There was a time when kids and young adults wanted to become doctors, astronauts and police officers. However, in the 21st century it seems like a new set of dream jobs has replaced the old one. Today’s most admired “professions” are those of: freelancers, social media stars, and entrepreneurs. Being one’s own boss, working from home, and making money while travelling around the world, are ideas that excite many young hearts. But whom do these young hearts belong to?
Millennials and post-Millennials
The “millennial question” is a widely discussed topic, but Simon Sinek’s explanation is probably the most well-known. The term Millennials describes a group of people born approximately between the mid-1980s and the mid-1990s. What primarily differentiates this generation from previous ones is its first-hand experience of rapid technological changes. These changes impacted their adolescent development and introduced significant lifestyle transformations. Millennials also differ from their successors, the post-Millennials, also called the iGeneration or Generation Z, since the latter doesn’t remember a time before the internet. “Members of this generation are growing up with smartphones, have an Instagram account before they start high school […] The Millennials grew up with the web as well, but it wasn’t ever-present in their lives, at hand at all times, day and night.” – clarifies Jean M. Twenge, professor of Psychology at San Diego State University.
But why should we care about these new generations, regardless of our age group? Jason Dorsey, pioneering iGeneration and Millennials researcher claims that as the world continues to change, older generations will end up looking more like the younger ones, gradually picking up their behavioural patterns. Therefore, iGeneration is largely going to predict our future as well as shape the people of our future.
The good, the bad and the ugly
Millennials and Generation Z find themselves inheriting an old and dusty system which was designed in the industrial era. People are graded by how much they have accomplished in life. This grade system promises happiness at the end of a long journey, which looks like a spiral of promotions. If we study hard, we get good grades; with good grades we get accepted to better schools; if we excel in school we can attend a good university; if we graduate from a good university, we will get a good job; and if we have a good job, we should work hard to get a promotion to climb further up the career ladder.
In the information era, however, it’s easy to double-check with Google whether these pledges are credible or not. We can find out about unemployment rates among university graduates, about the high percentage of job dissatisfaction and burnouts among established professionals and about the so-called glass ceiling. But probably the most disturbing discovery among all is: that some of the most successful people of our time don’t hold a college degree at all. In fact, some even quit in high school. Entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, Richard Branson or David Karp made it to the top after leaving the path paved by our grade system.
The conclusion? Following the norm is no guarantee for success and happiness, while deviating from the norm isn’t necessarily a failure either. And maybe, it’s not about success at all. Maybe it’s about something deeper. Maybe, it’s about purpose.
This disillusionment of our grade system forces or/and inspires the younger generations, especially Generation Z, to find new possibilities.
What has changed?
What is the common ground between the careers of a doctor, an astronaut, and a police officer? The pursuit of the noble, the desire for prestige and the service of society. Have these values all died out? Have new sets of priorities replaced them? And if so, what are the underlying motivations behind the dream jobs of today’s young?
- What freelancing, a strong social media presence and entrepreneurship all have in common is that they all try to reclaim autonomy over life. Working independently certainly comes with a high risk. However the reward of living an autonomous life motivates many young talents to turn their backs on a safe route and start their own businesses.
- Another key factor is the habit of continuous learning. Instead of relying solely on the years spent on the school bench, many young people consider learning as a life-long project. As a freelancer, social media influencer or even entrepreneur, it is crucial to be up-to-date in order to stay relevant in a highly competitive market as well as in a rapidly changing world.
- The new generations also recognise alternative ways of learning: technology itself opens up a myriad of unprecedented possibilities. The internet has become the platform for a global community of learners and educators. Hence young generations embrace technological advancement and are looking forward to the new job opportunities technology will create.
More change is coming
We are currently living a time of testing. Exploring together the limits of our future world. Some jobs will inevitably disappear while others, new ones, will emerge. But in these hours of uncertainty let’s not miss to recognise the significance of our age. Because technology gives us an opportunity to redefine the meaning of work and to finally design a new system which accommodates the diversity of the information era.
More change is coming. That’s for sure. But can we be hopeful? If we look at today’s generation we can, says Vaihav Singh with confidence. “They’re courageous, they are connected and they care about the wider world.”
“We need to embrace these young change agents. Even when they challenge the very systems that many of us have worked so hard to build and maintain. Because maybe, Generation Z can do it better.”
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