Dear interviewer, please don’t ask me what my five-year plan is
Gen Z is graduating, the economy hasn't tanked (yet ?) and our hallowed institution's coveted rankings are relevant no longer. We're taking the working world by storm, and big businesses are trying to figure us out. This is an open letter to help prep recruiters on interviewing Gen Z grads.
Top companies look to established consultants to learn what Gen Z values and prioritizes. One Deloitte study described, "Growing up in the aftermath of the Great Recession, you might think Gen Z has emerged as a pragmatic, risk-averse, non-entrepreneurial group motivated by job security. Instead, a more nuanced picture emerged."
A nuanced picture indeed. Many reports don't quite articulate Gen Z context. Gen Z wasn't necessarily thinking about the economy, per-se, while in elementary school. Let's reframe some Gen Z values through the lens of 2000s babies' formative memories.
It's true, we do value the following factors when deciding on a job.
Diversity matters, and our career aspirations are high: Barack Obama, our nation's first Black president, was elected in 2008 - third grade
Flexible work styles: Our teachers couldn't get us to stop sending memes during class and our employers aren't going to either. Sorry. And we're going to use acronyms too, ikyk
Change isn't just constant, it's expected: iPod Touch and iPhones (2007 - second grade). 4G's adoption in 2009 (fourth grade) led to iPads and Instagram (2010 - fifth grade), Snapchat (2011 - sixth grade)... The rest is history
We aren't all looking for traditional business models: The Great Recession led to some industry-disrupting unicorns founded in tech (I'm looking at Uber - 2009, Airbnb - 2007, Instagram, etc)
Growth opportunities are key: We grew up under immense pressure during what may be looked back on as the peak of the college rankings and bubble associated with image and prestige. Therefore, we work hard, we're tech-native, and that likely means we expect a lot and work efficiently.
Work-life balance: Remote education impacted all of us. Also, we're over the immense pressure thing.
Emotional well being: Tragic school shootings like Sandy Hook and Parkland happened while we were in K-12. Those safety concerns were a thread through all our educational experiences and some Gen Z may expect their future company to have a public stance aligned with their values.
We actually do care about ESG: Building on the above, Gen Z really does care about environmental, social, and governance. We can see right through flimsy marketing campaigns. We want to know that doing business for good is the company's primary mission.
*The above were listed in no particular order of relevance
Respectfully, Interviewer, I was in key club and browsing prom outfits five years ago. If you asked me what my five-year plan was at that time, I can guarantee you it wouldn't have included putting on a suit and doing this interview. Five years before that I was a middle schooler. Enough said. But please know we are excited to be here, and we're looking forward to getting to know you and learn from you.