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Advice and support for your academic journey.

This insightful article highlights how young Gen Z academics can make the most of their unique skills and attributes cultivated by their generational upbringing, and propel themselves towards achieving triumph in their PhD programme and beyond.

I am a member of Generation Z, colloquially known as Zoomers: those born between 1996 and 2010. In Vietnam, my peers typically lean toward entering the workforce rather than pursuing a career in higher education, a choice that I find quite understandable. Our upbringing has coincided with an era of immediate gratification, where we’ve grown accustomed to swift deliveries, instant notifications, and rapid job placements. Consequently, the idea of spending more time in school than necessary seems less appealing. For many of us, higher education appears to merely extend our academic commitments and delays our entry into the workforce, impacting our ability to earn a living promptly. 

However, this perspective doesn’t imply any inadequacy on our part as potential researchers. On the contrary, being brought up as Gen Z has equipped us with a range of skills that are highly valuable for not only surviving but thriving as a PhD candidate, either within the realm of academia or beyond 

Here are five perks of being in Gen Z for thriving as a PhD candidate.

1. Tech savviness

Generation Z boasts a remarkable level of technological proficiency at a younger age compared to previous generations. We are well-versed in a myriad of applications, granting us a significant advantage. Moreover, should we encounter unfamiliar software, our aptitude for rapid learning comes into play. Applications such as Photoshop, video editing tools, and illustration software prove to be immensely practical, as do citation management systems. Personally, I have frequently employed Photoshop for tasks like manuscript preparation, abstract creation, and figure design. 
In addition to these skills, the utilization of citation managers, AI assistants, and programming knowledge further enhances our academic toolkit, proving invaluable in various aspects of our research and educational endeavors.

2. Social media skills

Gen Z grew up in a world directed by social media and therefore we inherently know how to find our way through it. It is crucial to effectively leverage social media platforms to enhance our outreach and establish meaningful connections. Platforms like LinkedIn and others can be valuable tools in this regard, serving the dual purpose of advancing both our academic and professional pursuits. Personally, I make a concerted effort to refine my LinkedIn profile, and I’m an active participant on platforms like Twitter (now X), where I keep a keen eye on updates related to publications within my field, forthcoming conferences, and even potential job openings. Notably, PhD positions are increasingly being promoted through Twitter these days, making it a platform that warrants your attention and exploration.

3. Societal awareness

Members of Generation Z often exhibit a heightened awareness of pressing societal concerns, and this heightened awareness can be a source of substantial benefit. Personally, I’ve discovered that this awareness has guided me towards research pathways that have the potential to make a positive impact on the environment, with a particular focus on the domain of “green chemistry” within my field of study. In addition, my ongoing attentiveness to global as well as domestic social and economic issues has played an integral role in shaping my thought processes, frequently resulting in the formulation of innovative and compelling research ideas.

4. Entrepreneurship

Generation Z tends to exhibit a greater inclination towards the commercialization of their innovative concepts compared to the more conventional approach seen in academia. This entrepreneurial spirit can significantly enrich our professional journey and contribute to their research endeavors. In my experience, the research within my field appears to possess a remarkable level of practical applicability. Coupled with a judicious combination of perseverance and fortuitous circumstances, the prospect of a prosperous startup venture seems well within reach. 

5. Mental and physical health

In the pursuit of a PhD, it is imperative to prioritize self-care and resilience. Fortunately, we, as members of Generation Z, possess a profound awareness of the significance of these aspects and are adept at putting them into practice. We recognize the value of regular exercise, the support garnered from community groups, and the importance of taking well-deserved breaks to rejuvenate our physical and mental well-being. This heightened awareness empowers us to navigate the rigorous demands of doctoral studies more effectively than previous generations. 

Final thoughts

Overall, being a Zoomer offers us a wealth of traits and abilities that can be harnessed to excel in the pursuit of a PhD and, by extension, to thrive as accomplished researchers. It is crucial to recognize that these proficiencies aren’t confined solely to the academic realm; they have universal applicability that extends to virtually any career path we might ultimately embrace, even if it leads us outside the ivory towers of academia. As all of these skills have a degree of transferability, they would also serve as valuable assets, providing a solid foundation for our journey, whatever path we choose to follow.

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All views expressed are those of the individual authors and do not reflect the views of The PhD Place Ltd.
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