“We believe we will wind up looking more like iGen, than they will wind up looking like us.”
-Jason Dorsey, co-founder of The Center for Generational Kinetics.
Last Tuesday marked the 17th anniversary of 9/11 and like many of you, I hold incredibly vivid memories of that day. I was a senior at Lubbock Christian University and I remember sitting in the Moody Auditorium, in shocked silence, as we watch the live events unfold.
We saw the second plane strike.
We watched the towers fall.
We were forever changed.
Each year, I spend time in my lectures discussing 9/11 with my students. In years past, students and I would share our common memories and feelings from that day. “Where were you?” we would ask each other, and shake our heads in disbelief as the memories came flooding back.
But several years ago, I noticed the dialogue of my students changed. “I was in second grade,” they would say. “I remember my teacher being called out of the room. When she came back in she was crying, but no one would tell us what was going on. We were scared and upset, but we didn’t know why. And then our parents started showing up to take us home.”
Even for these younger students, while sheltered from the ugly truth of what was really happening that day, 9/11 still marked a change for them. They still sensed a difference in the day before 9/11 and the day after. They, just like any other American, witnessed the patriotic displays that ensued and felt the collective grief of our nation in mourning.
But last week, I began each lecture with a different question. “How many of you do not remember 9/11 at all?” Hands and nods confirmed my suspicions. Of the 1K students I am teaching this semester, only a handful actually remember 9/11.
Because they are members of the newest generation: The iGen. Generational experts believe that 9/11 was the single moment that ushered in the newest generation.
As one generational expert says, “If you don’t remember 9/11, you are not a Millennial, you are an iGen.”
In a future blog, I will discuss this generation and will focus on what businesses and employers need to know to recruit them (much like I did in my previous blog: 3 Questions [Millennial] Job Applicants Are Asking Themselves About Your Company,) because let me tell you, it’s fascinating stuff!
But for now, I would like to take a few moments to introduce you to this new generation and intentionally celebrate what makes this new iGeneration so unique.
Meet the iGen
“I lost my phone for a week once, and I had three thousand messages,” - 11 year old Molly.
Molly, like many of her cohort, spends most of her time communicating by text with friends, but this is not the only difference that makes her and her contemporaries stand out from previous generations.
Imagine growing up during an extreme recession in which your family and your friends’ families lost their homes and your parents lost jobs. Imagine a world where technology always existed, your baby pictures and videos were posted on social media, and there was never a need to go to a store, or call a friend to chat. Uber has been around since you were in middle school.
Imagine growing up iGen
Dubbed iGen by psychologist and author Jean Twenge, this generation is also known as Gen Z, Centennials, and Founders. Born after 1995, (though some scholars place the break at those born after 1997) this generation is the first to spend their entire adolescence with the iPhone, hence the name iGen.
In fact, technology is so ingrained for this generation Jason Dorsey, researcher and iGen expert, claims in his TedEx Houston talk that technology affects iGen in a way even Millennials have not broached. According to Dorsey, while many Millennials are dependent on technology, and focused on how technology can enhance an experience, Dorsey argues that for iGen “technology is the experience.”
While the iGen nation accounts for 61 million people in the United States (a group, by the way, that is larger than Gen X and 2/3 the size of the Baby Boomers) researchers agree that iGen are largely uncharted territory, partially because there is only a limited amount of research on this new generation, and partially because this generation is still forming, as its oldest members are only 23 and many of its members are still teenagers and children.
What researchers do already know is both inspiring, and heartbreaking.
iGen self-report using screens between 2 to 5 hours a day, with girls focusing more on “texting and connecting with their friends through social apps such as Instagram, Tumblr, YouTube and Snapchat; the boys are more likely to lurk on Reddit and play games (many games, for many hours) on smartphones and Xboxes.”
42% admit that social media affects their self-esteem. (That number is higher than any other generation as only 31% of Millennials, 23% of Gen X, and 20% of Baby Boomers reported the same).
“With social media and texting replacing other activities, iGen spends less time with their friends in person” Twenge says, “perhaps why they are experiencing unprecedented levels of anxiety, depression, and loneliness.”
Amidst the negative, there is much to learn from and aspire to with this newest generation.
Here are 3 things I love about the iGeneration:
1. Money Wise
How many members of the iGen cohort are already saving for retirement?
According to the Center for Generational Kenetics a whopping 12% are.
These are teenagers y’all!
Even more impressive, 37% plan to save for retirement in their 20’s.
According to research by the Center for Generational Kenetics, 48% of iGen already have a money app on their phone, 21% have had a bank account since the age of 10, and 56% have discussed saving with their parents in the last 6 months.
Forged by the mistakes of their parents and the life experience of the 2008 recession, this generation has an incredible financial education, courtesy of their own parents. As a result, most iGen are more thrifty and less idealistic than their Millennial counterparts. Most iGen are also serious about saving and avoiding debt. For some, certain debt is okay for certain purchases, and others prefer the more radical Dave Ramsey approach of no tolerance for credit cards or debt.
Dorsey claims that the iGen tribe is “so diverse that they only notice diversity when it is absent.” This has led their generation to see political hot topics as non-issues. According to Corey Seemiller, educator and researcher, the iGen do not subscribe to traditional political leanings. They tend to be more socially liberal, while at the same time financially conservative.
Furthermore, the Washington Post commented, “They [iGen] are the most racially diverse generation in American history. They are extremely open-minded and fluid in the way they think about gender and sexuality.”
3. Have an Entrepreneurial Spirit (that wants to change the world)
According to Seemiller, nearly half of iGen say they want to start their own business in the future and nearly 40% want to invent something that will change the world.
Seemiller says iGen are not interested in launching their own companies in order to seize control of their own career trajectory or to be their own boss. Nor are they interested in creating giant companies. The dream is to build a small, self-sustaining company (remember the emphasis on financial prudence) that is focused on a topic they care about, because as Seemiller points out:
“To them making a difference is far more important than making money.”
Although research is ongoing for this generation as they mature and reach adulthood, next year tens of millions of iGen adults will enter the workforce, so it is important for us to fully prepare our businesses and organizations for this diverse, financially responsible, and highly innovative generation.
With a resume like that, it will be exciting to see just how they contribute to our world in the coming years and beyond.
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