Who are these new job seekers? Born between 1995 and 2012 and influenced by 9/11’s aftermath and the Great Recession, Gen Zs differ from Millennials in some significant ways, according to Jonah Stillman, a Gen Z high schooler and co-author of Gen Z @ Work: How the Next Generation Is Transforming the Workplace.
- They crave in-person communication
- They’re video-oriented
- They use Snapchat and YouTube more than Facebook or email
- They’re the most competitive, realistic cohort to come along since the Baby Boomers
The book was written with Jonah's dad, David Stillman, and is based on a survey of 6,000 Gen Zs as well as interviews with CEOs and generational experts.
“We’re told there are winners and losers, and a good amount of time you’re going to be a loser and you have to be ready for that,” says Jonah.
Putting Gen Z to Work
Olivia Turner displays typical Gen Z traits of being organized and strategic. A University of Maryland honors student majoring in computer science, she landed a 2017 summer internship with Booz Allen Hamilton long before the 2016 Thanksgiving break. Although she’s only a sophomore, the Booz Allen job will be Turner’s third internship.
“This year, I was looking for a defense contractor or an independent, cool tech company internship to get a taste of everything before I have to go out into the world and pick one thing,” Turner says.
Turner’s push to get real world work experience as early as possible and to try out multiple roles are characteristics shared by many of the Gen Zs that the Stillmans surveyed:
- 55% of the respondents said they feel pressured by parents to gain early professional experience
- 75% would be interested in multiple roles within one place of employment
- 84% said their favorite way to communicate is face-to-face
Pay Perspectives and Career Concerns
Princeton sophomore Mikal Walcott, another typical Gen Z who’s done internships with an economic development authority and a grassroots political advocacy organization, hopes to find an international gig that pays this summer.
“Pay is obviously the best, most attractive benefit,” he adds. Other ways that Walcott assesses an internship opportunity include:
- Testimonials from past interns who’ve had good experiences
- Internships that involve interaction with people in the organization at different levels
- The ability to see projects completed by former interns
What Gen Z Worries About
While Gen Zs may want internship compensation, they’re realistic about long-term pay. A global survey of 50,000 high school graduates by employer branding firm Universum found only 55% believe their standard of living will surpass that of their parents.
Employers open to hiring high schoolers may find they can hire Gen Z students before waiting to hire college interns or graduates. Around 60% of the high schoolers surveyed by Universum were open to joining the workforce after graduation if their employer was willing to educate them.
In some ways Gen Z is a lot like older generations. Their job-related worries sound much like those of Millennials and Gen Xers, according to the Universum survey:
- 37% worry their personality won’t match their job
- 36% worry about having no career development
- 28% worry they won’t realize their career goals
- 41% of girls worry that sexual discrimination will limit their career trajectory
Gen Z Icons
Perhaps the most succinct description of Gen Z versus Millennials came from the New York Times. A column by Alex Williams quotes Lucie Greene, the worldwide director of the Innovation Group at marketing firm J. Walter as saying: "Hannah Horvath from Girls is the typical Millennial — self-involved, dependent, flailing financially in the real world. Alex Dunphy from Modern Family represents the Gen Z antidote,” Ms. Greene said. “Alex is a true Gen Z: conscientious, hard-working, somewhat anxious and mindful of the future.”
Stillman’s parting advice for talking to Alex Dunphy-like Gen Z job seekers is both simple and heartening for employers.
“Don’t sugarcoat it,” he says. “Come at it straight with us. We don’t expect a participation award because our Gen X parents were turned off by that. Millennials often come across as thinking employers are lucky to have them. Gen Z feels lucky to have a job.”