Selorm, Stefanie and Charlotte (l-r). All photos courtesy the subjects
From UX design to vlogging, podcasting and of course, influencing, the internet has spawned countless careers that would have been unimaginable ten or twenty years ago. Thanks to the rise of social media and the influencing industry – which may have to evolve again as the pandemic makes #aspirational posts redundant – “creative” jobs in visual culture, content creation and social media management are now commonplace for those entering the job market. According to a 2019 study by Snapchat and JWT Intelligence, over half of Generation Z say that their cohort is “more creative” than previous generations. This, according to researchers, is evidenced in the “new wave of content” from Gen Z creators that mixes “selfies with spoken word, imperfect collages with augmented reality landscapes, and illustration with candid livestreams”.
Which is… a lot! It’s hardly surprising, then, that some parents of twenty-somethings find it hard to understand what their offspring do for work. We asked six Gen Z creatives and freelancers to interview their parents about what they think their job involves.
“Freelance photos, is it? Take pictures, that’s it, that’s all I know. I didn’t even know you had a job. Selorm, that one I didn’t know, because nowadays I just see you go and take people’s photos and that’s it. I didn't know freelance photography was the job you had. But I guess if that’s your chosen career path, then that’s up to you. As long as you feel like you can make a living out of it, which I don’t understand how, but again, it’s your choice. I’d rather you were in a different career with maybe a bit more stability but at the end of the day, who has stability? Especially in this COVID world we’re living in.”Selorm shows his mum a photo he took of himself.“Gosh, Selorm, you went out in this cold to go and take that? What's that in front of you? It looks like you've got a pouch in front of you. I don't really like it. I guess the quality is alright but I don't know, Selorm, I just don't like it.”
Freelance photographer, Selorm (20) interviews his mum
“You have your own business, of course. I don’t actually know what type of businesses there are that you can do on the computer. I don’t really know anything about it. All those words you are saying [graphic design and web design], I don’t really know what they mean. I’m happy you have something of your own. If you know you can do it, and you know you are capable of doing the job, that’s what matters.”
Freelance graphic and web designer, Martha (22) interviews her grandma
Charlotte’s mum: “You’re a social influencer working with social media, so you’re doing vlogging and sometimes you do blog posts and Instagram. You’re working with brands to advertise various things in the fashion industry, and clothing, jewellery, food and make-up. I must admit, when you first graduated, I thought you would try to get a job relating to your forensic science degree but during lockdown, your Instagram really took off so it seemed the obvious choice. You’re getting paid for it, so go for it, Charlotte. The only thing that hurts me is the haters, the horrible comments out there. But unfortunately, you’re always going to have that in whatever you might do. I’m proud of what Charlotte’s doing, she works really hard and she’s got the results to show for it. She goes out of her way to find lovely settings for her photos, and she really thinks about the content.”Charlotte’s dad: “Right, let me start off by saying, I'm not the greatest social media buff in the world. I don’t go out of my way to look at everything on your page, but what I do see is brilliant. I think [influencers] can be very beneficial, especially to younger people. I’ve seen some of the responses on your Instagram and it has helped some people’s children I know with their wellbeing, body positivity and mental health. Also, it's very nice as a parent when you get taken away on a freebie – like restaurants or golf. It's not the ideal career for someone who's only doing [influencing], but you got a First at university which you can always fall back on. Carry on the good work.”
Social media influencer, Charlotte (22) interviews her mum and dad
“You’re doing social media. And it involves, you know, things that you want to do. About food… healthy food? When you first told me about it, I didn’t have any idea at all what it was, but I can see that you love doing it. That’s the life that you really wanted to choose. And I think you can progress and be successful in it.”
Social media manager, Stefanie (20), interviews her mum
Tarnjeet’s mum: “I know you usually work as a sound engineer, and I think it involves working with artists to create the best sound for them, whether it is with songs or live performances. I was mostly concerned about whether you will be able to get a well-paid job if you go into this career. I don’t wish you were in a different career as you've made the most of the opportunities available to you before, during and now after finishing university – and you are happy in what you are doing.”Tarnjeet’s dad: “I know you work in the music industry. I wasn’t surprised, seeing as you always would listen to music, though I would’ve preferred if it was a little easier to get into. At the moment, I do wish you were in a different industry as it is a struggle working in the role you have. But as long as you are happy.”
Sound engineer, Tarnjeet (20) interviews her mum and dad
“It seems like you talk to strangers on the phone and spend the whole day on the internet. I'm concerned about the safety that comes with your job. Your work makes me question celebrities' posts and I have doubts about whether it's them posting for themselves or not. Overall, I think that you imagine people’s lives and write and create personalities off the back of them. At first, I thought the idea of you no longer pursuing a career in law was dreadful. I had concerns that you would have no future. For now, I think it’s better that you’re in this career rather than a different one. You look very into it and like you’re enjoying it. Overall, I wish I had given you more support from the start.”