By: Senior, April Wood
As I approached and finally entered the last year of my undergraduate degree, one question became an uncomfortably looming presence – What do I want to do with my life (and my degree)?
The truth is – I’m still looking. But I’d love to share my thought process so far.
In figuring this out, I decided to approach it with the wisdom I have gained from the UCM PR Program and its professors. I formed a rough vision of my ideal life. I took note of the values and morals I held. I also focused on what made me happy.
I asked myself questions; What do I enjoy doing? Where do I enjoy being? Who do I want to spend my time with? What do I want my work life balance to be like? What job will challenge my knowledge and experience with all of my favorite skills?
The answer is: I’m only 22.
If my life is in the form of the ROPE process, I’m still in the research phase. I’m in the bulk of that work now, and in one of the busiest times of life.
I’m reaching the verge of the objectives phase.
Values that solidified during the research and analysis stage will be present throughout the entire rest of the process.
Below is just a little more insight into my journey specifically and how I applied my skills gained during my undergraduate years in planning my future.
I enjoy embracing a challenge, but I love embracing one of my own creation.
Having control over my schedule is also a must I flagged. I need the flexibility due for several reasons. I enjoy learning, planning, and analyzing.
More and more, It seemed like starting a small business could be a solid goal for me. I’ve decided to tentatively embrace the idea – pending A LOT of time and work.
I’ve begun researching flipping houses as one potential small business idea. It’s a business concept that has always fascinated me. I enjoy creating and designing, I’m not afraid to pick up a tool, and I have a wealth of business, finance, and strategic communications knowledge.
I have experts and mentors to support me, a network of connections I have spent my young adult life cultivating, and I will soon have a Public Relations and Strategic Communications degree with a minor in Finance. I have a solid foundation of knowledge of how a business runs, how to make financing decisions, how to communicate to an audience, and how to develop a brand.
This plan is obviously going to take years of learning and saving.
What am I doing now to progress towards my goal?
Right now, I’m working to further develop my skills and gain as much knowledge and experience I can. I believe in life-long learning, which makes me versatile and driven. After graduation, I’ll aim to find a job opportunity to continue learning while saving money.
Ultimately, I just want to have a happy and secure life. If I can do it by running my own business, great, if I fail – it’s not a waste. Part of being a lifelong learner is never failing to learn something from a success or mistake.
So, this is what I HOPE to do with my degree – at some point, and maybe not forever. I’m just eager to see what life has to offer.
By: Sebastian Szczurowski
When I look back at my time at the University of Central Missouri I can’t help but to think about how fast it all went by. It seems like it was just yesterday that I made my first official visit to the university for my scheduled orientation day. When I first made the decision to major in public relations I really didn’t know what to expect from it or what I would gain from it in the future. Ever since I first decided to pursue a college education I knew that I was either going to major in some business or marketing-related field because those two industries always piqued my interest.
When I completed my two-year tenure in community college and was looking to transfer to a four -year university I received an email from UCM’s Harmon College of Business and Professional Studies advertising the public relations program. When I saw it I didn’t think much of it because my sights were set on becoming a marketing major and I had no prior interest in pursuing a degree in public relations. But, I decided to look more into it just out of pure curiosity. That’s when I discovered that the Harmon College was one of the most highly accredited business colleges in Missouri and I read nothing but good reviews about it from previous students who graduated from the college. That is when I decided to delve deeper into it and reach out to one of the public relations program’s leading professors.
After exchanging a series of emails with them I wanted to travel to the university to do a campus tour and meet some of the public relations professors in person. After completing my general campus visit I met up with one of the heads of the public relations department and had a very productive conversation with them about what to expect from the program and the types of courses they offer for the major. Many of the classes sounded very interesting to me and I knew from that day on that I was fully committed to the public relations program.
Throughout my time as a student in this program I was able to learn the ins and outs of the public relations industry and was fortunate enough to have been taught by some of the most passionate and driven professors. I had the opportunity to learn many useful skills such as the proper ways to gather and conduct research and how to write strategic public relations plans in a professional manner. I was grateful to have had such supportive professors to help guide me through the program at my own pace and provide me with the necessary tools needed for me to succeed.
With graduation fast approaching, I reminisce about all the knowledge I was able to gain about the industry and the amazing people with whom I had the opportunity to network.. Now, as I look ahead and begin applying for jobs after graduation, I feel more confident in myself and my abilities as a professional because of all the great mentors I encountered at UCM on my educational path. Majoring in public relations has allowed me to gain extensive knowledge and skill sets in communication, technical writing, organization, strategic writing and much more. I can now confidently say that I’m ready to take on whatever career comes my way and use the skills that I attained in a real-world setting.
By: Emily Schaper
Being a Part of the Table
We’ve all been part of a conversation where we have no idea what is being talked about. It sets you apart from others and can become difficult to get to know more people. When it comes to global issues, reading the news or checking the media every day can set yourself a spot at the table. Plus, if you know about what’s going on in the world, you can start up a conversation about almost anything.
How to Get Started
There are so many amazing websites that will send the news to your email every morning. It doesn’t take any time at all to be up to date with what’s happening around you. All you do is enter in your address and the top stories for each day will be sent straight to you. Some beneficial websites include:
Why It’s Important
The news is important for a number of reasons within society. Not only does it inform the public about events, but it connects everyone together. Plus, if you’re interested in Public Relations, the news should already be of importance to you. Continuing on, the media can be broken down locally, nationally, and internationally.
- Local: News from a local area helps advise people about activities that may have an impact on the community. Decisions can be determined and people can be brought together
- National: When news becomes more of interest, it will have a broader perspective. This can become tricky because of the differing time zones. However, it can be of value to know the situations of other cities and towns
- International: When it comes to the global economy, news from other countries becomes vastly important. It gives us a sense of other perspectives and lifestyles/cultural differences
As a Public Relations major, my professors would always tell the class, you never want to be the last to know about anything. If you’re not up to date about what’s happening around you, you probably need to find a new job or area of interest. If you ever want to lock in a seat at the C-Suite Table, you’ll need to define your role, show your ability to think strategically, elevate your game, and act like you belong there. All of these can be achieved by reading the news every single day and knowing what’s happening around you.
By: Elizabeth Ewell
Mental Health Issues have become one of the leading common deaths in America. Mental health is often a topic that is shunned or embarrassing to discuss. Some take mental health issues as a joke, and some are not afraid to speak out about the issue. Still, there are more who pay no attention to mental health and do not take it as serious as it should be. The respect level for those who are aware that they have a mental health issue is also low.
I myself have struggled with my mental health this semester, which is not something I would have been comfortable sharing a year or so ago. I often overwork myself and am, frankly, hard on myself. I am a go-getter, independent, and a perfectionist. I have worked my way through college all four years, and at one point worked three jobs to sustain and reach goals I had set for myself. I was involved in a lot of activities on campus and often spread myself too thin. I felt as though that if I said no, I was hindering myself or missing out on great opportunities, when the truth was I did more than enough with what I could handle throughout my last four years. I was blessed with opportunities of a lifetime, held high positions in organizations, and made lifetime connections with professionals and peers through the work I did on campus.
However, I spread myself too thin again this semester, and have honestly found myself struggling to keep up with schoolwork and my actual job. Personal issues have also caused tremendous stress on me, and I felt super overwhelmed. I got to a point where I needed a break, or I was going to have a mental breakdown. I had not focused on myself and had not been properly taking care of my mental wellbeing. I was mentally and physically exhausted.
Public Relations was listed as the sixth most stressful career in America according to Career Cast.
In a recent article written by Paul Sutton, Five Solutions to Stress, Anxiety & Depression, in Public Relations 60% of PR professionals say they are ‘stressed’ or ‘very stressed’ at work.
‘Thirty percent (30%) of public relations professionals have also expressed that they are somewhat happy at work or not happy at work.’ (CareerCast)
Why are so many unhappy in public relations?
Glean info details that PR professionals are stressed because of “tight deadlines, unreasonable clients, a constantly changing media landscape, confrontational reporters and a cynical public. The challenge of proving the benefits of PR to clients and corporate managers can also cause anxiety.”
Many also expect public relations to give an exact result, like advertising, which is not the case. The misunderstanding of public relations causes a lot of conflicts which causes stress.
Public relations courses require a lot of critical thinking, focus, time, and research, to plan and execute work, just like a PR professional job. If you do not follow these strategies to meet deadlines, you will not be successful in PR. Due to my mental health suffering, I was not doing any of those things, causing me to fall behind badly on my work. Had I not been honest with my professor, it could have hindered my entire semester.
How can we solve these issues?
What if I had not spoken up? I would have had many missed assignments in the grade book, a failing grade, or worse I would have failed the course which would’ve hindered me from graduating in the fall. The first step is acceptance with ourselves and acknowledge that you may be suffering from some sort of mental issue.
Next, talk to your employer about your health, and be open and honest. Your employer cannot fire you for expressing the stress you may have due to the job, or because you may not be mentally healthy at the moment. You should express concern if you receive judgment on your mental state of mind. Your well-being is not humorous and should be important to your employer. Telling your truth to your employer will help you in the end.
Ask for Help
Seek help from a professional. Sometimes your job might even compensate you for your visit. Professionals could teach you how to cope with working under pressure and minimizing stress for yourself with your job. In the field of public relations, no day is the same and you often are thrown curveballs; knowing how to deal with stress is important to be happy in this career.
Be Honest and Don’t be Afraid to Take Breaks
Again, be honest about your health, speak about your issues and take a break or vacation from work, if in dire need. Taking breaks can bring peace to your life and help you think clearly. Many jobs will allow you to take a temporary leave of absence for a certain period of time. This break can give you the peace of mind you need to get back in action and start “killing it” in your career.
Normalize Mental Health in the Workplace
Employers should make sure mental health is an important topic to discuss openly with their employees.
Today many employers bring in professionals on mental health and host workshops on the issue. Knowing your organization cares about the mental wellbeing of their staff can make it more comfortable for an employee to discuss their health to their employer. If your organization does not openly discuss mental health, maybe suggest some of the ideas above to create awareness of the issue in your workplace.
Be okay with saying no to additional tasks because of stress. If you cannot handle additional work, it’s better to not do the work than to do work wrong or not of good quality. Instead, ask for smaller roles until you feel stable enough to handle your regular full workload.
Public Relations is a demanding, but exhilarating job, so making sure you take care of your mental health is a major priority to be successful in this career. Do not be afraid to use your voice, because your health matters!
By: Maxlyn Wilbanks
When you first think of public relations, what do you think of? When I began my degree, I thought of all the negative aspects of PR and wasn’t sure it was the right choice for me. However, as I am about to graduate from UCM, I have realized how much my perspective on PR has changed. I now see the profession in a much more positive light and see how perfect this major was for me.
Want to know the reason I love PR so much? Well, I’d love to tell you: PEOPLE! I have met some of the nicest, most genuine people through my experiences in my PR program. Let me tell you about some of my favorites-
I recently interviewed sisters who are 98-years-old and 103-years-old during my internship with Western Missouri Medical Center. The older sister remembers the Spanish flu epidemic and told me about some of her experiences during her prime in the 1930s and ‘40s. I got to take photographs of them while they received their COVID-19 vaccinations and each one took it like a champ! Click here to read the full story!
Helen (left) and Sammy (right) receiving the COVID-19 vaccine!
During my internship with the GenWhy Leaders Podcast, I had the opportunity to speak with several successful entrepreneurs. One of my favorites was a woman who decided to start a jewelry business after creating a pair of earrings to match an outfit. Now, her business is one of the Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Companies. Click here if you’d like to watch the full episode!
I have also enjoyed the people I’ve met while working for IPR. One of my clients created his own podcast and interviewed with the Director, Multicultural PR and Engagement at McDonald’s USA. I never thought I would have a connection with someone with such an impressive position at such a huge corporation. Click here to watch the full video on YouTube to hear about her great experiences.
I am also a member and was on the board of PRSSA (Public Relations Student Society of America). Through PRSSA, I met someone who worked as the Public Relations and Social Media Director at Hallmark. He now does freelance work and owns his own communications company.
Through all these great connections I have had the opportunity to apply to several jobs in preparation for graduation. I’ve been told, “resumes don’t get you jobs, connections do”. This is a statement I totally agree with and I’m lucky to have picked a degree that has allowed me to connect with so many great, successful people.
Meeting people is one of the greatest pleasures I have had while pursuing my degree. I am so glad to have been able to learn from so many great entrepreneurs and hard workers who taught me valuable skills and life lessons.
So if you are ever curious about what public relations truly is, it’s meeting amazing people and making great connections.
By: Faith Ford
TikTok, is a massively popular app that lets users create and share videos up to 60 seconds long. At least that’s the Dictionary.com definition of the content creation app that started to gain social media users’ attention around 2018. So how did TikTok get to where it is today? And what does it mean for the future of social media, especially in the public relations, marketing and advertising industries?
TikTok, described as one of the fastest-growing social media platforms of 2020 – and all time, began as an app that most people had recognized as Musical.y after an acquisition in 2017 by a Chinese company called ByteDance. Due to this merger of brands, the app specialized in dancing clips which led to viral trends of dance-offs, lip syncs, and extensive use of hashtag challenges. The app today has grown into a hotspot for influencer marketing and as a medium for brands to use when sharing their messaging. In just four years, the social media site has reached 150 countries, has 2 billion downloads, and 1 billion active monthly users. All this activity puts TikTok ahead of business favorites like Facebook and Instagram.
While TikTok has shown its tremendous growth and strengths within its use as a marketing and communications hub for businesses, the app has faced crises that have jeopardized usage rates in the business world. The biggest issue facing the platform is privacy.
Concerns about privacy have been under the lens of the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission and were even highlighted in a late summer move toward a possible nationwide ban on the social networking site, and other actions by individual businesses.
In a July NBC news article, reporter Kevin Collier states that, “The bank Wells Fargo told its workers to delete the app. Amazon ramped up the scrutiny of TikTok on Friday after a leaked internal email said company employees needed to remove the app from their phones. Amazon later clarified that no such edict had actually been issued.”
It seems hard to imagine that employee internal conflict with this app would reflect positively on the company, when the company starts to use it for its own purposes, as employees are a primary public to keep in mind.
However, the hesitations to use the app for public external messaging also becomes easier to understand. Why would a business invest in positions to research, analyze and create when there’s a possibility of the app being removed from your consumers?
With regard to these concerns, it seems that TikTok has outgrown its “he who cannot be trusted” description, as more and more businesses join the viral experience.
Considerations for Businesses
Of course, businesses shouldn’t just join in on the site just for the numbers and its popularity. There has to be some reason for their use or else the messaging seems forced, is lost, and won’t reach their intended audience. This is where PR comes in. Remember: “What or how you do something is not as important as the WHY.”
So what does this mean for companies wanting to use TikTok as a social media platform?
Do your research. Know who your audience is and what they are looking for. If you are a Senior Living facility, for example, trying to reach 65-year-olds, TikTok is probably not the place to reach your primary audience.
Be engaging. The whole point of social networking sites is to connect you with people. The ability to engage with your audience will give you a better idea of who they are, what they are looking for, and their personality. The extra effort of responding to comments, “dueting” challenges that have helped your brand, and being conversational with influencers is valuable for your brand on the platform.
Be aware. Look for opportunities that seem organic and authentic for your company. Is there a trend that fits your new launch? Act on it! TikTok trends move quickly, so being aware of the app’s climate is important to being up-to-date and creating new and unique ideas.
Other Emerging Social Sites
TikTok grew – fast. It was important for businesses to be aware of its presence, even if they were choosing not to be as active on the platform as their employees. While there still may be reservations about the site, here are some social media sites that public relations, advertising, and marketing professionals should keep their eyes on:
Social media, including TikTok, can be a powerful tool for businesses wanting to reach their audience. However, if you are considering including it in your communication strategy, don’t forget to do your research, and most importantly, don’t forget to answer the “Why?” if you want to maximize its effectiveness.
By: Hannah Staul
As I prepare for graduation, all I can think about is what the next step is. How do I know when I am even ready to apply for full-time jobs, when school is still in the forefront of my mind? I did the research for you, so follow along for a step-by-step guide, from the perspective of a busy college student. If I can do it, you can too!
Step 1: Accept Failure
You may have already accepted failure in some way, either failing a class or not getting into your dream college. Failure is something everyone faces, but knowing how to overcome it and learn from your failures will lead you to success. While applying for jobs or graduate programs know that not everyone will want you. You will be rejected. It sounds harsh but it is the truth, knowing how to manage it ahead of time will help you in the long run. The fear of rejection affects many people. Jia Jiang, author of Rejection Proof, provides a great example about his story of how he was able to accept “no” with confidence and turn them into a “yes”.
I have had to overcome failure many times, it is recurring. There is something new you can fail at everyday, so take each day with a grain of salt knowing that failure will happen. Below are some tips to prepare yourself for failure:
● Do not call it failure:
a. Thinking about the word “failure” it does not bring a good feeling. It brings back memories of past failures, a time where I was not able to accept it. Try using these words instead!
● Be Realistic
a. When applying for jobs do not go for the 100k salary position that requires 10 plus years of experience. Obviously, as a college graduate you would not have the skills or experience to accomplish that position. But don’t undershoot your skills, if you see an opportunity that you could potentially achieve, then go for it!
● Everyone Fails!
a. Michael Jordan’s story of success is one of the most influential examples of how he accepted his failure. Pretty much starting from the bottom as the draft three pick in 1984 he built himself up from there. Today he is a highly successful basketball player because he was able to accept failure. Be like Michael Jordan and accept that we all fail and find success after.
Step 2: Classes come first
You read that right, classes come first. College is full of fun, but try to keep in mind that you came here to learn. I am guilty of letting other activities come before classes, and let me tell you, there is no success from that. Yes, applying for jobs is important, but make sure you are doing well in classes and staying on top of your work. Below are some tricks I have implemented:
● Google Calendar: Keeps you organized with meetings and classes
● Reminders! My best friend, I use this app on my iPhone to remind me when work is due that day.
● Set goals: Accomplish the work you need to get done that day and then do the “other things.”
● Ask for help: Let your professors know when you are struggling.
These tips may seem redundant, or you might be a professional at getting your work done on time. Keep in mind that it can happen to the best students, especially when something new is added to your plate.
Step 3: Build your portfolio
Finally, some real steps for post graduation! Let’s review the type of portfolio needed for the public relations and related industries field. You will need to build an online portfolio, and some great websites to build from are Wix or GoDaddy. Digital portfolios can increase your chances of being seen by employers and represent your brand.
Your brand is the person you want to be seen by the professional world. Frame your portfolio around that person, the man or woman who is extremely professional and will benefit the company you are applying for. This is a professional website, so do not include going out photos or crazy stuff you did in college.
What should be included in your portfolio? Here are some of my recommendations: ● Resume
○ Downloadable version and a walkthrough of it
● Unique website design
○ Should include your brand personality: colors, fonts, professional logo ● Skill
○ Include soft and hard skills
● Works done by you
○ Press releases, designs, blog posts, etc.
● Short bio
● Professional photos
Think of your portfolio as an extension of yourself, and include the information you want people to see and know about you. Portfolios are great to share with potential employers, a place to keep your work organized and highlight what you have accomplished.
Put it all together!
As February comes to a close, start to think about what needs to be done before graduation. Do you need a resume or cover letter? Have you applied for jobs or graduate school? Make the list that is important for you and will lead you to success. The steps above are meant to help guide you through the next couple months and feel prepared to graduate from college.
By Ashleigh Horn
“Thank you“ can be defined as a polite expression of one’s gratitude. Though this definition seems so simple, the action of thanking others has become about as rare as some students coming to class these days.
I’ll be the first to admit that I have historically been guilty of not taking time to express my appreciation for others when they have done something for me—acts of service I often have benefitted from. However, as a student and future professional, I’m continually learning the importance and impact of taking two minutes out of my day to sit down and write a thank you note to someone who has gone out of their way to make my life better.
Saying “thank you” not only reflects graciousness, it also lets that future employer, a professor, or even your parents, know that you’re mindful and appreciative of their time. In return, it will likely encourage them to want to help you again in the future.
I understand that we live in a hectic and fast-paced world. We’re busier and more involved today than we were even 10 years ago. Between school, work, jobs, and extracurricular activities, it can be difficult to find time to go out to the occasional dinner with friends. However, this fast-paced culture we’ve established is no excuse to not say “thank you.”
Unfortunately, it has become a common practice. In 2019, Jennifer Spencer, recruiter and owner of The Spencer Group, Inc., shared that no one sends thank you’s anymore. She believes that, nowadays, probably for every five people a hiring manager will interview, one person sends a thank you. That’s it!”
Managers, employers, and educators alike go to great lengths to invest in students and these two little words stand out when you say them simply because few ever do. To my fellow students, if you want them to notice you, take time to acknowledge them!
In The Power of Thank You, blogger Chris Rackliffe identifies three reasons why giving thanks is mighty. According to Rackliffe, saying thank you is not only the ultimate way to reaffirm yourself, but doing so also shows that you appreciate and respect what connects all things, as well as opens up doors of possibility.
Likewise, Spencer mentioned that sending a thank you can result in your resumé being bumped up to the top of the applicant list for that company you just interviewed with. This is a prime example of opportunity stemming from showing gratitude. Soon-to-be graduates, please take note, this could be especially important for those of you who are looking for jobs right now!
Though saying “thank you” may seem easy, it takes intentionality and effort. However, there can be great reward in carving out time to do so. We all like to be acknowledged and I believe expressing our thankfulness should become a more common practice.
Who’s one person in your life that you want to thank today?
By: Armani Shumpert
Hashtags are important for success in supporting social media content. Appearing as a keyword or phrase with no spaces with the # (pound) symbol at the front of it, the hashtag is a way to make material easy to find, at least when used correctly.
Hashtags have been widely used on Twitter, but they are now popular on other social media platforms sites such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. Understanding the difference in these platforms and how to use hashtags effectively is a great way for you to maximize your engagement with your followers.
While a hashtag seems easy to place before keywords, some other specifics are important to note as you try to reap the greatest benefits of using hashtags. Here are some tips for general purposes:
- Keep hashtags brief and unforgettable rather than attempting to include a variety of words with one tag.
- Try not to pressure any post with hashtags. Use them only if they add importance to your post and are likely to encourage dialog and discussion
- Do not overuse hashtags. The number of hashtags you use depends on which platform you are using, but in most cases, one or two hashtags work better than many.
- The use of descriptive and unique hashtags can yield better results than widespread or generic ones.
Using hashtags is not a one-size-fits-all proposition that is the same for all social media. Here are a few ideas about how hashtags on specific social media platforms can be used properly.
Use Hashtags on Instagram
When it comes to Instagram, using more hashtags will lead to more engagement. Use up to 10 or 11 relevant and popular hashtags on this platform to get the most out of it. You probably do not need to use too many of them, but it is good to know that using more is good here, so you can experiment with what works for you.
Use the search box to see which hashtags are used by influencers or competition. Since this is the best forum for many hashtags, try various hashtags. For blogs, videos, and comments, use them.
Use Hashtags on Twitter
Using the appropriate Twitter hashtags will boost your participation. One or two hashtags on a tweet should be enough. If you use a few hashtags and explicitly ask your followers to retweet, this may result in more engagement.
Using Twitter hashtags can make your post available as people search for your tag. It can also help you locate conversations to get involved. To have even more effect on this forum, research hashtags are trending. Twitonomy is a good method specifically for studying Twitter patterns.
Use Hashtags of LinkedIN
On LinkedIn, people have not always stressed the use of hashtags, but they function on this site in the same way as any of the other social media sites. Using a couple of hashtags on your post if you are posting long-form material on LinkedIn. LinkedIn typically recommends one or three hashtags.
You can get your alerts outside of your network by using hashtags on LinkedIn. It is a perfect way to raise awareness about the brand.
The use of hashtags is an excellent tool for interacting with your followers as well as increasing interaction and attracting new target audiences. To be effective please keep in mind the social media platform you are using and best practices for best results.
By Ashleigh Horn
There’s no denying that each generation is different. Baby Boomers, Generation X, Xennials, Millennials, Generation Z, I’m sure as you read each of these titles, you may have recalled your own thoughts toward each group. During a time where as many as five different generations are working together in the workplace, it’s important to understand how they all function and what each brings to the table.
Though I could certainly cover all five of these and the impacts they have in the workplace, I want to instead provide first-hand insight into a generation that is seemingly misunderstood by its predecessors. This is a generation with a desire to create change; a generation that I have nearly 21 years of experience being part of.
Who are we?
Although the lines defining the age range of my generation are a bit blurry, the Pew Research Center identifies this group as having been born after 1996 (Parker & Igielnik, 2020). Today, some Gen Z-ers walk the halls of middle schools, whereas others are hunched over books in their dorm rooms, working full-time agency jobs or even preparing to vote in the upcoming presidential election. There’s no doubt we’re all at different stages in our lives; however, somehow, some way, there are a few common desires and passions we all seem to share.
How is this generation different?
Generation Z is the largest generation to date. We also have access to more technology, media and quite honestly, each other, than any generation before us. It may be our sheer size, or it quite simply may be the comfort we feel in sharing our thoughts and ideas through Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat, that compels us to reach for our dreams and to stand up for what we believe in. Politics, social injustice, sustainability, ideas for new products or businesses, we Gen Z-ers are a researched, opinionated, innovative, change-making group.
The Target Incubator
A few years back, the Target retail chain set out to better connect with this next generation of consumers. One way they did so, was through directly engaging with young Gen Z entrepreneurs in what they called the “Target Incubator.” Inspired by these young adults’ big ideas about “better for people” and “better for the planet” products, the company selected eight business pitches, created by students, to help become a reality.
You may be asking, “Why would the company do this, and what was their reward?”
Generation Z is often referred to as the “Changemaker” generation. Target recognized that many of its Gen Z consumers have big plans to change the world and sought to help make their dreams become reality. The students’ ideas ranged from producing compostable single-use products to using juice pulp waste to create healthy snacks. These eight businesses were not only unique—they did not simply provide innovative products or services—rather, they were all created as solutions to a number of the social and environmental issues we face in the 21st century.
I think James Sancto, founder of We Make Change, hit the nail on the head when he described Generation Z’s passion as “not willing to accept the world as it is, [who] believes [it] can address the challenges the world faces today, and [who] will do whatever [it] can to make the change [it wants] to see” (Sancto, 2019). The product of the Target Incubator is a testament to Gen Z’s eagerness and willingness to ensure the changes we wish to happen are made.
Gen Z’s not so breakthrough solution to creating change is to have a purpose. Whether you’re a business, college institution, or just someone we pass on the street, Gen Z-ers want to know what you’re all about.
What are your goals?
Who or what do you stand for?
Does your vision align with what we believe?
Generation Z prioritizes purpose and “[looks] to engage with brands and organizations that have a higher purpose that goes well beyond a simple transaction” (Beal, 2019). Unlike generations before us, we don’t simply purchase a product or rep a brand because we like it or it’s “convenient.” Rather, we use the power of reviews and our access to technology to compare prices, product availability, to research a company’s CSR practices and what it values, in order to make educated purchases (Salesfloor, n.d.).
Google, Netflix, Spotify and the Walt Disney Company are all examples of some of the most loved brands by Gen Z consumers. It’s no coincidence that all of these same companies placed in the Digital Marketing Institutes (2020) list of the “Top 16 Brands doing Corporate Social Responsibility Correctly.” Generation Z values these brands because they do more than provide their specific products and services; these companies use their platforms to create change on issues important to their employees and to each company as a whole.
As I mentioned earlier, Gen Z-ers look for ways to impact our own corners of the world. In fact, we often make decisions with long-term consequences in mind. We’ve been called lazy, self-involved, tech-dependent, and more (The NPD Group, 2020). Yes, some of these monikers may be partly true. But, we are also a passionate generation focused on standing up for only those issues or movements that align with our interests. Our passions drive our actions. We just might change the world.
As each new year has passed onto the next, Generation Z, or the “Changemaker” generation, has become older and older. With this age has come new responsibilities, both in our own lives and in contributing to the world around us. We are growing up, entering the workforce and making an impact in our own generationally-unique way. Slowly but surely, we are revealing who we are, what we value, what our goals are, and are debunking the generational stereotypes that have defined us since we were babies. In turn, we are using these differences to provide new perspectives in both the workplace and in society, and are doing all in our power to create change.