HOW TO LOVE THE GENERATION Z?

Apart from similarities, each generation also has their unique “code”, originality, prospects and challenges. I have taught career planning at Rocca al Mare School for over six years and during that time, the young people or more specifically, the vibe of the courses has changed immensely. Future studies however show that it will get even more exciting and lots of knowledge and entirely new skills are required to cope with generational differences.

Already Generation Y (born in 1981–1991) demonstrated their different expectations for life compared to their predecessors from Generation X. They are online 24/7; they are more social, flexible and ambitious. Instead of GOING (in the very meaning of the word) to work, they want to do “cool” stuff. They cannot stand rigid structures and authoritarian bosses.

They want a career without boundaries, i.e. employers who would help to them to make their dreams come to life, and at the same time engage in anything that they find appealing. They do not want cooperation with an employer with different set of values. They are not willing to let someone squeeze them empty like lemons.

For Generation Y, values such as sense of duty, patience and laboriousness that are typical for Generation X, are outdated and even dangerous, and may lead to their burnout.

My very good colleague from Generation Y recently applied for a job at one of the most appreciated employer – Mindvalley. We sympathised with her, because she had to pass eight rounds to get the job. She was very surprised, when in almost every round she was asked how the work she was applying for, would contribute to realising her own dreams. It seemed too good to be true, but that really happened.

The colleague got the job at Mindvalley and I started to wonder how many organisations in Estonia would ask job applicants the same question. More specifically, I was getting worried that if the employers would not start asking and considering that soon, Estonia would run out of bright minds and courageous young people.

GENIAL AND VULNERABLE

Generation Z (born in 1997−2003) has been raised with a different mentality compared to the others: they have grown up in a free country and for them anything is possible as long as they really want it. And there they are: genial, multitalented, versatile and efficient, ready to save the world, but also impatient, straightforward, vulnerable, they have “touch-screen” fingers and poor concentration. We have to love, respect and believe in them just the way they are.

At the “Dream Employer 2016” contest early this year, Kai Realo, the head of Statoil Fuel & Retail Eesti stated that companies should consider it a huge compliment if these young people want to work for them. Realo also told that it is not the young people who should adjust to the requirements of the companies, but instead, the companies have to create attractive and suitable environment for the young people. Statoil has already abandoned long job descriptions and considers interactive ways for providing work instructions to the young people.

Jocosely, they need a voice reminder telling them to flip the hot dog sausage on the pan. As they have lived in a field of constant information and interruptions, and thus tend to forget things more easily, the job ad should have an online option of sending a selfie with relevant information. Otherwise, they would already have forgotten about the application by the time they get home.

One of the favourite questions asked by employers: “Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?” makes Generation Z extremely uneasy. How would they know? At best, they would be using their head to work, while their heart was elsewhere, looking for exciting challenges like saving rain forests in the other end of the world.

In my career lessons, young people always are relieved when I tell them that they do not have to make the right choice immediately after graduating high school, but follow their true passion at that moment. They have entire life ahead of them to attend in-service training and retraining. There is no point for teachers or parents to stress young people out by asking who they are going to be.

Pursuant to the most recent career paradigm, people will most likely have four to five careers during their lifetime. Thus, it is just the question of their first choice. Those aged 16−30 are caressingly referred to as being in their Odysseus years, i.e. the period of self-searching, gathering knowledge and gaining experience. It is OK, if you go to a college and decide to drop it because the chosen specialty does not feel right and you prefer to spend a year or two travelling and working to find your true self. You do not have to make the RIGHT choice at the first try, because everything that we experience can be important and teach us something.

LIFE OF ALL OPPORTUNITIES

In view of extended lifespan and considering that we have to be ready to “party” even when we are 90 (I know what I am talking about, I have been counselling the elderly for three years), we will have extended active life years. This, in turn, means that there is more room for self-realisation in our lives. If I may say with tongue in cheek, 65 is the new 35.

In the light of rapid advances in economy and even more rapid developments in technology, new jobs are created every day. When making a choice, young people do not have full knowledge of themselves or all of their future prospects. Thus, a couple of decades after graduating from upper secondary school, they may undergo retraining to become a space guide, IT-gardener; geriatrics-environmental specialist, service designer, disaster situation manager or data engineer.

The people encountered during career counselling more frequently include doctors, teachers, engineers, and financial managers who no longer wish to do the job that they have been successfully doing for decades. At the same time, there are examples where a person starts medical studies to become a surgeon at the age of 30 without having any earlier experience in that field, former tennis coaches become valued jewellery designers, school heads become potters. Such U-turns in career have become a natural part of life, because being happy is one of our fundamental needs.

In all that diversity, young people still need guidance. I have thought that as parents and as teachers, we lack full competence to teach our children, because they will be living in a world where we have not yet lived. We can only support and encourage them, share our experience, believe in them and provide safe restraints where necessary. Today, when everything is just two clicks away, information itself has no direct value – even elementary school children watch youtubers to learn methods and techniques necessary for handicraft and creative games. Moreover, the doctoral thesis done at home is more appreciated at job interview than the degree gained from an old university. Why? Because what matters, is the eagerness, actual interest in understanding things, not the tasks performed out of duty. Thus, the meaning of learning has changed forever – training under the master, self-educating are in honour once again, this includes knowledge gained from books and from online-courses of top universities worldwide (e.g. coursera.com – ed.).

HOW TO TAME THE UNTAMEABLE?

As years go by, I have shortened the duration of the lectures in my career lesson. We sit in a circle with young people and everything is as interactive as it can be – exercises, discussions, sociometrics, games, work in pairs and group work, sharing. Yet I occasionally still feel that I cannot compete with the excitement provided by computer games. And even with all the variation in activity, children’s attention still seems to shift elsewhere, either to their smartphone or to their neighbour.

Decreasing concentration of the young people sets gradually greater challenges for teaching, if you want to do it so that it raises their self-esteem. That is by not imposing oneself too much, and by introducing approaches that concern them.

How to keep them interested? The only option seems to that we too need to be interested and concerned about what we teach. We have to be sincere, because insincerity does not work. We must be passionate, eager and enthusiastic in our field. Just like the young people, we – the adults – also become reluctant, if there are more “must-dos” than “want-to-dos” in our life. Thus, we have to fight for making teaching fun, despite all the state and bureaucracy requirements.

These days, the Medici effect is discussed a lot both in labour market and in education. It means that we should merge our competence with areas of our personal interest. In terms of education, this means equal contribution to both real and humanitarian fields, because that is the only way to create suitable environment for true bursts of talent.

People who are able to exploit both cerebral hemispheres to equal extent, are more adaptable and often more successful as seen from practice. They have more opportunities. I recently advised a 16-year old teen. Among other things, we created a picture of his future dreams in order to make better choices regarding secondary education. The dreams that this young person had, were these: to live in a big European country, e.g. in France, and work as an ambassador or a diplomate; teach local people languages in some exotic place; work as interior architect somewhere in Europe olla (e.g. in Barcelona) or America; study journalism and creative writing and work as a journalist in New York.

I do not know what comes to your mind when you are reading about these dreams right now, but for me, it was very touching that this young person actually had the potential to realise all her dreams within her lifetime. The only problem was that new school was more oriented towards facts and results, leaving the personality of young people aside.

It is no secret that besides sciences and factual knowledge, we need more lessons where to study how to be ourselves, creative self-management, creating and maintaining relationships, and self-realisation. Generation X can use this competence to address Generation Z. What if we, as teachers, take time out before starting the lesson and ask ourselves – why do we do this work? We could share our story with the young, talk about our vulnerability, our real thoughts. It establishes connection. Rephrasing the point made by Kai Realo, it should be the trademark and pride of each teacher, if students want to attend his/her lessons. And naturally, the teacher has the right to receive support from the school as well as from the state, in order to want to provide that lesson.

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