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Understanding Gen Z

Posted on August 2, 2022 at 2:59 PM by Elizabeth Hornbach

Dr. Meghan Grace will be returning with her next session to help us understand Gen Z. In this session she will help us to learn strategies for educating, empowering and teaching this generation of cadets.

Webinar Advertisement The session will take place virtually on 21 September 2022 at 8:00 pm CT.. Its free and open to all who would like to gain an understanding of our current cadets and their needs. Please share with your friends and register now

Below is an excerpt from her first session with us back in January, where she dove into the specific characteristics of Gen Zers. You can view the full session here.

Who is Generation Z?

Those born between 1995 and 2010 are generally considered a part of Generation Z. Right now, that makes them ages 12-27 and currently in middle school, high school, college and in the work force. All of our cadets (and some senior members) fall into Generation Z. 

What is a generation?

A generation is considered a group of people that were born in the same time frame and are developing a shared outlook on the world based on their interactions with society. Each generation develops a type of culture, with values, behaviors, perspectives and preferences, quite like people who live in a particular region. 

What Shapes a Generation?

Typically, a generation is shaped by the events and occurrences that are happening during the formative teen and young adult years. How young people grow up in their particular society has a huge impact on how they navigate that world. Of course, the characteristics of a generation might not apply to every single member. Generational identity is very nuanced and different things are going to impact different people in different ways. 

Some major influences are rooted in technological factors, the economy, social issues and movements, and the political landscape. 

What is Shaping This Generation?

There are a lot of things that are having an effect on members of Gen Z, but we are going to focus on the top six. 

  1. Increased Access to Information: We have access to any type of information at any time, including the intimate details of people’s personal lives, real-time coverage of tragedies, real and fake news.   

  2. Constant Connection: With the internet, social media, and the barrage of devices, teens are typically connected to the world of information, on average, in five ways. 

  3. Budget Cuts: The 2008 recession impacted Gen Zers in the form of observation. They observed the impact of this recession on the adults in their lives. This led them to be financially conservative, fiscally concerned around the question of “will I have the money I need to be financially stable”. We are seeing that in their consumer mindset and has changed the job industry, which brings us to…

  4. The Gig Economy: There has been a boom in the gig economy – working for yourself, entrepreneurship. Even before COVID, Gen Zers have embraced the side hustle. They have begun to work and explore career paths earlier and they welcome the idea of designing their own work life destiny. 

  5. Disaster, Tragedy & Threats to Personal Safety: The country may or may not be seeing more disasters than previous generations, but we do have more access to it. We live in a 24/7 news cycle that makes it difficult to NOT wake up to bad news. We also are able to peer into the lives of others in ways we have never been able to before. After a school shooting TikTok and Snapchat are filled with first person videos from inside the school. It’s hard to be a young person today and not think the world is a scary place. As a result, Gen Z is cautious and safety oriented. 

  6. Equity & Equality: Gen Z has a mindset of thinking about inclusion, equality and equity. They have grown up with more conversation around inclusion, inclusive spaces, who is represented, who is treated unfairly, etc. As a result, they are champions of inclusion and equity and encourage it within the spaces they engage with. They want people to be welcome and accepted for their identity with a sense of belonging as well as psychological and physical safety.

How Do You Describe This Generation?

Dr. Grace has asked this question many of her studies, and her is what the research says:

  1. Value Integrity: This is a generation driven by integrity and doing the right thing, whatever that specifically means to them. 

  2. Value Openness: They are open minded and value tolerance and are able to look at another’s perspective and adapt. 

  3. They’re Tenacious: They are very eager. Connecting to their innate motivation will tap into their hard-working nature. They are very determined and driven on things they feel passionate about. 

  4. They Care: They are a generation that has a heart and mind for other people. They care about their community and making a difference for other people. They have a thoughtfulness and concern for others to a degree that they sometimes forget to care for themselves. 

Who are Their Role Models & Influential Relationships? 

While digital influencers are very much present, parents, family, peers and leaders (teachers, coaches, youth leaders, advisors) are the most influential people in a Gen Zer’s life. They have a firm foot in the physical world as well as the virtual world.

When it comes to shaping their values and making decisions, Gen Zers are seeking these close interpersonal relationships for guidance on life choices. They are looking to these people because one of their most valued characteristics is authenticity. The individuals they are turning to are those they have an authentic relationship with. CAP leaders at the local unit have an amazing opportunity to impact our cadets’ lives. If you thought social media influencers were powerful, the research shows that local youth leaders have more power when it comes to affecting teens today.

Now that we understand some of the characteristic of Generation Z, the next step is to learn how to harness this knowledge to transform youth into tomorrow’s aerospace leaders. That is exactly what we will talk about in our next session on September 21st, strategies for educating, empowering and teaching this generation of cadets. Register now! 


About Dr. Meghan Grace Ed.D.

Dr. Meghan Grace is a generational researcher and has been studying Generation Z since 2014. Dr. Grace has conducted 4 original studies on Generation Z and is the co-author of the books, Generation Z Goes to College and Generation Z: A Century in the Making. She is also the host of the podcast #GenZ, where she interviews members of Generation Z to juxtapose their lived experiences with research findings. Meghan also serves as a consultant with Plaid, LLC., where she specializes in organizational development, research and data strategy, and program design. 

This article has been paraphrased from January’s Youth Development Conference session – to view full session, visit here.
 

Comments
Very informative session. Much to consider as GenZ grows up too. The modalities to connect will travel with them. The different preferred communications tools by generation need thoughtful, ongoing consideration. Big opportunity to lean into how values matter to GenZ.
Stacey Feeney (2nd LT) | 9/27/22 at 9:47 AM
Bravo ! Very interesting that with all the "influencers" jockeying for position, the champion still seems to be the authentic, engaged personal contact with people who want to help get others where THEY want to go in life.
Dean Billigmeier | 9/7/22 at 11:42 AM
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