When Tiffany Fernandez needs to miss a day of work, she doesn't call her boss. The 17-year-old, an assistant to a Miami clothing designer, doesn't email her either. She sends her a text.
Fernandez is typical of her fellow members of Generation Z, who were born in the early to mid-1990s and are entering the workforce in droves for the first time, according to The Miami Herald.
Gen Z is the first generation to have always known the digital world. And so this group brings a new web savvy -- and devotion -- into the workplace.
"They will have to get used to email and, God forbid, picking up the phone and calling," Cam Marston, of Generational Insights, told the Herald.
These youths are also known as Generation M (for multitasking), Generation C (for connected), or even the iGeneration. Some argue that Gen Z's nearly lifelong exposure to the Internet has been a double-edged sword. While they're adept at multitasking, they may find it harder to have old-fashioned, face-to-face conversations, says senior analyst Naren Sivasailam of the Australian market research firm IBISWorld, which has conducted surveys among Australian members of Gen Z.
"They are more cynical because they are so aware of being marketed to, but they are also empathetic because they are so much more aware of what is going on," Sivasailam told the Australian paper, The Herald Sun. Gen-Z also may have more difficulty handling interactions with clients and customers because they've spend so much time in front of a screen. But being left to their own devices has had an upside, observers note, pointing out that Gen-Z members are remarkably comfortable multitasking.
Gen Z Goes To Work
It's probably too early to tell how growing up in the wake of 9/11 and the Great Recession will shape this generation, but it's clear that large events can leave their mark. The Great Depression, which spanned from 1929 to the end of the 1930s, is widely accepted to to have left in its wake the fatalistic "Silent Generation," which, as the International Business Times points out, is the lone American generation not to produce a president.
So far, this generation is facing more hurdles to even landing a job. The percentage of Americans between the ages of 16 to 24 who were employed as of last July was measured at 48.8 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That figure is the lowest such tally for the age bracket since the BLS began tracking the statistic in 1948.
While it's common for young people to be seen by their elders as lazy and apathetic, experts suggest that Gen Z understands that they're facing a tough economy and have become more entrepreneurial as a result. "Gen Z is taking the bull by the horns, and is really making this happen," said Assistant Professor Ted Zoller of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill's Kenan-Flagler Business School, in remarks to the "Institute for Emerging Issues Forum" at North Carolina State this month.
Education cuts during the crisis are also sure to have an impact. "Students simply do not possess much information or knowledge about the workplace," Robin McCarthy, executive director of Women At Work, told The Herald-Sun newspaper of Durham, N.C. In hosting teen job fairs, she has noticed that many potential job seekers do not have any idea how to write a resume.
For their part, though, Gen Z may end up surprising all the pundits. A new survey, for instance, punctures holes in the stereotype of Gen Z as being always connected. The survey, conducted by Computacenter found that more than half of the 16- to 24-year-olds surveyed didn't want a tablet in the workplace.
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