Generation Z or Generation Me? Is the Next Generation of Communication Professionals Ready for Real Work?

When the university calls, I’ll be there, of course. After all, I had always wanted to become a teacher. At the invitation of Dr. Alexandra Rome, Assistant Professor of Marketing, I was invited to lecture at the ICN Business School in Nuremberg. The audience was made up of some 30 students in External Media and Communications – all wanting to know more about the real life of a communication professional, especially the international aspects.

The semester had just begun and most of the students, coming from a variety of countries, were at the very beginning of their Bachelor studies. And I was curious: What is this new generation all about? How does Generation Z behave in the real wildlife, in their ecosystem and home territory? Are they really the selfish ‘Generation Me-type’ that the media is always writing about?

This wasn’t the first lecture that I had ever given. In fact, LTC has been collaborating with the up-and-coming generations for several years, through cooperation with universities (for example, LMU in Munich and CityU in Hong Kong). And, of course, we are always looking to hire young professionals. However, I realize that only the tip of the iceberg applies at LTC for a traineeship, namely those who really want this kind of work and are prepared to participate in a job interview with us.

While I knew I needed to present some shop talk, I tried to avoid the usual buzzword bingo – like who wants to alienate young minds right away? I really took the task seriously and described the true-to-life, everyday working environment of a communications professional: workload, hectic, stressful clients, crisis PR, pointing out that communications is at the top of the Forbes’ list of the “Ten Most Stressful Jobs.” And when it comes to international communications, I was sure to emphasize the complexity and the ubiquitous pitfalls.

And how did they react?

Well, what can I say? The students were excited! They weren’t intimidated! No one walked out! If they were bored or unmotivated, they certainly fooled me. All in all, it went extremely well: Some asked me if they could tape my lecture, most took notes, and others asked Professor Dr. Google to deepen some aspects in real time. The students participated and contributed throughout the lecture and an interesting discussion ensued. That really impressed me.

The variety of intelligent comments and detailed questions led me to believe that a well-prepared and highly-committed generation will be entering the professional world in the coming years. I am convinced that this generation will bring a solid foundation of communication skills to the market and can create added value for companies and agencies right from the start. No one will have to explain to them what content marketing is, or how to reach target groups. Wonderful!

But caution! A successful communication career isn’t solely the result of basic skills. As a professional communicator, one has to be able to communicate professionally. High service, commitment and empathy and the ability to work in stressful situations are all very important soft skills.

So we don’t have to be anxious about whether Generation Z can contribute to communications in the future. At least not when it comes to the graduates of the ICN Nuremberg.

Thomas Hahnel, Managing Director LTC, exmatriculated for approximately 35 semesters.