The Daily Illini

Generation Z successful despite circumstances

By Hayley Nagelberg, Columnist

What you were doing 10 days ago? What about 10 months ago? How about 10 years ago?

In 2008, T.I.’s “Whatever You Like” was at the top of radio charts. The iPhone 3G had only been released a few weeks earlier. Those of us who are college-aged today were starting our second to fifth grade years.

The housing bubble growing for years popped. Credit markets froze. Lehman Brothers collapsed. Bank of America bought Merrill Lynch. Wall Street numbers plummeted. This was the Great Recession.

Congress would pass hundreds of billions of dollars in stimulus packages in the next few months. At the same time, the unemployment rate would reach its highest numbers in decades passing 10 percent by the next year.

As current college students, we represent the end of the millennial generation and the start of Generation Z. We were just young children when this recession happened, but it made a drastic impact on the reality we are now living in.

As a whole, statistics indicate we are holding off on large milestones like buying homes and having children. We find ourselves taking on up to 300 percent more more student loan debt than our parents did.

And yet, we are the most educated generation to enter the workforce. We are now the largest subset of the workforce. Our outlooks on professional development and teamwork are not the same as our parents’. We are more collaborative and more connected to the global society. We’re the most diverse generation and see the value that comes with a more inclusive environment.

We watched from behind slightly ajar doors as the economy fell around us. We saw what was wrong. We saw and felt our parents, families and friends struggle. We had no choice but to keep moving, to keep growing, to take the next steps into the world.

Now we are in the workforce, or preparing to enter it; we are proving our sincerity to meaningful and gainful employment. Our fixation with being constantly connected to the world through smart devices means we keep working beyond the hours of a traditional work week. We seek out jobs that fit our passions and don’t just accept careers for economic convenience. We understand the challenges and potential that comes with technological advancement. We are comfortable not agreeing with our peers.

When the economy fell a decade ago, we were young and unaware. Having lived through the fall and now rise of the economy is the only reality we will ever know of our adolescence.

Undoubtedly, there are negatives that come with this being our reality. But from the vantage point of the present day, the positives of these experiences are resonating stronger. Today we are educated, determined and ready to take on the next steps of our lives.

Hayley is a senior in ACES.

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