truthfully, the gap between Gen Z was hardly an issue. I didn’t feel any different from these young people because of my age. Instead, I felt closer to them because we had so many things we connected with. The confidence that I learned at a later age was seen in them at a younger age. The resilience they had to fight for what they believed in, I, too, resonated with them. Their eagerness to learn, I felt that.
So, in all things, stop and ask how you can learn from Generation Z because they will help you thrive now and in the future.