Is Gen Z something else?

gen z

Heard at a function

I was at a professional accounting function recently. When the discussion turned to the youth, some comments were:

  • As for the youth these days, they are something else.
  • It’s like they know nothing. You must teach them basic things.
  • They want to be a CFO at 25.
  • They are unreliable.

That made me wonder, is Gen Z as the views above portray them?

Boomers were born from 1946 to 1964, Millennials were born from 1981 to 1996, and Gen Z was born after 1996. I am a Boomer; we think of ourselves as overcoming tough times, and hardworking. So, I won’t deny I have the Boomers’ prejudices against youth.
But on effort, learning and building a career, my recent experiences make me disagree with the stereotype of Gen Z.

My recent experience

In 2023, we created the Work Experience Program, a 9 to 12 months internship which we created out of necessity. The interns were all Gen Z – in their early 20s.

In this program, we treated the interns as we would our regular recruits. We gave them the same training and access to IT tools, and they worked on jobs. As they joined at the start of the busy season, they trained and worked under pressure.

The interns impressed me with their attitude and effort. I believe we can find suitable hires, even though we are concerned about the quality of education.

How we managed them

We treated them as regular staff and granted access to resources. The specific things we focused on and did are:

  • On-boarding-we discussed our purpose and priorities, different departments gave a presentation on their work, and we discussed policies that apply to them.
  • Training-most of the interns are accounting graduates, but we did not presume they knew. We trained them in basic theories and techniques. We delivered just the training they needed to do their jobs.
  • Expectations-the managers set clear expectations and gave regular feedback.
    Help-the manager and colleagues were ready to help them with any difficulties and coach them.
  • Careers-we discussed careers and attributes that we think are important to building a solid career with them.
  • Learning-we discussed how forming a learning habit is important to career building.
  • We encouraged them to try out ideas and not be afraid of failure.

My generation changed jobs infrequently and rose up the corporate ladder, but Gen Z are likely to change jobs even more often than we did. They expect to work in environments that use modern tools and want context and meaning in the workplace. Gen Z accountants can see how their colleagues are doing worldwide. They expect to do as well, and we must accept this reality.

Advice to Gen Z

Jennifer Wilson offers these thoughts to Gen Z in accounting:

  • They must gain the experience and expertise needed to solve complex problems and deliver lasting solutions.
  • Their challenge is to acknowledge you don’t know what you don’t know.
  • They must invest in learning so they can deliver the wonderful ideas both firms and clients will need.
  • Resist the urge to fly at the surface and rely too much on your search engines and fast thinking for answers.
  • Dig in and develop a specialty.
  • Avoid snarky or righteous thoughts.
  • Give your superiors the benefit of the doubt and share your ideas for constructive change from a position of study and facts.
  • Be a solutions developer, not just a problem pointer.

Gen Z are not something else. These stereotypes are not helpful. If we mentor them, invest in coaching and training, set expectations, and give them hands on experience, they are eager to work. That is my experience with the interns on the Work Experience Program.

The reality at SCG is, we will leave the firm to Millennials and Gen Z, with Gen Z in the majority. It’s in our interest to support, develop, and challenge them to form habits and attitudes that will enable them to have successful careers. We accept that since they grew up in different times, they’ll have expectations that differ from ours. They still want good jobs, just as we did in our youth.

George Katako


Jennifer Wilson, “A Call For Change: An Open Letter To Each Generation”, in Bridging the Gap: Strengthening the Connection between Current and Emerging Leaders in the CPA Profession, (The CPA Consultants Alliance, 2016), 1-5.