18-year-old hired as a consultant to the Minnesota Vikings: 'I don't get intimidated easily'

Jonah stillmanCourtesy of Jonah StillmanJonah Stillman, pictured, is postponing college while he gains some work experience.

Jonah Stillman calls himself a “Gen Z guru.”

Along with his father, the 18-year-old co-authored a book, “Gen Z @ Work: How the Next Generation is Transforming the Workplace,” and cofounded a speaking business, also called Gen Z Guru.

And as the Star Tribune reported, Stillman was recently hired as a consultant to the Minnesota Vikings, to help them understand and connect with Generation Z.

Marketers generally define Gen Z as anyone born 1995 or later; they’re the newest members of the workforce.

When I spoke to Stillman by phone, I asked him if he felt intimidated by the prospect of working with so many people older and more experienced than he is.

“I’m going to be honest,” he said. “I don’t get intimidated easily. I’ve been trained well; I’ve had a lot of working experience; and I see this as another opportunity to help better myself and the Vikings.”

By training and working experience, he’s referring to the speaking business he started with his father and the consulting work he’s done for clients other than the Vikings.

Stillman’s postponing college for now: “I’m just going to play it by ear,” he said.

He spoke about his own deferred college plans in the context of Gen Z’s overall attitude toward higher education. “College used to be a place where you go to discover yourself,” he said. “Now a lot of Gen Z-ers are only going to college if they know what they want to do.”

That’s partly a result of financial practicality, Stillman said. “We think it’s financially irresponsible to bounce around college for a year and not declare a major.”

Indeed, a survey from the College Savings Foundation, spotlighted in the Chicago Tribune, found that 79% of high-school students surveyed said cost is a factor in choosing a college. And 39% said high costs encouraged them to enroll in state schools, community colleges, as well as vocational and career schools.

Stillman also cited stats that suggest Gen Z is more entrepreneurial than millennials were at the same age — an observation that’s backed up by a 2015 Goldman Sachs report.

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