June 23, 2023 | Blog

New Kids on the Block: Gen Z Shapes Its Future

graduates throwing graduation caps in the air

Gen Z is navigating its way into adulthood, leaving school and finding its way into workplaces, government, and businesses while making a mark as consumers. But Gen Z faced unique challenges during its coming of age that shaped how they view and interact with the world, establishing values and priorities that differ from earlier generations. It’s paramount for businesses to understand Gen Z as it wields its growing influence as customers, employees, and leaders in their own right.

Let’s start with how Gen Z teens view their future. College is an expense that does not guarantee a return on investment for Gen Z, and it’s no longer their default plan after secondary school. A majority of Gen Z teens ages 13-18 (59%) do not believe four-year college degree is a guarantee of a good, career-track job, and 57% point to the cost of education after high school as their top concern, according to a survey for Junior Achievement by Wakefield Research. Instead, watch for enrollment in two-year or technical certifications, as a majority (76%) agree it is enough to graduate into a good job.

Upon graduation, Gen Z has expectations of their employers which may seem out of step to older coworkers. This begins even before they sign an offer letter, as 43% of college seniors wouldn’t apply for a job if the salary range wasn’t posted and 47% would consider using an AI bot for help with their resume, according to a Wakefield Research survey for iCIMS. This annual report found a majority of college seniors (54%) expect their future employers to offer flexible work hours, and 41% expect mental health support on the job. Don’t expect Gen Z to mold to a nine-to-five schedule if it doesn’t have to.

That’s not to say Gen Z doesn’t want to work. Quite the opposite. In fact, 52% have a side hustle beyond their main source of income, and nearly 1 in 5 have multiple, according to a H&R Block survey conducted by Wakefield Research. Gen Z is taking its seat at the table, and following different rules as it does. While it’s not a criticism of older generations’ values, it is certainly going to shake things up and stakeholders should take notice.

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