6 Reasons Why Entrepreneurship is a Match for Gen Z
By Erika Buckley, Communications and Development Associate for The Lewis Institute’s Youth Entrepreneurial Leadership Programs.
As Generation Z heads off to college, a whole new cohort is poised to enter the workforce. These young people value creativity, admire innovation, and are not afraid to work hard. Sounds like all the ingredients necessary for an entrepreneurial future. But does coming of age during the Great Recession have this next generation feeling shook when it comes to making bold leaps? An entrepreneurial mindset might just be the best tool to overcome those whispers of doubt and help them unlock their full potential.
Gen Z wants to learn and discover.
Gen Z learned how to navigate a touch screen before mastering the ABCs. The answer to anything (and every opinion to go with it) has always been an internet search away. Beyond searching for the perfect gif, teens are utilizing the internet to stream online videos to learn real-world skills. The New York ad firm Sparks & Honey discovered that 33% of all Gen Zers watch lessons online for just about everything1. Should they come across an obstacle, this new generation is only a few clicks away from digitally bootstrapping a solution.
Gen Z is ready to flex their independence.
Gen Z has largely experienced childhood on a schedule. Warning about the cutthroat college admissions process since their children were in utero, parents of Gen Zers shuttle their kids from Model UN to violin practice to soccer meets. The result, besides an impressive resume, is a generation of teens craving an opportunity to flex their independence. Entrepreneurship may be attractive precisely because it allows teens to manage themselves and be independent from higher authority. For Gen Z, the idea of being the boss of themselves and their futures is empowering.
Gen Z values creativity and authenticity.
Growing up among all the noise online, Gen Z seeks out unique ways to express their individuality. They tend to admire individuals over faceless institutions, as seen in the trend of using influencers to promote products. They already have experience managing their personal brand via social media. Unlike millennials (who have a reputation of oversharing), Gen Zers are more likely to carefully curate their online presence. Their desire to celebrate uniqueness could translate to distinctive business ideas, brand identities, and marketing strategies.2
Gen Z cares about social issues.
Aware of the smoke and mirrors of marketing, Gen Z is skeptical about labels and organizations. What does impress them is purpose-driven, values-led business. Gen Zers are more likely to do research before supporting a business or non-profit to ensure they really follow through on their promises. This is the first generation to grow up with mainstream media making greater efforts to be more inclusive of people of color, same-sex couples, and other marginalized groups. Through this exposure, Gen Z expects to see reflections of themselves in media, and is more protective of all types of people receiving fair and equal representation.
Gen Z came of age during The Great Recession.
Across the dinner table, parents of millennials preached that a college education and hard work would lead to a great job and financial security. Instead, university degrees were handed out with record layoffs and housing shortages. Unexpected career swerves were made in the name of making ends meet. Gen Z was waiting in the wings, witnessing it all. Cautionary tales of English majors ending up in parents’ basements has made the next generation laser focused on financial security, and Gen Z is fueled by a cutthroat drive to carve out their place in the job market.
Vision Critical reports that Gen Zers are just as entrepreneurial as millennials—yet are less confident that they’ll be able to start their own business one day. It’s a surprising conclusion for a generation displaying all the values and traits that would make an awesome entrepreneur. So how do we convince these curious, creative, and caring young people that instead of toeing the line and collecting a paycheck, the reward of blazing your own path is worth a little risk?
Gen Z is ready to flip the switch.
As Gen Z tries on adulthood, there is no more perfect time for reflection. When they look in the mirror, Gen Zers, should see the fact that they are already entrepreneurial. They’re digital natives who know how to tame the most powerful information tool out there. Having spent their whole life online, they’re social media connoisseurs with a discerned palate for the artfully unique and a fine-tuned radar for fake news. They’re already the CEO of their personal brand and want to find their place in the world.
So how can Gen Z channel their passions into purpose, and their purpose into action? The key lies in flipping on an entrepreneurial mindset. A shift in thinking can illuminate the possibilities within their own life, community, and future. Entrepreneurs start by assessing their resources, including their networks around them. Challenges will always be a part of life, but entrepreneurs greet hurdles as opportunities to learn about new solutions. And when some efforts don’t reap the results they hoped for, entrepreneurs re-frame failure as valuable feedback that informs a new path forward.
So, go get ‘em, Gen Z. We’re all excited to see what you’ve got.
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1Sparks & Honey (2014). Meet Generation Z, Forget Everything You Learned About Millennials. Available from: https://www.slideshare.net/sparksandhoney/generation-z-final-june-17
2Folmsbee, Chris (2017). Generation Z’s Values [except from book Understanding Generation Z: What We Know So Far]. Retrieved from http://www.thinkburlap.com/blog/generation-zs-values