Extended Response: A Zillenial at werk, sorry, work :)
When journs & writers ask me for a quote, I often send a novel. Last year, Gem Fletcher kindly asked me about Gen Z and Millenial approaches to work - here's the novel I sent.
Read Gem Fletcher’s WeTransfer Article “Clocking out” she interviewed me for here
Q: How do you define yourself generationally?
Jokingly, I often title myself 'The first Gen Z to exist'.
I was born in 1996, which is the cusp of Gen Z. I see myself as a Zoomer because my brother, born in 1994, is sooooo different to me and whenever I try to date anyone even a touch older than me it’s almost as if I am talking to a new species. Like, why don’t they get deep-fried memes, and if I see a trio of “🤣” hit my iMessage just know, homeboy ain’t gonna … get it.
Also, during a conversation on generational shifts with my 23-year-old pal, he said to me “on behalf of all Gen Zs, we accept you” - so, I’m pretty legit.
So, yeah - I’m Gen Z but Millennials have rubbed off on me I think.
Q: How do you think Gen Z and Millenials differ in their approach or expectations of work/career?
If we’re thinking of the extreme ends of both, very different. However, for “inbetweeners” like myself you can switch on and off the extremes.
Gen Z Extreme: They’re really not trying to work. They have an awareness of capitalism, which is quite a new thing for youth to know - usually, it’s taught at the university level.
This has made them question “work” at a philosophical level. Like, why contribute to these companies and realities that only cause destruction and mental health problems? So they don’t. There are so many ways to make money they opt for the ones that make for the most joy/chill - i.e. get paid to be a creator, make a quick buck on crypto then chill, or get hired by harmful historic employers but do the least there.
Gen Z's view on the corporate world is that it is should be undermined or relaxed - heck, KPMG’s TikTok touches on getting crunk the weekend (#RelateableRecrutiment?) and my employer loves a #NSFW post on Instagram.
Millennials Extreme: Get through or make an empire. They entered the job market off the back of the 2008 financial recession and with no (well, just starting) tech industry. Job options back then were not as exciting or varied as they are now, so they did what they had to get by - qualifications, grad scheme jobs and classic job applications.
As the internet matured, social media changed marketing and business tools went URL, the Millenial approach broadened. “Make your own business” mentalities, your Startup boys and #GirlBosses arrived, producing companies like Discord and Glossier. So in terms of expectations, Millennials were happy to have a decent job or want to build an empire.
For in-betweeners (hiya!) and Zillenials in the working world today, I think each generation taps in and out of each generations’ extremes.
For millennials, they’ll get like GenZ with sabbaticals and doing the least at work.
For GenZ, they will do sprints of conforming to “the man” as a means to achieve a bigger goal.
“I think there is almost this “suck it up” factor that started with Boomers, hummed through generations till now where GenZs are like - “Nah, I’ll do what I want and still thrive thanks”.
(Quoted in Gemma’s Article Here)
Story time :P
Once, I was in an Uber at about 3 pm on a weekday and LBC (who allegedly Leads Britain’s Conversations) was playing on the radio. The topic being covered was how businesses are finding it hard to find young talent, and the host invited people to call in with their experiences.
Most callers were 40+ complaining how “young kids these days" don’t understand the value of "hard work'' and “back in their day” they did as they were told.
One caller was particularly interesting. They owned a call centre and said they couldn’t get any “good” young hires since the applicants “didn’t know how to pick up the phone” as they’ve always texted and calling gives them anxiety.
As this was a discussion hosted by LBC at a random lunch-ish time, no young people called in to give their POV and, it's possible, I was the only under 30 listening.
For me, I was smh at the fact that older people know this generation is more anxious, but don’t adapt their roles accordingly, and are just angry about it instead. This may lead to their companies going under or using Ai - unless they’re hating on that too.
In listening, became enchanted with Gen Z as their lack of involvement isn’t due to a lack of capability, it’s philosophical - “Why should I work a crappy job? I’ll make money elsewhere.”
(I told you I send novels, right? … on to the next Q!)
Q: What values do the two generations share?
A want to do and/or feel good. Both want to do work that, overall, benefits the world. They'll avoid jobs that don't morally align (and if they do it’s for the pay cheque) or don’t make them happy.
Q: How does this manifest in the expectations around your day-to-day at work?
Nothing overtly in my day-to-day, other than calling out injustices or issues if I do spot them. My expectation is addressed mainly through where I've chosen to work and my job. My current employer's motto is 'Be Less Shit', we want to do good in all of our work which matches my expectation. Therefore, I feel good in all I do. Plus, I found a job I am good at, so my employer’s expectations are met too, making for a sense of fulfilment and little stress.
Q: Have you observed any tension around this?
Not personally, but I could see how tensions could arise around the “right way” of going about achieving something good.
Q: How have you overcome differences in expectations when they arise?
There hasn’t been too much to overcome. Again, I usually work in places where expectations align. I guess if I wanted to change or the goal post has moved, I would just put my #GirlBoss hat on and make a robust case on how things are and how they should be. There never is nastiness. I give a frank and honest voice of what’s happened and how I feel, and then employers give theirs to then find a compromise - if that comprise ain’t it, might be time to dip.
Q: What have you learnt from the other generation? Is there anything you are embracing personally?
I guess being in the middle, I’ve learnt from both.
From millennials, girl bossing. I am a Gen Z, but I am a Girl Boss. I admire ambitious people, love thinking up ventures, learning about companies (they’re basically interesting ideas, no?) and how businesses can change the world. However, I could be an anomaly. This no-so-GenZ trait of mine might be down to genetics as I’m half-American so manifest density and the “American Dream” is in my blood so hard to shake.
What I like about GenZ is they are very considerate and capable. They think about everyone’s joy and inclusion, and they can do a bit of everything. This is probably due to the digital tools they grew up with which allows them to make and do things easier than older gens could.
Q: As a millennial, how does this shift make you feel?/ As Gen-Z, how does it feel to confront the Millenial mindset about work?
As a Zillenial, I see the standards expected and then employ the right mindset when needed. For example, when I graduated from University, I had two job offers. One was from the Startup I was interning at, and the second was a Grad Scheme job at a big tech consultancy (Big 4 vibes).
Obviously, I went to the startup with all my friends that doesn’t require me to wear a suit every day, versus the Grad Schemer that….
… made me go to a rundown post-capitalism business centre in Woking to show my “skills” amongst 20
dry begs fellow applicants to even get an offer.
However, there was a sense of empowerment and calm knowing I could appease “the system” a.k.a Grad Scheme. Like, I can be one of you if I wanted to. I can go up the corp ladder like society, GDP graphs and shareholders want, but I prioritised my joy and truth, over the “smart” career move
Q: One thing that strikes me about GenZ is their confidence. Where do you think this is rooted?
Depends on how you're looking at this and Social Media could mislead you.
There is a shared "IDGAF" and "I do what I want", which can be misconstrued with confidence - it's more of a rejection of norms. Confident people post on social media, a lot of GenZ have anxiety so they don't post and just watch.
Q: Do you think GenZ look up to millennials in any way? AKA, think they can learn from them?
Overarchingly, there is definitely gratitude to Millenial for setting and starting movements that have now benefitted GenZ, especially in LGBTQ+, identity and Female lens.
Also, in management, Millennials are not doing up generational trauma or “I'm your never wrong senior” like Boomer bosses. Millenials recognise their faults and allow Juniors to feedback on their growth. They also recognise that mishaps will happen in employee growth. They’re helpful in overcoming them and not damming leading to constructive improvement instead of anxiety-backed adaptations of yesteryears.
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Though overarching Gen Z looks up to millennials, it’s an aggregation of micro-level person-to-person interactions. Gen Zs won’t look up to others just because they’re older or have “experience” alone. Millennials (or anyone) need to impress or earn the respect of Gen Z, then they’ll look up to them.
Q: Do you think there is a sense of millennials lay the foundations of things like climate awareness or mental health - but much more needs to be done/its not enough?
I think this is it. Millennials started movements and there is more to be done, so they held open the door for Gen Z to do it since Gen Z’s world context allowed them to make a different swifter and with more baked-in compassion.
The debate below, a concept devised by Livvi Yallop and produced by yours truly for the Digital Fairy in 2019, puts two Gen Z experts against two Millennial Experts to discuss if Gen Z will rule the world. “The house” ended up believing that Gen Z will change the world, but much of the discussion revolves around how Millenials ran so Gen Z could sprint.
Q: When I think about how we got here [to the values of GenZ] a lot of it seems to be a pushback born from the repercussions of the millennial mindset/way of working - Personal branding, the multi-hyphenate, side hustles, Tech Bros and GirlBoss culture, insisting we can change things from the inside, being defined by our output, glamorising being busy, then falling seriously ill due to burnout - If these things define Millenials - what would you say defines GenZ?
Below are the GenZ iterations and evolutions of Millennial qualities :)
Millennial → GenZ
Personal branding → Be Real / Authentic
Multi-hyphenate → Multi-hyphenate talents in their leisure. Have more talents thanks to tech.
Side hustles → Full Businesses, investing or Depop/Flipping/Resell
Tech Bros and GirlBoss culture → Joy first. An overall reduction of pressure to work hard for “the man” and cooler to do less.
Insisting we can change things from the inside → Don't wait to be "inside" and make for themselves. They’d rather make brand vs waiting to be hired by Nike
Being defined by our output → Defined by being kind, to an almost competitive degree.
Glamorising being busy → Making time and compassion is to flex, more so if you have "cool friends"
Then falling seriously ill due to burnout → Docile as a flex, but this can sour if ambitiousness / incomeless makes for problems. Pressure to do, since everyone else is can result in crippling anxiety
End of Questions!
Thank you for reading, and while you still are, make sure to read Gem Fletcher’s WeTransfer Article “Clocking out”. It’s terrific and includes a range of interviewees and perspectives. I’m so grateful Gemma included me and sent great questions that inspired so much thought.
I’d love to hear your views on Millenials, Zillenials and Gen Z at work in the comments.
lol, emily chapps :)