Generation Z: the new Millennial, but somehow unscathed by the same criticisms. Millennials may be entitled, but Gen Zers are hyperaware of entitlement and working hard to forge their own path. In fact, according to a report from Adweek, Gen Zers are eager to educate themselves: 33% watch lessons online, 20% read textbooks on tablets and 32% work with classmates via the Internet.
Not only are they independent; they are also the first generation whose earliest memories of scraping their knees on the pavement are saved right alongside the first time they entered the online world through the doorway of Google.
Gen Z is the most digitally savvy generation yet. Although Millennials “grew up with the Internet,” Gen Z cannot imagine a world without it. The difference, however, is that Gen Z appears to have a very positive relationship with technology.
A recent MTV report indicates that 91% of surveyed Gen Zers use technology to gain perspective on people different from themselves, and they believe tech can help them manifest their big ideas to improve the world.
As a result, Gen Z is proving that its fluency in the digital sphere is valuable. While other generations struggle to understand how to effectively reach the hundreds of millions of users on Snapchat, for example, Gen Z entrepreneurs see an opportunity to use their native language to their advantage.
Gen Z influencers have taken the Internet by storm, and many have built careers for themselves at an extremely young age. Look at any homegrown influencer on the platform Musical.ly, for example. These are young teenagers with clothing lines and healthy appearance fees associated with their massively popular social accounts.
Watch Gary Vaynerchuk’s #AskGaryVee Show, Episode 198, where he interviews two Musical.ly influencers who talk about their business ambitions with the same casual demeanor you’d expect in a high school lunchroom. To Gen Z, this knowledge of digital entrepreneurship is practically inherent.
And then you’ve got the Gen Z entrepreneurs bullish on building a business. Peter Szabo, an 18-year-old Facebook advertising guru, can attest to the benefits (and challenges) of being a young digital native. Last year, Szabo managed over $2 million in Facebook advertising assets for his clients.
While his age has certainly raised eyebrows among some potential prospects, it has also been the key reason others chose to hire him over his older counterparts. Szabo speaks the digital language, and many businesses looking to keep up with modern consumers hope he can help them make sense of the changing landscape.
This is not to say that Gen Z has it all figured out. The oldest of them are barely through their sophomore year of college. So, while they will certainly need some mentoring, they are starting with a sound foundation in the digital world—a world that is becoming just as influential and powerful as the real world.
When you start interviewing Gen Z prospects, or are approached to work with one, you should keep in mind these three unique ways they think about business:
1. They Look At Their Smartphones More Than They Look At Television
Brands have slowly begun to realize that their advertising dollars might be better spent on social media than big television campaigns. When you take a look at the data, it’s difficult to deny that the younger generations aren’t looking at the television nearly as much as at their mobile platforms.
According to a survey by Defy Media, consumers aged 13 to 24 watch 12.1 hours of video per week on YouTube, social media and other free online sources, and another 8.8 hours weekly on Netflix (and other subscription-video services). That’s 2.5 times more than what they spent watching television each week—and chances are, this trend will only continue.
Why is this important? Because who better to help brands engage this younger generation than these mobile users themselves? When Gen Zers think about communicating their message, the first place they go is their phones.
2. They Don’t See Social Media As A Broadcasting Platform—They See It As A Community
When social media first arrived, older generations saw it as a new way to broadcast their message. As a result, they treated Facebook posts in the same way they had been treating billboards and print advertisements—and, sadly, missed the mark.
They struggled to gain traction (and attention) because they failed to recognize social media’s true genius: connecting humans.
Gen Z couldn’t think this way if they tried. They grew up on social media. They made friends on social media. When they think about spreading their message, they imagine contributing to that online community in a meaningful way—not blasting out clever slogans and hoping people will buy what they’re selling.
In fact, because Gen Z sees social media this way, 76% of them believe they can turn their hobbies (what they love) into a full-time career. Many consider becoming a social media influencer to be a career path as realistic as going to college and working for a big company.
3. They Truly Want To Change The World, And Are Willing To Walk The Walk
If Millennials were the first to speak up about the importance of working for a company with a purpose, Gen Z has made it clear that, for them, that’s almost a nonnegotiable. Sixty percent of Gen Zers want their job to impact the world for the better.
As this shift in work mentality continues to move in a positive direction, more and more companies are going to need to start thinking differently. It’s not enough to simply talk about change or have a feel-good message—and Gen Z is going to make sure of that.
For the companies willing to embrace this shift, hiring Gen Zers can help significantly with the process. Gen Z knows when something resonates and when something is done for propaganda. That’s a huge reason big brands struggle to attract the attention of young, socially conscious consumers.
If you truly want to make a difference and have an impact on generations to come, consider hiring the next young generation to enter the workforce. They have been thinking that way from the start.
This column was originally published on Forbes.com on April 18, 2017.