How to Work with Summer Interns who are in Generation Z

Featured on GAIA Insights June 2015 – – Did you know that there are 1.9 billion Gen Zer’s in the world and that 50% of the world’s population is under 25 years old? With stats like that, other generations better get ready to work with this ambitious, tech savvy, globally minded cohort…

From a Gen X perspective… As the older segments of Generation Z graduate from school this summer, they behave very differently than Generations X or early Y did on graduation day. On my graduation day, we hugged, we cried and we made plans (pen on hands) to hang out over the summer before we go to college; most of us got minimum wage jobs but that was a given, no big deal. Today’s graduates snap photos, post and share and happily one-up each other about summer plans and how they align with their future ambitions.

Every Generation Z that I’ve met over age 13 (and I’ve met a lot) already knows what they want to do when they grow up: impressive careers like entrepreneur, doctor, engineer or social entrepreneur. Generation Z’s are incredibly self-motivated, yet primarily driven by anxiety, pressure to achieve and to succeed professionally. To get a taste of that career, Gen Z’s crave internships. In fact, according to Sparks & Honey, 60% of Generation Zer’s in the US want a Summer Internship. Today it’s “awesome” and “cool” to have a summer internship and with whom really matters.

Here are some etiquette tips on how to get along with Gen Z interns:

  1. Think of them as Colleagues, not your Children
    With a deep affection for the bottom line, Gen X may be annoyed with a highly stimulated new “kid” to deal with. Baby Boomers may be threatened by Gen Z’s technical mastery and hide in their office. But Gen Z is here, and they are very bright, highly driven and seem to appreciate guidance from adults, especially if the adults are not their parents. Remember: Gen Z may be your kids’ friends but in the office, they are high achieving students who crave development and thrive on feedback.
  2. View them as a Technical Resource
    If you let a Gen Z express themselves, digitally and professionally, you will master the latest technologies like you’d never believe.  Many Z’s have the confidence and patience to teach people their parent’s age. They also love to show off their technical knowledge. Embrace their wired brain and appreciate not having to tell them “screens out, it’s bed time”. Gen X will be lucky to have a tech-savvy Gen Z intern.

  3. Get to Know Generation Z
    There are articles and blogs everywhere describing who Gen Z is and how they behave. They are evolving into an influential cohort that has much to offer. Gen X has to learn about this impressive generation and take a positive outlook. Gen Z is multi-cultural, very global, intellectually curious, and willing to share. 80% live in developing or under-developed countries. Many Z’s do incredible feats, proving they are strong and some speculate they’ll be the game changers of the world.
  4. Align yourself with Generation Z
    Gen Z will clique with Gen Y very quickly because they share a few traits such as being tech-savvy, entrepreneurial, and well educated. Both Gen Y and Z will expect to work from anyplace, anytime, anywhere. They will co-create 24/7 on multiple screens, so quickly that Gen Xer’s glasses may explode! Yet the workplace will feel more tense if it’s Gen X versus Y and Z. A rigid and formal Gen X could quickly become the outlier. Avoid this by offering your strengths and share them for power.

  5. Become a Mentor to a Gen Z Summer Intern
    In many ways, Gen X and Gen Z make compatible partners in the workforce. Gen Z is willing to share their media and technical knowledge, most will work hard and often super-fast. In return, Gen X can teach them the skills they need help with: professional communication, social and interpersonal skills, as well as office politics. With a brand new generation upon the workforce, internships are ideal for two very different generations to get to know each other.  Here’s one success story from a Marketing Director at a major Marketing Innovation firm:

“I had a marketing intern last summer and it was a win-win. We cliqued instantly – we each shared our individual strengths and insights. He appreciated and benefited from my honest lowdown on the office politics and workplace etiquette. I benefitted from his excellent wizardry and social media mastery. Together, we nailed many marketing campaigns!

Let’s remember to teach Gen Z how to relax a bit, given they are under so much pressure to be high achievers. We’ve finally optimized balance and no better way to teach than to demonstrate. Strong results don’t require strong anxiety. Strong results require a mixture of skills, readily contributed by each of the four generations in the workplace. A short non-commitment of interning reduces the pressure while increasing the lessons. Summer internships are a trial for our future employees and for our multi-generational workforce.

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  1. Reblogged this on Getting to Know Generation Z and commented:

    Meet the Interns: Generation Z

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