Gen Z faces struggles and stereotypes entering the workforce

Young job seekers attend a job fair hosted by the Gregory Jackson Center for Brownsville, Nov. 15, 2016, in New York. For many young Americans entering the workforce, finding a job at all would seem like a win.

Young job seekers attend a job fair hosted by the Gregory Jackson Center for Brownsville, Nov. 15, 2016, in New York. For many young Americans entering the workforce, finding a job at all would seem like a win. (Mark Lennihan, Associated Press)

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SALT LAKE CITY — For many young Americans entering into their roles in the workforce, finding the right fit can be hard. For some, finding a job at all would seem like a win.

Andrew Conner, who graduated last year from Biola University in business administration, wrote in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that he considers himself lucky to get a job offer even if the starting pay isn't very negotiable.

"I applied to nearly 30 jobs this year, and that seems a pretty low number when I hear about what my peers are doing. I was networking, reaching out to recruiters directly, and continually reviewing my résumé and my LinkedIn and ePortfolio profiles," Conner said. "And after all this, I was lucky to receive direct rejections from seven employers, got interviews from two, and was ignored by the rest."

On the other hand, when considering whether or not to hire a member of Generation Z fresh out of college, employers seem to have some concerns of their own. According to a new survey by the online magazine Intelligent, hiring managers' concerns with younger candidates, specifically Gen Z, boil down to a few beliefs they have about the generation — they're lazy, too political and self-entitled.

Last month, Intelligent asked 1,268 employers to understand their concerns, and this is what they found:

  • 64% percent are concerned about employing someone right out of college.
  • 50% have grown more concerned in the last five years because they believe Gen Z has a poor work ethic, is too political and lacks basic job skills.
  • 30% are concerned about hiring new graduates following the pandemic and the pro-Palestine protests.
  • 22% of employers noted they were less likely to hire a college student who was involved in the pro-Palestine protests.

"The reluctance to hire protesters stems from concerns that they may exhibit confrontational behavior (63%), are too political (59%), or could potentially make workers uncomfortable (55%)," according to the study.

"Additionally, some business leaders perceive protesters as liabilities (45%), dangerous (40%), lacking adequate education (24%), or holding conflicting political ideologies to their own (23%)," the study found.

Chief education and career development adviser Huy Nguyen said the idea that new graduates may be entitled or lack certain skills is not a new assumption, but concerns about how politically vocal they are and how they act on it could be a problem.

"Employers seem to be worried about distractions from their company's business productivity goals and potential disruptions if they bring in outspoken employees fresh out of the college campus protest cultural environment," Nguyen said, per Intelligent. However, "Employers should be cautious about making generalized assumptions about Gen Z."

He added that recent grads "need to directly prepare to address misguided stereotypes about their qualifications and mindset through developing their personal brand and demonstrating their experience."

But just like the circle of life, the job market, too, will age out, and newcomers will take over. Making up nearly 2 billion of the world's population, Gen Z will account for 27% of the labor force in 2025, according to Zurich Insurance Group.

Born between 1997 and 2012, the first generation to be raised entirely in the digitalized age, and which spent part of their education in quarantines and lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic and lived in arguably the most politically polarizing of times, their upbringing was met with some unique experiences to be sure.

But it doesn't have to be all doom and gloom.

Growing up "in a highly digital, interconnected and fast-paced globalized world, Gen Zs feel that there are few or no boundaries, be it in their real or virtual lives," Valerie Malcherek, a Gen Z employer branding specialist at Zurich Switzerland said. "And they believe business has a significant role to play when it comes to addressing social and environmental issues."

It is also the first generation to not prioritize salary above all other job factors, according to Deloitte. "If given the choice of accepting a better-paying but boring job versus work that was more interesting but didn't pay as well, Gen Z was fairly evenly split over the choice."

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Emma Pitts


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