Generation Z: Breaking Stereotypes by Interning

Unfocused, entitled, and unmotivated; all common characteristics associated with Generation Z. Millennials are quick to point out our negative attributes, but we have a lot of positive differences that set us apart. We are phenomenal multi-taskers, passionate about individuality, have a global mentality, and are more entrepreneurial than the previous generation. Our future employers need to know how we can bring our positive attributes to the world of business.

One way for our generation to break these negative stigmas are internships. However, those who are part of Gen Z need to be aware of these five characteristics of an effective intern: self-discipline, communication, commitment, critical thinking, and teachable.

  1. Self-Discipline:

One of the negative characteristics assigned to Generation Z is “entitled.” Employers perceive us as narcissistic individuals who expect things to be handed to us on a platter. Employers are not looking for this kind of employee. In fact, according to a recent survey by Deloitte, 70 percent of managers do not know how we will fit into their organization and 36 percent of managers are fearful to work with us at all. In order to disband the thoughts of entitlement, Gen Z interns need to be self-disciplined. Coming to work prepared, starting on tasks without being told, and persisting through projects until the end are all examples of how an intern can exemplify self-discipline.

  1. Effective Communication:

How many times have you heard, “These young people never look up from their devices” or, “Their people skills are dying from constantly texting on those computers.” Honestly, you’ve probably heard this at least once today. Generation Z is perceived to have subpar communication skills because of our tech-savviness; however, we are more versatile in our communicating than any other generation. In fact, according to Millennial Branding, fifty-three percent of generation Z actually prefers to communicate face-to-face. This is undoubtedly related to our exposure to FaceTime and Snapchat where we have full range of motion, sound, and sight. In addition, we have an uncanny ability to communicate through imagery thanks to Instagram. That comes in handy especially when we’re in positions in the fields of communications and marketing. Interns can easily show how they are effective communicators to disprove thoughts that they have poor interpersonal skills. Participating in meetings, responding quickly to emails, having proper phone etiquette, and conversing face-to-face are a few examples of how an intern can exhibit effective communication skills.

  1. Commitment:

Generation Z has a full three-second attention span. It is easy to see why. We grew up with six-second vines, instant access to the next episode, same day shipping, and ten-second snaps. It is no wonder that we are perceived to be less focused because we are. We like to start a task on our laptop at work, re-visit it on our phone at Starbucks, then finish it at home while split-screening our show of the night on Netflix. While this may be an effective way to give our minds a chance to rest when dealing with school work, employers do not appreciate this kind of work ethic when it comes to their work. They want an employee who is focused and committed to accomplishing work in a timely manner. Interns can show their commitment by completing tasks before the due date, constantly developing skills to stay relevant, and anticipating and meeting needs before they are asked.

  1. Critical Thinking:

If you have a question about something, what is the first thing you do? There is a strong chance you answered, “Google it.” Due to an overexposure of instant access in the palm of our hand, we tend to lack critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. When there is an issue, we “google” a solution instead of analyzing the situation and implement a well-thought-out plan. While knowing how to scour the internet is a skill in itself, we also need to prove our critical-thinking skills. Critical-thinking skills will allow us to understand connections between ideas, identify relevance, and justify our actions.

  1. Teachable:

Generation Z prefers to intake information quickly, in large amounts, and with heavy imagery. We are very outspoken and opinionated. These characteristics can be perceived negatively when we are being trained. If someone is talking to us slowly or trying to explain what we already know, we can look as if we have tuned out. Millennials may believe we are not eager to learn; however, that is not the case. Our generation values mentorship and opportunities to improve our capabilities more than any other generation. Being teachable is a skill we have, we just need to show it better. By taking notes, listening attentively, giving feedback, and asking relevant questions, we can show our millennial employers that we are eager to learn, and we value what they are teaching.