The 5 Things Gen Z Is Looking for in a Job and Career
Generation Z is transforming the traditional workplace. Here's what will keep them productive and happy. (Hint: It's not the highest paycheck or fastest promotion).
Gen Z has officially taken the place of Millennials as the largest generation. Generation Z includes people born after 1996 and currently encompasses 32% of the global population and 11% of the workforce. And these numbers are rapidly growing — according to ManpowerGroup, by the end of 2022, the percentage of Gen Zers in the global workforce will be 24%. By 2030, it will hit 30%.
Gen Zers share a curiosity for undiscovered frontiers, untapped skills and multidimensional thinking — and they are inclined toward action. They are constantly learning and experimenting in order to grow, and steady progress is more important than immediate perfection. This generation has the potential to redefine what it means to work a typical 9-5 corporate job — eliminating "review" cycles and busywork (which can take weeks to months) for decisive action and impactful change. Here are five things Gen Zers want to find in their ideal careers and companies.
1. Purpose in the work that they do
Rather than purely chasing after the highest salary, Gen Zers value the mission behind and impact of the places they work for, whether it's a startup aiming to make menstrual products more sustainable or a software company aiming to protect the digital privacy of individual users. Amidst rapid climate change, they also want their employers to be aware of global warming's negative externalities and take steps to mitigate their own contributions to the crisis. According to a Lever report, 42% of Gen Zers would choose to work at a company whose values they align with over one that offers a higher paycheck. Besides working to earn a living, they also want to feel like they are enacting real change in their fields.
2. A healthy, flexible working environment
Gen Zers value companies that prioritize the mental and physical health of their employees over their sheer productivity. According to the American Psychological Association, Gen Z is the most stressed-out generation. Workplaces have shifted to support Gen Zers by offering hybrid remote/in-person schedules, allowing employees to take mental health days and implementing four-day workweeks. It's important for us to have a balance between work life and home life. Once they log off for the day, they likely won't be on their emails or Slack channels unless there's something urgent. Flexible employers that respect these boundaries are more likely to attract and retain more Gen Z talent. They may even adopt a similar mindset and change their own working habits.
3. A strong sense of community
Gen Zers have grown up with the internet and recognize the importance of forging relationships through online communication, especially during the era of remote work. They want to feel connected to the people they spend the majority of their days collaborating and solving problems with. Employers can facilitate these bonds by planning team-wide activities and implementing strong company values. Efforts to create genuine, healthy ties between the people in the company can be just as important as the work they do. As the most diverse workforce yet, with 47% of Gen Zers identifying as BIPOC, diversity and inclusion initiatives are more important to Gen Z than they are to previous generations.
They want the companies they work for to have teams and leaders representing a wide range of cultural, political and intellectual perspectives. Gen Zers also want to seek out mentorship from higher-ups to foster long-term relationships, receive professional advice and get a sense of growth opportunities within the company. They want to work for people who are generous and care about the personal and professional development of their employees.
4. Ability to make an impact
Gen Z is an action-oriented generation and want to see how their day-to-day work manifests in the final products of the company. When I started my internship at Arise Daily, Heidi expressed that one of her goals was to refresh the website design to make it clearer and easier to navigate. She asked me if I knew anyone in web design, but I volunteered to make the changes myself — even though I didn't have any experience using Wix. I went into the design portal and started making direct changes to the site, learning how to use the platform as I went. When I showed Heidi my progress, she had a knee-jerk reaction — why hadn't I laid out my plans before editing the layout? Where was my reasoning behind picking specific fonts and graphics? I was used to diving into projects and experimentation, and she was more comfortable with thoughtful, measured processes. On Zoom, we talked through her feedback and made changes to the site in real-time. Heidi shifted her mindset from reviewing my work to co-creating with me.
I really appreciated Heidi's willingness to let me redesign her website. It was exciting to have responsibility over a feature that really mattered for her business. Gen Zers value employers who have similar growth mindsets and trust their employees.
5. Living the principles of entrepreneurship and innovation
Even if Gen Zers aren't working at a startup, they still want to work for a company that embodies the principles of entrepreneurship and innovation. They want to move away from rigid tasks and responsibilities and toward learning new skills and wearing multiple hats. Since many of them are new to the workforce and are still figuring out their unique skill-sets and interests, they want to find employers that embrace multidimensionality, trying new things and taking a hands-on approach. They want to feel a sense of autonomy over their careers and look for companies that allow them to express what they are interested in and give them opportunities that match.
This article was co-written with Arden Yum, a student at Yale University and the founder of Peahce Project.
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