Generation Z long known for its resourcefulness, has been able to innovatively deal with challenges and setbacks. This may help this generation become resilient to change, an attitude needed to deal with the unexpected shifts driven by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As digital natives, Generation Z grew up with a world of information at their fingertips. At a young age, they learned how to make and fix things on YouTube. Soon they turned that knowledge to their advantage, selling products on Etsy and launching ad-supported influencer communities. The democratization of business fostered by the Internet means that they grew up in a world where they can be entrepreneurs at 12 years old.
Given that a majority of Gen Zers ultimately want to run their own business, one might expect these youths to head straight from high school educational experiences to the workforce. Quite the contrary: Generation Z has viewed higher education as a launching pad to an even higher-paying career. It has been projected that a larger percentage of Gen Z will attend and graduate from college than any previous generation.
Generation Z’s resourcefulness and DIY spirit flourished under the COVID-19 pandemic. As schools shut down, young people turned to YouTube, TikTok and other apps to leverage study hacks and build good habits to help make the most of their at-home educational experiences during this unprecedented time.
A resilient mindset in the face of change
Although Generation Z was caught as off guard as anyone by the rapid acceleration of this pandemic, they did find something completely expected in this tragedy. This generation has grown up facing economic volatility, becoming the first generation in some time without an expectation that their life will be better than that of their parents. They have faced the undesirable impacts of social media, negatively-charged politics, and social injustice head-on and have emerged with a dark sense of humor. In some ways, the life- altering moments that further derailed their young adulthood seem oddly fitting to them.
COVID-19 reinforced a mindset that Gen Z already had: that things were not going to go smoothly for them. This sentiment around the pandemic became a shared experience that Gen Z could rally behind.
While this mindset may reflect this generation’s inherent skepticism, it is also a sign of their resilience to change. Resilience is usually defined as an innate capacity to absorb stress and recover critical functionality. A resilient individual can thrive, not just survive, during such dramatic changes. This generation carries more stress but, as noted in Chapter 2, is also more adept at handling it. While this generation may encounter more financial insecurity, this has made many members more entrepreneurial and built greater resourcefulness. In feeling there is not a lot to lose, it has become easier for Gen Z to take certain risks. In some ways, the uncertainty Gen Z faces is breeding a more resourceful, resilient, entrepreneurial spirit.
Building new educational experiences
Resilience is not simply about adjusting strategies to help individuals deal with extreme change. It is also about rebuilding ways of doing things to provide better support systems, greater adaptability, and stronger preparation for future changes.
Gen Z is made of self-starters and, as such, this a group is looking to “rebuild” its sense of normal. They expect to see greater blends of online and in-person connection and education to meet their needs. In addition, this resilient generation may expect to be more actively involved in driving change on campus. Just as this group rallied to support social causes and taken to heart their role in preventing climate change, Gen Z sees that the pandemic presents an opportunity to recover to something better. Those in housing roles should prepare for conversations with these young adults who are eager to serve as partners in reimagining their world.
For more, download our full research on Welcoming Back Gen Z Residents in a Post-Pandemic World or register for our upcoming webinar.