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  • Writer's pictureREI

A Global Generation Set for Global Impact

Updated: Jun 21, 2023

by Maryellen Morgan, Director of Recruiting, REI HQ

“How do you recruit Gen Z?” This is a question I’m asked frequently, not only as a director of recruiting, but also as a ‘cusper’ – someone who was born near the end of one generation and the beginning of another. I naturally understand and identify with both Millennials and Gen Z. To be successful at engaging Gen Z, one must first recognize the cultural shifts that have happened in the last several years, forming the core identity of this group. One must understand why Gen Z is who they are to know how to utilize their characteristics to mobilize them overseas.

We live in a postmodern era, a period characterized by challenging the modern premise of absolute truth in science, reason, and cultural narratives and stories while exploring relative truths that vary from person to person. Here in the U.S., we’ve seen this has led to polarization, individualism, and a lonely, anxious group of young adults.

Gen Z values other cultures and seeks overseas opportunities to experience new customs.

The oldest members of Gen Z were five years old when 9/11 happened and many weren’t yet born. Few remember life before the recession in 2008. They were recent graduates or still in college or high school in March of 2020 when their lives came to a screeching halt because of Covid-19. They’ve had the internet in their back pocket for most, if not all, of their lives and are just a few clicks away from being overwhelmed with the daily tragedies taking place around the world.

However, the age in which we live has also produced some very strong characteristics in Gen Z. Characteristics that align many of them perfectly with a global nonprofit, such as REI who is working to meet some serious needs around the world.

First, Gen Z is well connected worldwide. According to John Wheeler, Gen Z is known as the world’s first truly global generation. The internet and social media make it possible for anyone to connect with each other online. Because social media creates these connections, local events become global, and members from Gen Z are finding themselves relating to each other easier. They experience similar things across all backgrounds and cultures. In fact, a Ford Motor study found that 58% of adults around the world consider that “kids today have more in common with their global peers than they do with adults in their own country.”

The young people joining REI staff will connect more easily with others of a different ethnicity in their same age group than their peers in older generations did and will have more natural friendships because of shared experiences. Gen Z is also the most ethnically diverse generation in American history, with 48% of its members being nonwhite. They are used to relating to and forming friendships with people of all backgrounds, so it’s not as intimidating to interact with a different people group.

REI staff form strong friendships with others overseas.

Second, the rise of individualism encourages young people to explore their passions, and they want to use these to benefit others and seek careers that allow them to do this. While job searching, Gen Z looks for organizations that allow them this freedom. REI staff are encouraged to use their unique skillsets to find or create opportunities to improve their local communities. They use their degrees and passions every day for the betterment, growth, and development of others around the world in both their workplace and in personal relationships. No one has to choose between passion or profession, and everyone can make a unique contribution to the work of REI.

Finally, Gen Z is passionate about justice. In addition to connecting others, social media has also exposed the injustice, hypocrisy, and deceitfulness of global leaders and events, and it gives faces to developing nations and impoverished people groups. Gen Z wants to help. Many volunteer at and donate to local charities and raise awareness online. Others will seek to make an impact by going overseas. In building people to build nations, REI is passionate about economic, community, and individual growth and development. Staff members meet others where they are to help raise the next generation of leaders, to train others who can train others, and to change the lives of a community.

REI staff have a unique opportunity to pursue both their passions and professions.

It may appear daunting to engage with an entire generation that grew up in a world with completely different values than that of 10 or 15 years ago, but Gen Z has many remarkable characteristics and is poised to use their strengths to make a positive impact on the world around them.

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