Corporate Eye

Gen Z: New Kids in the World

In the month of May, 2010, 13-year-old Jordan Romero became the youngest person to climb Mount Everest, and 16-year-old Jessica Watson completed her solo sail around the world.  Meanwhile the preternaturally gorgeous and phenomenally talented jazz singer Nikki Yanofsky—who was just 12 when she debuted at the 2006 Montreal Jazz Festival–has released her first major CD.  (Even if you’re not a jazz enthusiast, listen to her ballistic version of Take the “A” Train . . . and marvel.)

Right around age 12 seems to be the new normal for launching a superstar career.  The Today Show recently featured a segment with pre-teen movie critic Jackson Murphy (youngest nominee ever for a NY Emmy) and sixth-grader Grayson Crouch went straight from a school recital to a major recording contract, after posting his Lady Gaga cover on YouTube.

So what’s up with these kids?  And why should you care?

There have always been young phenoms (think Judy Garland or the Jackson Five)—and in any case, your company probably doesn’t need to hire any juvenile sailors or singers.  But these young people are different from the shooting stars of yesteryear, and they are setting a brand new standard for their generation.  That’s the generation, by the way, that will be knocking on corporate doors in just a few years.

Child stars of the past were almost all either “managed” into the limelight by their parents, or they were born into show biz families.  Most struggled with fame and many lost the fight, ultimately succumbing to drugs, criminal behavior, even suicide.  The list of those casualties would be very long.

But these new exemplars seem different: composed, self-directed, realistic, and multi-talented.  They are members of “Generation Z,” a born-after-1995 group also referred to as “Net Gen” because they have grown up with the everywhere Internet.  Their constant exposure to information and entertainment may have created a higher level of talent maturity—and of course the broad opportunities for personal exposure today make it easier for people in general (even oldsters like Susan Boyle) to find fame.  There’s a lot more to consider about Gen Z, though . . .

For some useful insights, check out Penelope Trunk’s post What Generation Z Will Be Like at Work.  In fact, browse around her Brazen Careerist blog, which offers young professionals frank advice “at the intersection of life and work.”  If you’re not in or that familiar with Gen Y, a few minutes in Penelope Trunk’s world will give you a sense of how (and how much) it differs from Gen X.

Then consider that Gen Z is likely to be even more different its predecessor, and you have some idea of what it may be like to recruit the graduates of 2015 and beyond.  Takeaway: Start thinking about the next wave of workers RIGHT NOW.  These kids aren’t losing any time–and neither should businesses that want to grab the best and brightest ahead of their competition.

Needless to say, this will require a corporate website located on the leading edge of design, content, and functionality.

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Cynthia Giles has followed a serpentine career path from academia to publishing to marketing and design to information technology and corporate communications. There’s plenty of detail about this journey at, but briefly--the common theme has been ideas, and how to present them effectively. Along the way, she became an accidental expert on data warehousing and business intelligence, and for the past ten years she has combined corporate contracting with an independent consulting practice that focuses on marketing strategy for smaller businesses and non-profits. Having spent quite a bit of time looking for work, and anywhere from two weeks to two years inside a wide variety of American companies—she has given much thought to what works (and what doesn’t) when it comes to creating a great employment fit.