Research conducted by Rian Weinstein, Steph Strickland, Gretta Kissell, Zineb Jaoudat, and Kate Graham 

  1. Gen Z’s Love-Hate Relationship with Social Media 

2023 has brought an unsurprising underscore of Gen Z’s massive media appetite. We found 94% of Gen Z respondents engage on social media daily; 80% of these respondents consume social media more often than they consume food. 

Gen Z is starting to feel the negative impacts of this time online. 80% of respondents say they feel neutral or negative in their experience, with 30% of these respondents referencing social media’s impact on their mental health and well-being for this sentiment. 

Will social media become our lifelong lover or toxic ex? Read the full study to get our take. 

  1. How Gen Z Embraces Circular Economies 

Everyday items that decorate our lives used to be separated by cultures and continents. Now, everything is mass produced, cheap, and disposable. Our relationship with products has been historically linear, but the future is circular. 

We found roughly half of our respondents were familiar with the term ‘circularity,’ but 97% had engaged with activities like thrifting, recycling, and repairing items that fall under the circular model. 

“Instead of constantly buying new clothes, most of my clothes are thrifted. If an [item] isn’t any good (torn, or just not good anymore), I cut it into pieces, and it is turned into a rag that can be used around the house instead of buying cleaning cloths.” – Gen Z Respondent

Take a look at our well-rounded take on the circular economy. 

  1. How Is Gen Z Disrupting Corporate Social Responsibility?

In 2023, brands made a lot of promises. 

Promises for carbon neutrality, promises to set net-zero goals, and promises that you shouldn’t feel bad buying their products. With so much noise about being green, Gen Z has been approaching brands embracing the S-word (a.k.a. sustainability) with confusion and skepticism. 

Only 1.9% of respondents find that brands claiming to be sustainable are ‘very trustworthy,’ compared to 52.4% of respondents that find it to be ‘somewhat trustworthy.’ Very few of us are putting all of our trust in brands making these claims. The majority of us approach these claims with some trust and some skepticism. 

Now, COP28 is officially underway, and young people are demanding a seat at the table. A study by KPMG found 95% of Gen Z respondents (between 18-24) wanted to be more involved in sustainability-related decisions. Yet, only 28% felt they were being heard by leadership on net zero and sustainability issues.

To learn more about how to navigate this skepticism with effectiveness, check out our take. 

  1. What’s the Tea with ChatGPT? 

When AI pioneer Geoff Hinton quit Google this May to express concerns about AI growth, it felt like a scene straight out of a supervillain movie. But, in this case, we still have to decide who’s the bad guy. 

We know young people are using this technology. When we checked in with The Receipt, our global network of 9,000+ Gen Zers, we found that 72% of respondents have used ChatGPT — with nearly 1 in 5 in this group using it at least daily. 

Those using the service go to it most commonly for work tasks (38%), for getting questions answered (20%), or just for fun (13%). 

To get all the gossip on ChatGPT, check out our (human-generated) piece. 

  1. Does College Still Feel Worth It to Gen Z? 

A couple of months ago, we all started back up on paying off our student loans after the COVID-19 pause, without the help of Biden’s proposed student loan forgiveness that was struck down by SCOTUS. 

Nearly 80% of our Gen Z respondents are currently in or planning to attend college, with a focus on career development and networking opportunities. Gen Z is really leaning into the “who you know” of the professional world and see college as the pathway to building their network. 

Yet, 24% of adults nationally say student debt is their biggest financial regret (Bankrate). TLDR: We are going to college but are stressed about the cost to make it through. 

Read more about our take on whether college is worth it to Gen Z here

  1. Co-Creating the Future of Work with Gen Z 

By 2025, Gen Z will make up nearly a third of the workforce, and companies are reckoning with how to prepare for the next generation of employees. 

In a collaboration between JUV Consulting and Marketers That Matter, a group of top CMOs and marketing leaders from American Eagle Outfitters, Autodesk, Cadillac, Chime, Chipotle Mexican Grill, DoorDash, e.l.f. Beauty, HP Inc., Kellogg’s, Nike, PepsiCo, Pinterest, and Spotify were brought together to discuss just that. We also tapped into our Receipt network of over 9,000 global Gen Z’ers to share their story. 

We found that Gen Z’ers are feeling insecure in their careers and are lacking the mentorship and coaching needed to make them more confident. Gen Z’ers also want to feel connected to their work, both in values and in working culture. 

Download the full report here.

24-year-old Ziad Ahmed is committed to championing the voices of young people. It has been his goal since he was a teenager to empower the next generation, and it remains at the core of his work today.

Ziad is a 2023 United States Obama Leader and the CEO and co-founder of JUV Consulting, a Generation Z marketing consultancy that works with clients to help them reach young people. 

The firm partners with companies to amplify the voices of Generation Z, finds solutions, and creates campaigns targeted at those born after 1997.

He says his mission is to level the playing field and include young people in the conversation. 

“We exist to empower diverse young people and we believe in co-creating products, campaigns, ideas, and movements that meaningfully push our generation forward,” Ahmed explained. “I wanted to change the world and disrupt the current conversations and to get more young people in the rooms where it happens. Somehow, seven and a half years later, JUV Consulting has been named the largest and most popular Gen Z agency.” 

The company has worked with more than 20 Fortune 500 companies and in 2019 Ziad was named to Forbes’ 30 under 30 list. As a teen, Ziad founded his first nonprofit, Redefy, which he founded in middle school, to defy stereotypes and embrace social and acceptance. 

“The world looks better when diverse young people have a seat at the table. I believe that folks should be talking and building with us, rather than just talking about us.”

– Ziad Ahmed

“The world looks better when diverse young people have a seat at the table. I believe that folks should be talking and building with us, rather than just talking about us,” he shared.

JUV Consulting has worked with major brands to champion diverse communities and enhance storytelling around topics like climate change, mental health, and systemic inequities. 

“We believe that the expert is the person closest to that reality so we staff diverse teams for our clients to tackle the problems they’re facing,” Ziad explained. “That can look like anything from doing research in regards to how Gen Z’s feeling about climate change, to co-creating a campaign around youth voter engagement, to co-creating and producing a new line of sustainable products for a brand and working with diverse creators to tell that story.”

Ziad Ahmed, a man with a medium skin tone, stands on a stage and speaks to an audience. He is wearing a red patterned sweater and his arms are outstretched. A projector screen is behind him.

Ziad says being a part of the Leaders USA program has enhanced his leadership skills and given him a network of like-minded individuals.

“The program has been a great moment for pause and reflection each week. Having time to learn and embrace community, rather than just be obsessed with productivity has been beneficial,” Ziad reflected. “I’ve been really humbled and honored to be a part of the program and work with such inspiring people.” 

He says the amplification of young voices is essential for the progression of democracy. 

“Our voices and viewpoints cannot be an afterthought. I think voting and democracy is one tool in our toolbox of change making. It’s important that young people can make their preferences, desires, and demands heard in order to shape the political institutions and infrastructure that we have,” Ziad shared. “I believe in the saying, if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu. I think young people are often on the menu because people are making assumptions about what our tastes are instead of including us in the process. I hope that we can make our voices heard through protests and at the ballot box because we are the ones who are inheriting the decisions that are being made right now and how we will have to contend with the future that we’re barreling towards.”

Moving forward, Ziad is focused on scaling his business to reach more young people. 

“We will continue to impact more young people and put out more stories into the world that hopefully makes more people feel seen, included, celebrated, honored, and inspired,” Ziad shared. 

In what is sure to be shocking news, college students feel differently about major issues than their parents did. The topic of the hour is college itself. According to many young people, the herculean four-year undertaking is no longer worth the trouble. 

That’s from the point of view of Philip Cohen, a sociology professor at the University of Maryland—College Park. The overarching attitude of today’s college students, Cohen tells Fortune in an interview, is that getting a college degree is no longer a ticket to a secure future, even if they themselves chose to enroll.  

The parents of today’s college students often told them going to college would provide a path to job security, which would eventually blossom into a fruitful career. That comes with the generational benchmarks of home ownership, a vacation fund, and even the ability to provide for a family, and the next generation’s education, too. That’s what the American Dream purported to offer, at least, until Gen Z came along and upended it. 

“Historically, we were told, ‘For 20 years you learn, for 30 years you lead, and maybe for 20 years, if you’re lucky, if you live this false American dream, then you get to live,’” Ziad Ahmed, the founder and CEO of Gen Z-focused consulting firm JUV Consulting, said at Fortune’s Impact Initiative conference last week. “Gen Z is taking the microphone back and saying, ‘Hell no. I want to learn, I want to lead, and I want to live simultaneously. And you’ll be damned if you tell me otherwise.’”

The idea of college ensuring success has eroded, Cohen tells Fortune. “To be sure, pursuing education and a career is still a safer bet for your future,” he says, noting that job outcomes and salary baselines are significantly improved with each advanced degree. But those material benefits are “just not a guarantee anymore.” 

But while Cohen’s students expressed their disappointment and anxiety, college isn’t quite going out of style just yet. In a national Harris Poll survey of 2023 graduates, 90% said they’re glad they went to college and said they still believe a degree is their best shot at a strong future. Then again, more than half of adults—with the benefit of hindsight—told the Wall Street Journal in a survey last year that the economic benefits (or earning potential) of getting a bachelor’s degree doesn’t outweigh the cost. That’s a 40% jump from those who said the same in 2013. 

The shift in attitude may partly be because college graduates have been desperately trying to pay off their hundreds of thousands of dollars of student loans for years or even decades. Indeed, college—whether or not it’s “necessary” on principle—has become an exorbitant expense that about half of the country incurs—to the point where the cost isn’t worth it for some. But college students may also be seeing that employers are more and more focused on what workers can actually do in a given role. In many major industries, skills are becoming more valuable than pedigree—and anyone can learn.

The skills-first mentality is edging out the college diploma

The move towards skills-based hiring has gained substantial steam throughout the pandemic as workers and bosses reconsidered their values and needs. But the shift has been underway for nearly a decade.

Under the tutelage of former CEO Ginni Rometty, consulting giant IBM coined the term “new collar jobs” to describe opportunities calling for a specific handful of skills rather than a certain major or undergrad degree. With a focus on new collar jobs, the percentage of IBM roles that required a four-year degree dropped from 95% in 2011 to less than 50% in January 2021. 

In today’s job market, bosses need to be amenable to new approaches, LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky told the Harvard Business Review last year. Hiring through a professional or alumni network was a fine approach when the market was bursting with talented applicants, he said. “But when the labor market is moving much quicker, we really need to figure out something to focus on,” he explained. “[And] that alternative, flexible, accessible path is really going to be based on skills.”

Indeed, companies that prioritize skills over “antiquated signals” like where (or whether) they earned a degree “will help ensure that the right people can be in the right roles, with the right skills, doing the best work,” Roslansky said, adding that it will lead to a more efficient and equitable workforce, “which then creates better opportunities for all.”

Even college itself is a means of honing soft skills that will serve students well in future jobs. “The people you want around are the people who know new things,” Cohen, the Maryland professor, says. “It’s hard to impart on today’s young people, but the idea is that what you get from college is not just skills, but the experience of thinking and learning for four years.”

This isn’t just good news for young people who are considering eschewing a degree (and all the subsequent loans) altogether. It’s also good news for employers. Companies that get on board and forgo degree requirements could stand to see “an explosion of talent,” with nineteen times the workers placed in suitable roles. Who could argue against that?