Collaborating with fellow entrepreneurs is always energizing. With each opportunity, there’s a lesson to learn from the unique and shared experiences and varied levels of risk-taking. Now, mix that with the professional love of connecting with colleagues in our respective industries, and for me, you get the PRSA’s Counselors Academy. I attended earlier this year and learned from leaders of PR firms nationwide. The new insights and tools shared were extremely beneficial, especially during the session on becoming a next-generation leader, where the speaker, Mark Mohammadpour, advised us to secure a Gen Z mentor. When we think of mentors, we typically think of someone much older than us with decades of lived and professional experiences, not someone still managing a party schedule, first loves and exams. Still, it quickly made sense!
The speaker said Gen Z will have more impact on our agencies than any other generation in the next five years, from consumer buying decisions to our working environments. The World Economic Forum estimates that Gen Z will make up more than 25% of the global workforce by 2025. So the truth is, to grow our businesses or even work in a company, we must learn their motivations and decision-making processes for future success.
I now have a Gen Z mentor in place, and I’ve already learned that I have much to learn for continued personal or professional growth. Here are my takeaways from the first few sessions.
1. Be open-minded.
Every generation is as much alike as it is different and driven by social, political and cultural shifts. One isn’t better than the other; they’re simply different. Being around my Gen Z mentor, I’ve gained a greater appreciation for brevity in texts and emails, the power of pop culture, and seeing many, many more points of view.
I’ve also learned that Gen Zers are less likely to accept the status quo, especially if it means perceived time-wasters such as working in an office for eight hours a day, five days a week, versus a flexible work schedule, or waiting a week for the next episode of a television show versus binge watching. They have time-saving ways to do almost everything, so we can expect efficiency in the next few years.
2. Observe how Gen Z sees technology.
Knowledge of technology is part of their birthright. For example, this generation was born engaging and communicating on social media, whereas for me, it was all about the phone – landline, that is. For them, social media isn’t limited to being social. Gen-Z sees it as a communication tool with multiple functions, including a place to connect for business and job opportunities, search for love, research a new product or service, complete an assignment, etc. Taking it further, they are always searching for online tools to do things quicker and easier. The phrase – “There’s an app for that” – has never been more appropriate. From task organizers to my mentor’s favorite – customer reward apps. If he frequents a restaurant or store to shop, you better believe he has the corresponding app. Companies likely won’t earn his business if they don’t have one. And while I often grow weary of Zoom, Teams and other virtual meeting spaces –that’s a place of comfort for many Gen Zers.
After all, my mentor, for example, spent his last year of high school and first year of college virtually. His advice – get used to virtual. This summer, he interned with a global company and spent roughly 6 hours a day, five days a week, on virtual calls with some people five doors down and others five countries away. However, he never met any of them in person. Not only was he okay with that – he preferred it.
3. Be willing to listen and embrace videos.
Mentoring can’t be effective if one isn’t willing to listen. While I initially felt awkward asking a 20-something for regular advice, it’s no big deal to him. Unlike many young adults in the past, Gen Zers are very comfortable commanding the conversation and sharing perspectives. They respect their elders, but they also greatly appreciate their place in this world and recognize that they have valuable thoughts and opinions to contribute even at an early age. In fact, research states they take in much more information due to their voracious appetite for diverse content. And where do they go for it? Social media platforms featuring video. A survey by Insider Intelligence says that one-fourth (25.7%) of US Gen Z adults use YouTube more than any other social platform, followed closely by TikTok (25.0%). So, if you have an important message to share or want to engage with this audience, speak their language with a video.
We can all expect our Gen Zers to usher in continuous waves of new technology and innovation that we must nimbly embrace. Learning from this new generation will be essential to staying relevant and thriving personally and professionally, so take the time to invest in building an intentional relationship with someone from Gen Z. They might have less professional and lived experiences, but they have a fresh, unique perspective on the future of business.