This is the 5th post in a series I am writing about 97ers: social natives. It may help to read the previous ones:
Introducing the 1997 Digital Natives, 97ers, and their networked communities of learning
The difference between the 97er and Gen Y
If you think about the 97er and the environment in which they have grown up there has been a heartbeat of disruption:
- worldwide recession
- worldwide terrorism
And their security, possibly unbeknownst to them, has come from their community, their peers – the ultimate sharing of knowledge has acted as lifelong reassurance of themselves, their validity, safety and inevitably shaped their attitudes and expectations.
Luckily the natural reaction to restore the balance of the universe is the rise of the collaborative community, the prosumers and an almost zealous belief in Openness and Transparency.
What lies beyond school?
These children are now looking at their life beyond education. Summer 2014 will see some choose apprenticeships, some choose further education and some head for the job market – the march into becoming part of the working community has begun and by 2015 they will be officially “grown-up” – well, 18 years old.
I believe that the most obvious effect we will see first is the reaction to the recession. They know no different than jobs with banks, or in the public sector or in monolithic and historical organisations that have been going for hundreds of years being the most unsafe choices a person can make in a career. They have witnessed mass redundancies, seen story after story of brands that even they know: Blockbusters, Woolworths, going bust with thousands of jobs vanishing. There are very few who have not been personally affected by this either directly through family or friends.
At the same time they have also seen a rise in entrepreneurship, parents and their friends choosing to run their own businesses, their peers creating start-ups, crowd-funding platforms; their social media streams are full of this relentless birth of “new”. It is all they know.
Safety and security
To my mind the perception of what is a secure job choice has been completely thrown into chaos. Nothing really makes sense any more if they try to think of a job for life, a job they want to “do”, as some parents, teachers and careers advisers are still encouraging them to focus on.
For the 97ers security and reassurance has come from community knowledge, but in this instance there is no prior knowledge of how to tackle this jump from their networked communities into a linear working world; with choices to be made with 2d information, crafted and marketed directly to them – the kind of information they have learned to distrust and deride.
And so I am beginning to see these young people attempt to squeeze themselves into the kind of person their predecessors were, looking to the entry level jobs of large organisations, and trying to understand why formal careers in traditional roles (those waved in front of them as a “good idea”) can possibly be a good idea – when they are the most insecure choice, based on what they have seen growing up.
Lazy, layabout teens
As a result they are less enthusiastic about going and getting “starter” jobs or part-time work, more keen to either stay in education until the world makes sense again, or become apprentices in skills they know they can fall back on when the world falls out of the bottom of the financial markets again (yes I intentionally skewed that phrase).
I fear that the draconian, booming voice of Whitehall threatening benefits and the ‘benefit society’ is creating even more insecurity and confusion. As they recall any bits from their past that might help them make decisions on the future they will remember job losses, failing economies, fewer work opportunities for greater numbers of people – and they will begin to worry.
Worried 97ers will depend ever more heavily on their networks for reassurance and to find the answer. I believe that there will be a period of introspection amongst this community, and society will blame technology because they will all seem to be descending more heavily into being glued to their phones, tablets and computers – apparently wasting away their lives instead of focusing on the next stage of life: their careers.
People will bemoan the lazy, layabout teen culture.
We need them
I would implore you, should you find yourself doing this, to try to resist! We need them to be introspective, to make it better and easier for the ones that are coming year on year after them. We need them to be supporting each other through their digital networks and we need their leaders to emerge organically from this – they will discover who they want to follow in the way they have always done so: through social channels.
And we need them in our organisations. We need them to help all businesses and sectors understand the new nature of their audience/consumers/prosumers.
What can we do?
Look to those economists predicting the slow death of capitalism and the social theorists looking at the complicated lives of the consumer society. You can rest assured that the 97ers are really not going to be doing that – but we can.
- Let’s look at the emerging economy that is starting to take shape, and allow these young people time to get themselves ready, and empowered
- Encourage entrepreneurship
- Encourage digital skills
- Share stuff you find that talks about economies and markets
- Give them information and knowledge
- Find the the thought leaders online
- Become the translators of the dull stuff that will help shape the 97er community conversation