Many of you know I’ve been an adjunct instructor for the journalism school in our town since 2006, teaching a capstone lab for seniors going into strategic communications. And, some of you know I stepped away from this gig after the graduating class of 2018 due, in part, to Entrepreneur’s cancer and his challenges with chemo pills.
That is true, but there was much, much more to it. The truth of the matter is I needed to step away after a particularly challenging semester with my first class of Generation Z students. I enjoy being in the classroom with these future leaders, but in 2018, there was a noticeable shift in attitudes and skill sets. And the shift was not on an upward track. I was always hesitant to make broad, sweeping statements about Millennials and Gen Z. Many of my former Millennial students were sharp as tacks and I had no doubt they would succeed in advertising’s fast-pace, often cut-throat world. It was routine for me to write letters of recommendations for them after graduation.
All that changed in 2018.
Strategic Communications (aka: advertising and marketing) is a field filled with tight project deadlines, working within the interpersonal framework of a team, and taking criticism (constructive and otherwise) from employers all the way down to clients. A thick skin is needed to survive. Additionally, it requires a high level of attention to detail, self-discipline, organization and problem-solving skills…..problem solving is the area I noticed seriously lacking. I maybe can count on one hand how many of my 2018 students possessed these skills. Any criticism of their work was taken as a personal attack. I was mentally exhausted after 15 weeks of shaking my head at the lack of these skill sets in most of the students. I didn’t write one recommendation letter. My instructor evaluations were less than glowing…..I was mean, uncreative, played favorites and had unreasonable expectations and deadlines. Whatever.
Gen Z is definitely not the same as previous generations. Nope, Nada. Zip. Different animal altogether.
After 30+ years in the industry, my skin is rhino thick, but this class succeeded in causing me some self-doubt. So, after a lot of self-evaluation and adjustment in my own communication skills, I think I’m ready to take them on again. I refuse to dumb down my expectations, but will concede a change in the way expectations are delivered is needed.
And, this year, there is what I hope to be a fun twist. Instead of stepping back in as one of the many lab instructors responsible for guiding student teams towards a final client presentation, I will be focusing only on the designers from all the labs. In other words, with my background as a designer and ad agency experience, my job will be guiding 22 right-brain graphic designers through the process of putting together their team’s campaign book to present to the client at their final presentation. And, the glorious thing is……I don’t have to grade them!
This task has previously gone to teaching assistants within the Strat Comm department. This semester, I’ve developed an actual curriculum outlining what they need to know to survive as graphic designers in this class and beyond. We’re calling it Design Boot Camp.
Today, I’m thankful for another chance to step back into the fray and interact with creatives. I hope I will be able to relate to them and focus on the instruction they need most to succeed. I’ve been warned by other instructors what to expect from this age group, but hope I’m pleasantly surprised.
Linking up with Thankful Thursday over at Brian’s Home.