Watch Out PR/AD World: Here Comes Gen Z

Gen Z participants in @Brand_program with their proud instructor Juan Mundel.

When it comes to careers, the Z generation gets it.

Admittedly, I’m basing my assessment on limited data—just three recent conversations with high school students who appear laser-focused on their pathways to successful careers.

Earlier this week, I dropped in on an innovative program aimed at exposing high school students to possible careers in advertising and public relations. Called “BRAND Summer Camp,” the weeklong program was a partnership among DePaul, Chicago Scholars, Facebook and Leo Burnett. Purpose of the unique summer experience was to provide career exploration for high performing, academically ambitious students from under-resourced Chicago communities.Spearheaded by DePaul PRAD colleagues Juan Mundel and Sydney Dillard, it was evident at “graduation” that the program will help build a much needed pipeline for diverse talent in the PR and ad professions.

Why am I so optimistic about the Z students?

I tested their social media engagement. Normally, in college settings I find that undergraduates and grad students pick one or two social platforms in which to periodically engage and many have perfunctory LinkedIn profiles. Not the case with these high school students. In fact, students pictured here are the most social media savvy group of young people I’ve ever met. And unlike sometimes jaded Millennials and Xers, they don’t poh-poh Facebook and Twitter. They understand roles and values of each platform. In addition, they asked insightful questions about what it takes to succeed in the “real world.”

When I visit college campuses, I emphasize the importance of LinkedIn—even causing occasional eye rolls when asserting that your LinkedIn profile is more important than your resume. After each campus visit, I typically get LinkedIn requests from three or four students. That certainly wasn’t the case with this week’s group of high schoolers. Surprisingly, I’ve already received 10 LinkedIn requests from these 13 impressive high school students.

Recent experiences give me continued faith that the future of our profession only gets better with each generation. I’m certainly betting on the Zs I’ve recently met.

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