BY PHONG LY
With the last of the previous generation, the millennials, entering the workforce, it is Generation Z’s turn to enter the workplace. According to the Pew Research Center, millennials were born between 1981 and 1996. Individuals born after 1996 are considered part of Generation Z (Gen Z). According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Gen Z makes up 25 percent of the population of the country. Millennials are now at 83.1 million people and represent more than one quarter of the nation’s population.
Drake University hosts both millennials and Gen Z-ers as students. It is possible that the succeeding generation of Bulldogs has a different set of expectations and preferences compared to their predecessors, the millennial Bulldogs.
Pharmacy student Michael Lang, a millennial, said it is still too early to tell if there are going to be any significant differences between the two generations.
“The reputation that millennials developed didn’t really fully develop until they started entering the workforce,” Lang said. “Gen Z is just now getting into college.”
According to Dr. Darcie Vandegrift, a Drake sociology professor, these intergenerational terms are just artificial constructs.
“This is a social understanding,” Vandegrift said. “They are a set of feelings, an orientation that are different depending on when somebody becomes placed in the flow of history.”
According to Vandegrift, the one thing that is very popular to talk about regarding this discussion is experiencing childhood with smartphones versus experiencing childhood without smartphones.
“This shapes the way Gen Z sees the arrangement in geopolitics, and therefore see who their allies are and who are they connected with,” Vandergrift said. “Things like interests in Korean films and Bollywood versus interest in Hollywood.”
This shows the effect that technology has on the later generations. Lang said this is simple because these generations were born in the time where the technology revolution took place.
“I believe the stereotype that both millennials and Gen Z are way more tech savvy is true,” Lang said. “I also would believe that we aren’t as well-suited to survive in nature because we have lived in a tech savvy era.”
As a millennial, Lang does not think his generational identity carries much weight.
“I’m barely considered a millennial: if I had been born a year or two later, I would be a Gen Z, and would that year or two really make that much of a difference?” Lang said. “I believe that I am who I am based on how I was raised, and my mother would have raised me the same way whether or not I was a millennial or a Gen Z.”
Sophomore Tirfiya Musa, a Gen Z-er, agrees with Lang. She said these generational identities are just another set of labels society is trying to put on people.
“I refuse to be defined by the negative viewpoints that society tries to place on me,” Musa said. “To depict an entire generation by false, preconceived notions is just wrong and childish.”
Vandegrift warned people to not focus too much on just one generation, because then we would risk ignoring the continuity that exists across generations.
“Sometimes the media sets this up as something adversarial, conflict between the two generations,” Vandegrift said. “People at different stages in their lives collaborate, reach out and mentor one another, so there is a lot of mutual support going around too.”