Gen Z and Breaking Career Molds

October 14, 2021

By: Eliza Rudalevige

Year by year, young people take over more and more of the workforce, bringing with them new areas of expertise and a fresh perspective. Gen Z is no exception; by 2030, this critical cohort is projected to make up 30% of the U.S. workforce. However, Gen Z isn’t interested in continuing the exact trajectory of the current labor market. Gen Zers break career molds in a variety of ways, including focusing on self-advocacy, pushing the boundaries of the traditional workspace, and honing their entrepreneurial skills. 

Especially after almost two years of an emotionally and physically taxing pandemic, Gen Zers value work-life balance. “Self-care” is both a millennial and Gen-Z buzzword. But while millennials take this to mean bubble baths and glasses of rosé, Gen Z has redefined it as knowing your own needs and setting boundaries. This mentality extends to the workspace. However, this doesn’t mean that Gen Z is lazy or unwilling to put in the hours; it just means that they advocate for healthier hours, expectations, and environments. And if they do work beyond expectations, Gen Zers expect to be compensated; one survey suggests that 58% of Gen Z would work nights and weekends for higher pay. Although many older and/or more conservative individuals have labeled Gen Z a generation of “snowflakes,” the truth is that they simply value respect—for themselves and others, no matter their identity—extremely highly and will call out injustice when they see it. This is the kind of workplace that Gen Zers want to operate in, and, although it rarely exists in the current labor ecosystem, it is definitely something to strive for. 

Gen Zers aren’t tied to the idea of a traditional work space, either. The pandemic obliterated our conception of a communal office work space, and the widespread use of group video call apps like Zoom and Microsoft Teams have allowed greater flexibility when it comes to where and when we work. This flexibility is especially appreciated by Gen Z, who, as digital natives, have no trouble picking up on new technology. 

Above all, Gen Z doesn’t want to feel stuck in their jobs; they’re looking for long-term careers with security and opportunities for growth. Many Gen Zers take unconventional approaches to reaching this outcome, though. While some prefer the internship-to-job pipeline, traditional interviews, or an office setting, many Gen Zers have decided to take their future career into their own hands and start businesses. Social media has also allowed savvy Gen Zers to self-promote and gain large followings without established companies behind them. Whether it’s with a polymer clay jewelry boutique that makes behind-the-scenes TikToks or coding a new app, Gen Zers everywhere are demonstrating their ambition and ingenuity.

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