The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


May 1, 2012

Balancing Act: Teens the latest generation to hit workplace

Overwhelmed with school exams, Tiffany Fernandez picked up her cellphone and did what any teen might do to let her boss know she can’t make it to work — she sent a text message.

Fernandez, 17, has held her job for two years as an assistant in Miami clothing designer Alexis Barbara’s office and brings her generation’s mind-set to the workplace. Tiffany considers the tiny touch screen in her hand, her cellphone, crucial to business communication. She will use it to discuss scheduling with her supervisor, receive receipts from vendors and negotiate a pickup time with her mom.

“In business, you have to be on top of everything,” she says.

Take Your Child to Work Day has come and gone, but some teens are going beyond a daylong glimpse into the working world. Members of the iGeneration, born after 1990, are landing their first jobs, and bringing their obsession with online connectivity and multitasking into the workplace.

There probably isn’t a company in America that isn’t wrestling with managing different generations. Baby boomers, Gen X, millennials: They all seem to want something different. Now comes the iGeneration, also known as Generation Z, with its own distinct way of walking, talking and working. Generational expert Cam Marston predicts a need to manage expectations on both sides.

“They will have to get used to email and, God forbid, picking up the phone and calling,” said Marston of Generational Insights. “But at the same time, employers will have to get used to the fact that they may choose to text-message even if they’re standing next to you.”

Most of the teens I spoke with who have jobs know they are fortunate. Many of their peers want part-time or hourly work but are being turned away. The increase in minimum wage and higher unemployment among adults has caused experienced workers to claim entry-level positions, leaving fewer jobs open for teens. Indeed, about 4.2 million 16- to 19-year-olds hold jobs today, compared with 5.8 million five years ago. The majority of those jobs remain part-time positions.

It is that realization that has affected how teens approach work. Even so, they want the workplace to accommodate them — their schedules, opinions and style of interaction — just as their technology does. Yet most are open to the lessons the business world may offer.

“I learned that when they give me something to do I have to make sure it’s completely right or someone will attack you for it,” Fernandez said. “I hate being reprimanded. When I do something, I’ve learned to double-check it, that a mistake is not a joke. It has matured me a lot.”

Lee Orlinsky, 17, took a part-time job at Einstein Bros. Bagels in Plantation, Fla., about a year ago, and says he, too, has learned from real-world business experience. “It’s very different to go from being the customer to helping the customer,” Orlinsky said. He has also discovered that having hundreds of Facebook friends doesn’t teach you interpersonal skills and sometimes you have to interact with co-workers and customers “whether you like them or not.”

Yet Orlinsky realizes he brings something to the workplace even the millennial generation doesn’t always offer: “I can relate to the teens that come in.”

Even more, Orlinsky has helped move supervisors toward the style of communication the iGeneration expects. Much like Fernandez, he will send his supervisor a text message to learn his work schedule for the week or express a conflict or interest in extra hours.

“It’s easier for her. She doesn’t have to stop what she’s doing to talk to me,” he said. “She can text me back on her own time.”

Like the generations before them, teens are grappling with balancing work and their personal lives. Kalif Fletcher, 17, plays basketball for Piper High in Sunrise, Fla., maintains a full-time class schedule, has a girlfriend and works as a sales specialist at Levi’s outlet in Sawgrass Mills mall. Fletcher said school is his priority, but he feels more independent and more mature since he started earning a paycheck a year ago.

“I learned that if you work hard, you stand out,” he said. With dreams of being a chemist, Fletcher also learned he wants fulfillment from work, which was not necessarily a priority for prior generations like the boomers. “Whatever job I have, I’ve got to be happy.”

Experts say because members of the iGeneration are so naturally tech-savvy, they will do things bigger, better and at a younger age than previous generations.

Sure, there will be workplace slackers. And then there will be entrepreneurs like Ryan Breslow. At 17, he already has worked for three years at a Publix grocery store, has secured two paid internships at high-tech marketing firms and has founded three online businesses. Breslow is determined to be his own boss. In the fall, he is headed to Stanford University, where he has his sights set on an eventual start-up as promising as Google or Facebook. “I see value in working for others,” he said. “But I see myself eventually in a job with limitations set only by myself.”

Regardless of their ultimate goals, most working teens realize the advantage of getting work experience as early as possible. Experts are predicting a particularly challenging transition for this generation. They have seen their parents out of work and will enter workplaces where loyalty is dead. Even worse, they have suffered from education cuts that affect their job preparation.

“Students simply do not possess much information or knowledge about the workplace,” said Robin McCarthy, executive director of Women At Work, which held a teen job fair last month. McCarthy finds most teens do not know how to begin resumes or answer all the questions on a job application. She hopes more organizations will step in to help them. “I think there’s recognition that if you have work experience, you will be in a better position than your peers who don’t.”


Text Only
  • Express Scripts expansion could mean 1,500 jobs

    The nation’s largest company that manages pharmacy benefits is opening a new office building in St. Louis County as part of an expansion expected to add 1,500 jobs over the next few years.

    July 28, 2014

  • 5 things to know about coal trade, global warming

    As the Obama administration weans the U.S. off polluting fuels blamed for global warming, energy companies have been sending more of America’s unwanted energy leftovers to other parts of the world where they could create even more pollution.

    July 28, 2014

  • US rig count up 12 to 1,883

    Oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. says the number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. rose 12 this week to 1,883.

    July 25, 2014

  • Business Visa, Amazon pull stock market lower

    Disappointing news on the American consumer, reflected in the results of retail giant Amazon and credit card processor Visa, dragged down the stock market Friday, putting two major indexes on course for a weekly loss.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Aviations Bad Week.jpg Very bad week: Airline disasters come in a cluster

    Nearly 300 passengers perish when their plane is shot out of the sky. Airlines suspend flights to Israel’s largest airport after rocket attacks.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Dave Ramsey: Keep hands off the 529 money

    Should we use money from our son's 529 plan for college to pay off debt?

    July 24, 2014

  • New Jersey sues over Florida pizza shop logo

    The New Jersey Turnpike Authority wants a Florida pizza shop to pay a big toll for using a logo similar to the Garden State Parkway’s green and yellow signs.

    July 24, 2014

  • Laclede Group gets nod to buy Alabama company

    The Alabama Public Service Commission this week voted to approve the acquisition of Alabama Gas Corp. by The Laclede Group from Energen Corp.

    July 24, 2014

  • France: Air Algerie flight vanishes over N Mali

    An Air Algerie flight carrying 116 people from Burkina Faso to Algeria’s capital disappeared from radar early Thursday over northern Mali after heavy rains were reported, according to the plane’s owner and government officials in France and Burkina Faso.

    July 24, 2014

  • Business US stocks rise as investors weigh earnings

    Stocks mostly rose in early trading Thursday as several big companies across industries reported second-quarter earnings, including Facebook, Ford and equipment maker Caterpillar.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo


A new provision by the U.S. Department of Agriculture allows qualifying districts with high percentages of students on food assistance to allow all students to eat free breakfasts and lunches. Would you agree with this provision?

     View Results
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
NDN Video
Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow