An open letter to the Gen Z-ers that are starting work this summer
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Dear Summer Interns of 2017,
Congratulations on completing your first year of post-secondary schooling and jumping into the world of work. While many people will romantically talk about summers being the months of travel, adventure, and living off your guardian’s hospitality — the real truth for you is that school costs more money than you have and summer is actually a time of working to get a slight leg up on managing the debt you’re taking on just to go to school.
Knowing that for some of you this is your first time working in an environment with more than your own age-group in it, I thought I’d give you some advice for working with the older folks you’ll meet this summer.
1) They’ll likely call you and treat you like a Millennial, even though you’re not one.
If my math is correct, you were likely born in the years 1999–2000 — which makes you part of Generation Z, the generation after us purpose-based, flexibility-seeking, and self-righteous Millennials the media is having such a fun time focusing on. Where we Millennials want to work on teams or in groups, you want to work independently or solo in the presence of others. Where we want job flexibility and work-life balance, you are seeking job stability and clear monetary benefits. Where we know how to use lots of different technologies, you’ve grown up on your phone and will access everything you need from the palm of your hand. While our generations both want to contribute to the world and have meaningful jobs, watch out — you may be treated and compensated like a Millennial.
2) They’ll host meetings to repeat what you already know.
The internet has always been an information source for your life, so your company’s intranet or digital newsletters will likely be easy for you to consume and understand. However older generations prefer face-to-face meetings to disseminate information (that has usually already been covered on the intranet or newsletter — that they likely didn’t read). Stay patient in these meetings as the older folks work through their process — and keep staying one step ahead when it comes to the going-ons of your company. It’ll be to your advantage.
3) They’ll take a while to even consider using the apps or technology you use daily.
If it’s not Microsoft Office, tread lightly. Even though you use Google Drive, Doodle, Slack, Asana, and multiple other apps on your phone already, when it comes to introducing them to your work team the older generations will a) not even know what those are, and b) often be resistant to using them for work purposes. Sometimes it’s because change is “evil and scary,” yet the more legit concern is internet security. Most companies’ IT teams have only secured their systems around Microsoft Office and the Adobe Suite. Become good friends with someone in IT and learn about the digital security requirements for new technologies. This will give you a leg up when proposing a digital solution to that annoying problem everyone keeps complaining about.
4) Help educate them on the social issues important to you.
Deconstructing privilege, power, and social bias; promoting gender/race/sexual equality and inclusivity; supporting mental health; creating goods using closed-loop production; composting; … and the list could go on.
While the older people in your office may have heard about those things, they don’t actually know much about them. Instead of getting frustrated (or bewildered by this notion), take each opportunity to engage in dialogue with them to help see how integrated these can be in both work and play.
5) Slow your roll.
When you’re working with other Gen Z’ers, the speed in which you can get things done is amazing. In the working world, it’s usually the older folks that tend to slow things down … yet they also control budgets and corporate strategies. So, slow down your pace a little to cater to the tempo they’re used to. This may help you get the funding for that new project you want to implement. And, by matching your tempo with theirs, you may actually learn something from them along the way that will be valuable in helping you get that project completed more successfully.
6) Buddy up with a Boomer.
With the Millennials getting the bad press these days, seek out a Boomer or a Gen X-er in the office to seek mentorship and insight from. They’ll appreciate you reaching out to them, and the information and advice they can provide will help you navigate the landscape of decision-makers in your company much more effectively — all while avoiding being sucked into the bad rep the Millennials have garnered.
Oh — and take some time to hang out with your friends on the weekends, go on at least one summer adventure you’re excited about, and focus on keeping a healthy active lifestyle. The skills of prioritizing your physical and mental health while still working will be invaluable in future years — so start developing those habits this summer.
Enjoy this new adventure with the geezers 😉
Meet Matt. He is bold. He is always up for the adventure. He is your biggest fan.