Millennials, Gen Z & Baby Boomers Can't Agree on the Best Way to Make a First Impression

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First impressions are crucial. In fact, we’re often warned that you only get one shot at making a good one. But is it more important to have a firm handshake or the perfect profile photo? As it turns out, Gen Z, millennials and baby boomers don’t see eye to eye. (Surprise, surprise. They don’t agree on anything, from fashion choices to pet trends.) Find out more below.

When it comes to making first impressions, how do millennials and boomers think differently?

A study conducted by Squarespace found that 60 percent of Gen Z and 62 percent of millennials believe how you present yourself online is more important than how you present yourself in person. When it came to meeting people for the first time, Gen Z staunchly maintained their stance, with 44 percent saying they make a better first impression online and 39 percent of millennials saying the same. Boomers, on the other hand, would rather keep things face-to-face, with a meager eight percent saying that meeting virtually is their jam.

But what’s causing the gap?  

In part, it’s the pandemic. The advent of COVID-19 showed that even crucial meetings like job interviews can be done virtually and now going back to face-to-face interactions is just not a priority for a lot of young people. In fact, The New York Times reported that of all age groups, millennials “are the most concerned about their health and psychological well-being.” So if in-person conferences, interviews and meetings are causing unnecessary stress, they’re more likely to find a workaround, not grit their teeth and bear it.

“Gen Z and millennials are digitally fluent, effortlessly moving between the digital and physical worlds,” explains SoFi career expert Ashley Stahl. “Gen Z is also the first generation without a memory of life without the internet. Social media molded the way they think, what they do, how they research and what they know. They value being employed somewhere that is efficient and up to date with their technology.” With work-from-home positions more popular than ever, it’s become even easier for Gen Z to stay comfortably inside the technology bubble.

How can the three generations bridge the gap?

1. Find a hybrid model that works. Now that COVID vaccines are readily available, many companies have considered adopting a hybrid model where people can split their week between working from home and coming into the office. This would be a great solution—the initial hiring interviews can be done in person, but maybe we can reserve all-hands meetings for a Zoom call.

2. Understanding each side adds value to the workplace. While Gen Z-ers want to work for companies they feel are up-to-date and forward-thinking, they still crave mentorship and want to learn about career advancement opportunities, money management and team building from boomers. So, while it’s tempting to want to throw the old model out altogether, it’s a huge benefit to have all different types of team members with all different comfort zones and levels of experience collaborating in one workplace. 

“Baby boomers and Gen Z’ers should establish cross mentorship opportunities in the workforce,” says Stahl. “Gen Z can handle the technology advancement and visions, while baby boomers can provide much-needed wisdom for their long-term career growth and leadership skills. The internet has created an impatience amongst the younger generations, selling a vision of shortcuts and getting rich quickly. The baby boomer generation can provide them with more long-lasting tools needed for leadership in today’s unpredictable workplace.”

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Steph is a native of Zimbabwe who is both enamored and genuinely baffled by the concept of silent letters. From 2020 to 2022, she served as Associate Editor at PureWow covering...