Publish date: 12 February 2024

Networking, phone calls, corporate meet and greets – if you’re a Gen Z digital native like me, just the mention of these harrowing ordeals is likely enough to make you shudder. Amidst a pandemic, the rise of remote work, online study and the digital immersion of our lives, many of us have entered adulthood and our careers without the face-to-face Interpersonal skills and dare I say, professional charisma, that our current community leaders were raised with. 

You might be surprised to learn that in 2024, the oldest of Gen Z turns 27 years old – we’re here in the workforce, we’ve got opinions, and we’ve got energy. But some questions emerge… How can leaders support this wildcard generation to grow as young professionals? Will in-person community engagement diminish? And how do I reply to an email signed off with ‘slay queen’? 

In the online space, we’re intrinsically and constantly interconnected, and many find rich and fulfilling communities within their corner of the internet. Yet outside this comfort zone, Gen Z grapple with the dated, often stringent social norms of corporate life. In a world where we cling to our phones like a proverbial safety blanket, I find myself curious about the future of community events and whether we can transform this unease into a tool for professional and personal empowerment.

Having grown up on the Sunshine Coast and having come to be a Communications and Event Coordinator, I feel privileged to have experienced first-hand what it’s like to be engaged in a flourishing community. Moreover, the connections, the professional strides, and the sense of belonging it provides. Though in my role, I can’t help but notice when I look around the room at charity events, that young people are in the minority. 

We could make many assumptions as to why this is; namely the cost-of-living crisis that means we’re working more and have less time and funds to spend on things like event tickets. Or perhaps it’s a lack of opportunity due to seniority. My inkling, based on experience and discussion with peers, is that many simply find themselves out of depth in this environment. 

One such peer stated: “In an industry where connections are vital, it is almost astonishing that not more is done to equip young people with the skills to do this effectively. I mean, I study online and can’t tell you what a single one of my peers looks like.”

Another agreed that: “Gen Z are both as a whole an ‘anxious generation’ but also a ‘say exactly what you mean generation’ and I think that puts us in a weird spot where formal corporate events are not quite the vibe that we are used to communicating in.” 

Despite the picture this paints, likely brushed with the bias of my own introvert tendencies, Gen Z is far from meek – particularly when it comes rallying behind social issues. And they aren’t afraid to drop the social ‘niceties’ in favour of authentic expression.  

A 2023 Survey by Deloitte reveals that Gen Z are incredibly values led and have a strong desire to drive change within their workplace and community. In fact, 39% of Gen Z’s have recorded turning down employers due to ethical misalignments on the topics of mental health, sustainability, and diversity. However, according to another study by Cigna International Health of almost 12,000 workers around the world, a staggering 91% of 18-to-24-year-olds reported being anxious on a frequent basis, placing Gen Z as the most (statistically) stressed demographic in the workplace. 

This leads us to believe that it’s not a lack of interest or care that holds us back from participating in charity and community initiatives, but rather a call for more guidance and opportunities to mature the interpersonal skills required to do so. I can personally testify that a catalyst for me has been the consistent empowerment and support of a leadership team dedicated to nurturing their staff’s potential.  

As the rest of Gen Z authentically and unapologetically floods into the workforce, how do you think the events and the corporate world will evolve? How can leaders empower, support, and encourage their young talent to carry on the deep community commitment that sustains places like our Sunshine Coast? 

Regardless, I think it’s safe to say that these changemakers are here to reimagine our status quo. 

Stay tuned for a practical-part two on nurturing community amongst Gen Z professionals. 

As published in My Weekly Preview.

Holly Clark
Holly Clark
Communications and Event Coordinator
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