Generation Z Exploring diverse paths of ambition

Modern youth joining workforce, showcasing diligence to become backbone of society in the new era

By Gui Qian | China Daily | Updated: 2024-05-04 07:54
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Zhao Jiadai, 27, an entrepreneur from Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang province. [Photo provided to]

"Think of young people like the latest mobile operating system, and the older generations as the outdated versions," said 27-year-old Zhao Jiadai from Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang province. "They coexist for a while, but eventually, the new version becomes the norm."

Since the age of 16, when Zhao independently planned her study abroad journey to Canada, every life decision she has made has been bold and ambitious.

For instance, at 18, she chose to attend The Chinese University of Hong Kong instead of a university on the mainland like many of her classmates. By the age of 20, she took a break from school to start her first company.

Later, she took on various roles, including lecturing at a business school for entrepreneurs and working in cross-border e-commerce with a major internet company. Last year, she founded a business-focused we-media platform, which runs online communities and offers training courses for young entrepreneurs.

Zhao believes that her path is driven by a natural rebellious spirit — a quality she considers essential for young people. For her, rebellion signifies innovation, a key element in propelling industry and national progress.

"A society and country that can embrace the rebellion and uniqueness of young people are demonstrating that they provide fertile ground for growth," she said.

Zhao's given name, "Jiadai", literally translates to "a good era", symbolizing her parents' blessing for her to be born "in the best of times". She herself also maintains a positive outlook, believing that the present is indeed a great epoch, marked by different opportunities and challenges.

The development of the internet, for example, has presented a significant opportunity for the younger generation.

In 2016, fueled by a passion for photography, Zhao established her photography teaching accounts on Chinese social media platforms like Zhihu and WeChat. After accumulating a considerable number of followers by the time she was a junior in college, she decided to turn this into her full-time job and set up a company.

"Starting a business during university is the least worrisome time to do so. You're so young that even if you fail, it won't knock you down. But you should also consider whether you're prepared to handle the worst outcome," Zhao reflected on her first entrepreneurial experience, explaining that her project was light on assets and didn't require a substantial initial investment.

"At most, I would lose some time and a small amount of money," she said.

After reaching a milestone of 2 million followers across various online platforms, Zhao encountered a bottleneck. She wanted to learn more from professionals and large enterprises, which led her to work at a business school for entrepreneurs and later at an internet company. Despite this, she remained focused on pursuing entrepreneurship in the future, so she tried to accumulate as much management experience as possible and gain insight into employees' perspectives while at work.

In Zhao's latest entrepreneurial venture, she invited many other businesspeople to share experiences and provide training programs. Through her interactions with them, she discovered some common traits among entrepreneurs.

For example, they are likely to be those who are unafraid of taking risks and are undeterred by uncertainty, according to Zhao. Also, nearly all entrepreneurs have something that they deeply enjoy.

"Without that passion to drive you forward, you might find yourself lost and distracted during the entrepreneurial journey," said Zhao.

She also emphasized that an entrepreneur must be willing to embrace a lifestyle where work intensity is high and fully intertwines with an individual's personal life. "For me, it's more about me needing my work than my work needing me. The sense of achievement and happiness I get from my career accomplishments is unparalleled," she said.

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