4 Tips for Dealing With the End of Millennials’ Reign

Shifting focus to Gen Z doesn't mean the 2 generations can’t work together

Millennial is no longer another word for 'young person.' Illustration: Trent joaquin; Source: Unsplash
Headshot of Nicola Davies

I’m what marketers like to call a millennial.

We’ve been the most talked about generation for years, gracing the front page of Time Magazine, putting our name to a glorious yet delicate shade of pink and famed for our love of fidget spinners. We even have our own Monopoly board, one where you can dine at a vegan restaurant but can’t buy a house. Marketers assume that we are young adults frozen in time, eating smashed avocado on toast and oversharing on social media.

But times are changing.

Millennial is no longer a byword for “young person.” That hurts. In our place is Gen Z, another marketing definition for anyone born after 1996. And they are about to overtake millennials, who make up 32% of the global population.

For years, I’ve been demonstrating that I, a millennial, understand millennials, with no sense of irony whatsoever. So now what? The millennial image we’ve come to know (and loathe) must change. Any notion of how to market to us is probably out of date, and there’s a whole new generation to engage now.

I am not a bitter, aging millennial yearning for lost youth (much). I am here to share with you my tips on dealing with the end of our reign. Because I need a plan to adapt to this glorious new era.

Admit you’re not actually a digital native

Progress begins with truth. Confession: I Google all new places before I visit them. I can’t watch a film without checking its IMDb rating first, and I hate talking to most human beings on the phone.

Millennials feel "personally responsible" when it comes to bettering our world, so what if we work with Gen Z to push that?

But I also remember a world before Facebook, when the most innovative feature on my phone was a game of Snake. I remember going to a dedicated computer room to go on the internet, then needing to get off again when someone needed the phone halfway through a Napster download.

Sure, we millennials have an unhealthy relationship with technology. We’d probably drive off a cliff if the satellite navigation told us to. But the truth is that we are not digital natives. According to a new study, we’re no more technologically savvy than older generations. Gen Z, however, was born digital.

And so, with technology evolving at the fastest rate in history, the crux is that we all need to actively keep pace with the changes. And as everything—and I mean everything—acquires more digital intelligence, even the word “digital” will become obsolete.

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable

We “killed” entire industries, made internet dating culture socially acceptable and gave birth to the sharing economy. But the world is changing faster than ever.

Not only did Gen Z grow up in a radically technology-driven world, they did it during the Great Recession, which means they’re even more comfortable with being uncomfortable. They aren’t frightened of change, but instead of stability.

Wonderful things arise from feelings of constant change. For Gen Z, it’s an entrepreneurial spirit. They boast a potent mix of financial conservatism and realism, so they’re not afraid to work hard to earn a living. Fully embracing the side hustle mentality from an early age, almost one in four people aged 13–21 already earn money online.

Jealous outrage is the easy response, combined with overriding feelings of inadequacy. But it’s never too late to become entrepreneurial in practice and not just in spirit. So that side hustle you always dreamed of? That Etsy store you haven’t started? It’s never too late. It’s time to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Second act success awaits us.

Don’t put a label on it

Entitled. Narcissistic. Lazy. Snowflakes.

@diginic Nicola Davies is an aging millennial and group strategy director at R/GA London.