On the Heels of the Millennials: Meet Generation Z

Empty Nest Blessed by Suzy Mighell
generation z, gen z, characteristics of gen z, who is gen z, empty nest, empty nester, parenting adult children, parenting adult kids

If you’re an empty nester like me, you probably have kids that are millennials. Much has been written on the characteristics of millennials, who, as a generation, were most influenced by the fact that they came of age during the technology boom. Lots of people (including me!) have generically referred to everyone under 30 as millennials, but I’ve recently learned that another generational group, with very different characteristics, is coming up hot on their heels. Move over millennials. Meet your younger siblings, the members of Generation Z.

Trying to pinpoint the birth year age ranges for each generation is a slippery slope, but most experts agree that the members of Gen Z were born from about 1995 to 2012 (give or take three years in either direction). That means they are beginning to graduate from college and enter the workforce (with some of them just entering kindergarten). While Millennials were raised during times of relative prosperity as internet pioneers, Gen Z was reared during a global recession, bore witness to the slow recovery that followed, and view technology as a practical, necessary, commonplace tool.

Surprising many, the members of Gen Z are characterized by independence, competitiveness, and motivated by fear of missing out (FOMO), according to David Stillman, the author of [email protected]. (Ahem, empty nesters, I see you doing a happy dance! Could this be the end of the boomerang kids phenomenon?) While Millennials entered the workforce focusing on finding a job that was meaningful and collaborative, Gen Z members cite salary and independence as the most important factors in choosing a job. (Again, with the happy dance! Could this mean they’ll actually want to get off the parental payroll?)

What are some other characteristics of Generation Z?

  • They are “digital natives” who’ve had cell phones most of their lives. They assume everyone has or wants the latest technology.
  • They like communication in quick sound bites. They want to know what they need to know to effectively and efficiently complete the task.
  • Fascinatingly though, 84% of Gen Z members surveyed by Stillman said they prefer face-to-face communication.
  • Raised with personalized marketing, they prefer everything individualized and customized. Many of them pursued majors in college that they custom created according to their unique preferences, interests, and skill sets. Typically, according to Stillman, they will continue this mindset when it comes to individualizing their career paths.
  • They are information junkies, having been raised with on-demand news on world events, weather, sports scores, and even what their friends are doing.
  • Because they’re used to checking social media and news sites constantly, they typically desire frequent input and feedback on performance. (But remember, it has to be quick.)
  • FOMO affects their choices. They want many different experiences at the same time, often taking on side businesses or demanding hobbies at the same time as a full-time career.
  • They hate TV and are skeptical of big brands and big business. They’re pragmatic, frugal, and appreciate a good value. They question everything.
  • They appreciate authenticity, transparency, and even vulnerability (to some extent). Although they’re ultra-competitive, they’re also accepting, inclusive and tolerant.

What does all of this mean for us as empty nesters? With kids born in 1992, 1994, and 1996, I recognize many of the differences in characteristics between my first and my last. Do you? For example, it is helpful to know that my younger adult kids are more skeptical and perhaps not as, um, open, shall we say, to my suggestions about their life choices. Their independence and self-reliance are good traits, much as the collaborative mindset and pursuit of meaningful work are characteristics that I love to see in my older adult son.

As I’ve contemplated and researched Generation Z in preparation for this post, one thing keeps occurring to me over and over again: No matter what their age, stage, or generational characteristics, our adult kids need our support, encouragement, and love in their lives. Click HERE to read my post on six ways to bless your adult kids.

I’d love to know your thoughts on this post. Do you see these traits in your kids? How has it affected your family and your parenting? Please leave me a comment and let me know!

(These are some of the resources I consulted while researching this post.)

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Suzy Mighell

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  1. Goodness! I never really thought about this as a separate generation, but it all fits! I’ve been teaching middle school for 20 years and the last few years I’ve noticed a big difference in the students. The list of characteristics matches them completely! This is so helpful for me as an educator. I’m looking forward to reading your post about supporting adult kids. I just posted my own ideas about them – great minds, huh?

    1. Melody, thanks for your comment! It is amazing once you stop and think about the difference in these Gen Z kids. My 22-year-old daughter-in-law just texted me to thank me for this post. She and my son said they were tired of being lumped in with Millennials when they didn’t feel like they really exhibited many of the Millennial traits. She was so relieved when she read the Gen Z research! xoxo Suzy

  2. Oh Suzy, this was so interesting! This so clearly reflects my 22 year old daughter’s views and personality much better than Millennial traits.
    We are so proud today, she has just got a fantastic new job in London with an International Think Tank. This is her first permanent position after graduation and they were looking for someone older but were so impressed with her that they offered her the job!
    Also my son’s girlfriend has been accepted to do a year at Austin University. Is that quite near you?

    1. Hi cute Carole! Thanks so much for your comment. Not sure where Austin University is. Did you mean The University of Texas at Austin? If so, that is about 4 hours away from me. It is a difficult school to get into, so congratulations to her! Isn’t it amazing how different Gen Z is from Millennials? So glad your 22-year-old lines up with the traits so well. So excited for her and her new job. She sounds like an outstanding young lady! I am determined to meet you in person sometime – either side of the pond will work for me! Have a wonderful weekend. xoxo Suzy

  3. You hit the nail right on the head with Gen Z. I plan to pick up some of the books you’ve read. Could you consider writing a blog post about how to respond to things this generation and others around it say to their parents? They make some selfish and even rude remarks. It’s hard to know what to respond to, what to let go and how to package it if you do respond.

    1. Suzanne,
      That is a great idea! I am so glad you liked the post. You are correct, this generation sometimes doesn’t do a great job talking to their parents. When my kids do that, I usually just say something like, “Wow. Really? Wow. That is an unacceptable way to talk to anyone. When you’re ready to talk about this adult to adult, let’s try again.” And then I leave the room. I have to remind them that I am doing my very best to treat them like adults, and I expect the same from them. You might want to check out the other articles in the parenting section of my blog ((http://emptynestblessed.com/category/parenting/) to see if you find anything helpful, Suzanne. Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment and good suggestion. xoxo Suzy

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