Mark Restuccia, Editorial Intern at Ascend business unit, Jones & Bartlett Learning, shares his insight on what skills and changes Generation Z will bring to the workplace
As a college student with a fresh mind what new perspective or skills do you believe your age group brings to the workplace?
I just graduated from college in May. While taking classes, my professors, time and time again, would talk about my generation and how it differs from theirs. I believe there are several essential skills that my generation brings to the figurative table of the workplace and elsewhere due to when we were raised.
First, my generation (Generation Z) is full of digital natives. A digital native is someone who grew up in the current age of technology, and who have, therefore, been using it their whole life. In our time, phones have gone from landlines to flip phones to slide-out-keyboard phones and finally to smartphones, which are essentially portable computers. In the case of computers, things have shifted during our lifetimes so that now, unlike 15-20 years ago when people had, at most, a single computer for the whole family, each person has their own laptop or PC. People in my generation have been integrating the use of mobile phones and computers together our entire lives, so it is second nature for us to operate them. As a result, we learned how to use technology by exploring and fiddling around with it; if we don’t know something, we experiment until we learn it. I’ve been using Microsoft Office since I was as young as eight or nine years old, but I’m still learning new things about it.
What comes with being a digital native compared to other generations, is our natural inquisitive nature and our eagerness to learn new things about the technology we use. If I don’t know how to do something, I either look around the menus until I can figure out how to do it, or I simply Google it. This curiosity and passion for learning new things serves to make us a self-sufficient generation, while still being unafraid to ask questions if they can’t be found in a knowledge base. This, in turn, makes us both reliable and innovative as workers.
Second, I believe my generation can and does embrace change in stride. Like other generations, the world, technology, and even our own lives, have all been in constant flux. Not only can we embrace change (one of Ascend Learning’s values), but we’re not afraid to start the conversation around change and be the catalyst for new innovations. This adaptive mindset will be useful to organizations bringing in Gen Z students because of their desire and willingness to push boundaries into uncharted territory. We’re flexible because we’ve always had to be. Therefore, we can not only embrace change, but also bring it about. And likewise, we’re constantly trying new things because, like in the case of technology, new things are always coming about: new jobs, new ways of doing things, and so on.
Finally, the grads of today are well-rounded and brimming with ideas. College education isn’t always about honing in on one particular skill nor entering a specific field; it is a comprehensive curriculum. Sometimes, especially at liberal arts colleges, it’s about teaching students and grads to be “enablers” of their own educated judgements and decisions. These judgements and decisions are based on the knowledge they’ve accrued from the many subjects they either dabbled or delved into during their college years.
In today’s world, change is one of the only constants. As my generation enters the workforce, our ability to adapt to new challenges, find creative and new solutions to fix existing ones, and use all our available resources is essential for success. Regardless of what generation you were born into, we all encounter a variety of hardships and obstacles, but my hope is that my generation will bring the additional creative and curious explorers, who are well-equipped with the evolving knowledge needed to surmount them.