Congratulations to the graduating class of 2018! I’m confident this group will become fantastic business, civic, and social leaders in the very near future. What an amazing group of young adults – motivated, talented, energetic, involved, and ready to “Rock the World!!” Graduation marks and celebrates an important life milestone, with pomp and circumstance, diplomas, tearful goodbyes, the excitement and fear of moving, boundless energy, and a deep feeling that they can climb any mountain. Parents and family stand proud and exhausted, as their precious bundles of joy walk across the stage accepting accolades celebrating amazing accomplishments. Graduates rejoice in moving on from school, homework, studies, and putting the halls of academia in the rearview mirror, as they blaze off into the sunset to concur the world. They eagerly, and rightfully look forward to freedom, a life of their own, a new place, a new start, and a “real” job. Professors and teachers look at the students, proud of their accomplishments and confident in their abilities, but fully aware that this is just a start, and these young fish will have to swim fast in “the real world” they are entering.
Although these experiences and feelings are shared across generations, it’s important to understand the uniqueness of this “Generation Z,” the events that have shaped their live, and the impact they will have in the world. A glance at some of the significant events that have shaped this generation:
They’ve ALWAYS been connected on multiple devices
They grew up on social networking and are comfortable and aware of the benefits and dangers
9/11 was something they learned about in history class
They expect to change jobs often, and embrace the opportunities
School and gun violence has been one of the prominent social issues throughout their life
They are active on social and political issues and want to be involved, and want to have a voice
Social issues, such as Social injustice (#BLM), Sexual Assault and Violence(#MeToo), and Gun Violence are issues that unite them to action
I encourage people to understand and embrace what motivates and drives these new graduates. Here’s what I’ve learned from the “front line” as a professor, mentor, leader at a very rigorous STEM school THEY:
Multitask, over several devices, mediums, and environments
Are always connected, and it’s normal for them
Are concerned about online privacy and understand dangers of posting on social networking sites
Are very good communicators!
Are actively involved and want to explore
Are energetic, sincere, and MOTIVATED!
Will exceed your expectations and amaze you with their abilities, if given the opportunity!
Patton’s advice, “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity,” is perfect for this group. So putting this into action:
Challenge them, they are great at finding, exploring, and learning. The standard start “climb the corporate ladder” mentality will not work with this generation
Let them teach you – both of you will benefit from the experience
Give them opportunities to learn and experience soft skills such as speaking and presenting to larger groups
They want to learn from your experiences – when communicated in a way they accept. Don’t talk down to them, talk to them about your lessons learned, be open and honest about your mistakes and regrets, and tell them HOW you made critical decisions
Put them in positions of leadership, with the authority to make decisions, and the understanding that they will succeed and fail, and it’s OK!
The new generation is here, are you ready to lead them and make use of their talents and energy? They will join the ranks of your company and form the FUTURE of your company. Will you display the competence to inspire this generation? Do you have the character to commit time and resources to adapt your organization to their styles. Do you have courage to try new techniques and allow this generation the authority to lead. Are you committed to keeping your organization fresh and current with the times, and do you have the necessary compassion to understand the motivations and experiences of this group? It’s an exciting time, but it requires foresight and leadership to make use of these talented graduates.
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