When you hear about Generation Z, it’s always from the perspective that they’re “digital natives” and they “grew up with the internet at their fingertips.” But there’s a lot more to be said about this promising young group of individuals than the simple fact that they were the first generation born into a technological era.
They’re also living, breathing human beings. They have emotions. Many are in the midst of sorting through their college careers. The first wave of older Gen Zers are even busy entering the workforce ...all in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
How the Coronavirus is Impacting Generation Z
The national and international microphones are currently held by Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials. Bosses of companies, reporters, parents, and professionals across the globe are reporting their experiences while Generation Z is largely left in the shadows.
It’s a situation that must be remedied.
Here are two of the biggest ways that Gen Z is being significantly and uniquely affected by the pandemic.
An Out of School Experience
The youngest members of Generation Z were just 8 years old when the coronavirus first struck in early 2020. As schools shut down across the globe, nearly 80% of students suddenly found themselves sent home from school midway through the year with little hope of returning before the next fall semester begins.
For younger students, this came as an interesting shift to a “homeschool-esque” setting where their parents were suddenly scrambling to bring their classrooms into their homes. Regardless of the success rate of this homeschooling, there’s no doubt that these “at home” schooling memories will be a big shaping factor for the future of this already remote-friendly generation.
For older Gen Zers, the remote-school experience was even more drastic. As colleges shut down en masse, many students were given the sudden warning to get out of dodge. Harvard, for instance, told their enrolled students that they had five days to clear out, leaving the entire student body scrambling to make last-minute moving plans — and anyone who has ever had to make a huge life-adjustment like moving with little to no warning knows how stressful it can be.
From there, colleges began to make a dramatic shift onto the cloud, setting up online classrooms and attempting to go 100% remote wherever possible. Most graduation ceremonies were also canceled, leaving the current generation of students with a very unceremonious climax to their academic journey. An epoch-defining educational shift began which will likely have far-reaching repercussions, and Generation Z was the guinea pig test group that had to endure the initial shock of the change.
A Career False Start
For years now, the option to work remotely has been a cornerstone perk for attracting and retaining young employees. However, in the wake of coronavirus shutdowns, remote work suddenly became the norm. This left Generation Z in an interesting position.
On the one hand, Gen Zers who managed to keep their existing jobs were suddenly able to work from home without the need to fight with their employers for that right.
On the other hand, many Gen Zers were also left out in the cold. As they graduated with high hopes of joining the workforce, they suddenly found themselves sidelined into the ranks of the unemployed, a group that had garnered a staggering 26 million members by late April in the US.
This situation, combined with a spotty delivery of stimulus checks and the waffling conversation surrounding things like universal basic income, has left Gen Z in what is likely the most dramatic, uncertain, and confusing beginning to their professional careers of any generation in history. It leaves them wondering what their financial future will look like with so much money going out the door in the present. It also has them scratching their heads over how they’ll get jobs when the quarantines are finally lifted and everyone rushes out to find work again.
Many members of Generation Z will likely slog back into the workforce when the pandemic subsides. However, there’s a good chance that this independent, spunky generation will take advantage of the hand that life dealt them by beginning to forge their own path through life. They are already known as a group of business-savvy individuals, with a robust 41% planning on becoming entrepreneurs in the future.
Perhaps the coronavirus will ultimately push many of these ambitious youths to hone their networking, leadership, and other entrepreneurial skills and ultimately take their professional and financial situations into their own hands.
A Defining Period of Life
Your teenage years, your college experience, your first job. These are all classic defining periods of life. For Generation Z, though, this sentiment will ring truer than ever. Each and every member of this young generation will look back on their earliest adult memories and remember how they were singularly impacted by the COVID-19 virus.
This may naturally point to the negative things like school closings and shelter-in-place orders, but it goes beyond that. In fact, this young generation is being thrown into the fiery trials of life at such a young age that they will be able to carry the lessons from this immense experience with them throughout the rest of their lives.
They will already be familiar with the fact that you can continue education no matter where you are. They will already be aware that the work world can soldier on remotely, even when the physical world comes to a standstill. Most important of all, they’ll be seasoned pandemic veterans who are able to dig deep, find hope, and carry on even through the most devastating crises life can throw their way.