Generation Z, loosely defined as the generation of children born between the years 1996 and 2006, was already poised to make history. They were the first generation to have internet access and smartphones available for most of their lifetimes. Raised by technology, some people call them the iGeneration for a reason. This unique perspective gives members of Gen Z an impressive suite of technology and communication skills, though their method of problem-solving tends to differ drastically from their older counterparts.
The oldest members of Gen Z are hitting their early twenties, while younger members prepare to head off to college or join the workforce. This time of transition has been marked by a historic and deadly pandemic, setting back burgeoning careers or stalling academic progress as universities attempt to move online.
What Makes Gen Z Tick
To understand Gen Z, you need to understand the events that shaped them as a generation. Many of the members of this generation remember the Great Recession as a time of immense personal and family struggle. Watching their parents lose their jobs and their older siblings struggle to advance financially has left its mark on Gen Z. A higher cost of living and education than previous generations have made Gen Z entrepreneurial, scrappy, and willing to break barriers to achieve their career goals.
Diversity matters to them. Gen Z prioritizes diversity — across race, gender, and orientation — more than any other generation before them. Companies should expect to walk the walk when it comes to supporting and promoting diversity within their organizations if they want to draw in talent from Gen Z.
Contrary to popular belief, Gen Z is on track to become the most educated generation in history. They believe a four-year university degree is more important than ever and are also on track to accumulate more debt than their Millennial counterparts. They’re hungry to make quick progress in their budding careers and are eager to bring their ideas to the table.
A Rocky Start
For many members of Gen Z, attempting to find and retain work in 2020 has been a challenge. About a third of respondents reported having job interviews canceled in the wake of the pandemic. Another 29% reported receiving reduced work hours, while another 25% were laid off or furloughed. As the economy contracted, Gen Z struggled to get work. The average Gen Z salary decreased about $6,000 since the beginning of the pandemic, and 67% of respondents felt unsure of their career after COVID-19 hit.
Those who were most impacted were those in industries hit hard by the pandemic: hotels, food service, and hospitality. Other industries, such as technology and retail, also struggled in 2020.
How They Are Bouncing Back
If there is one thing Gen Z is known for, it is finding a way to do the impossible. Gen Z’ers continue to adapt to the challenges that 2020 has thrown at them. Many young professionals are learning to adjust and learn new skills to find work post-pandemic. While Millennials prefer to text and Gen X prefers to email, Gen Z enjoys talking with people face-to-face more than anything. Staying in contact with their colleagues via Zoom meetings and video calls is key for maintaining communication with their teams and fighting off social isolation.
Overall, creating a healthy work-life balance seems to be the best way to draw in Gen Z. With the rise of remote work, this has become easier in some ways and more difficult in others. The flexibility that comes with working from home meshes well with creative Gen Z problem-solving. But young workers still crave connection and an office environment they can leave behind at the end of the day.
It will take time to truly measure the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the careers’ and mindsets of Gen Z. This new generation of young workers has seen challenge after challenge, and it will be interesting to see how they continue to rise to meet them.