Put a finger down if you've been personally victimized by a recent trend report about the ways in which Gen Z does and does not want to work. Put a finger down if you're way too familiar with boomers philosophizing about how you do your job, make your money, and live your life (millennial here, can relate). Put another finger down if you've heard the "findings" that your generation is coddled, that you expected upward of 364 mental health days a year, that you'll only work for a company that gives out free merch and massages. (I mean, sure, but how about full-coverage health care?)
Of course, and speaking of assumptions, every generation is known to poke and prod at the one before it, ragging on how different things are from how they used to be. But here's a better idea: Why not just...ask? Find out straight from the source what Gen Z really thinks about the current state of the workplace, about stuff like hiring, hybrid offices, and paychecks?
*clears throat* I give you Cosmopolitan's Future of Work survey, administered to actual members of Gen Z (and also to millennials for comparison) during a kinda fraught "post"-pandemic landscape where companies are reorienting how they manage employees and office life.
The results are a study in contradictions. Gen Z workers want cash, but you don't want to work at the same place for more than a few years. You want your careers to have capital-M meaning, but that meaning shouldn't bleed over into your personal lives. "I think our predecessors saw their jobs as part of their identity," writes one survey respondent. "We don't see ourselves as our jobs—our jobs are just something we do. Gen Z also places a greater emphasis on company culture and values. And if we're investing our time and energy into a company, we want to see value in return."
These principles will undoubtedly influence U.S. workplaces over the next decade and likely for (yup, going there) generations to come. Because it turns out that, contrary to popular belief, Gen Z isn't looking to upend the entire concept of careers. You just want those careers to follow your requirements—and you want all the hiring managers out there to listen.
Keep reading for a deeper dive into the cultural shift plus some make-work-better-for-you-right-now tips. And managers? I hope you're also taking notes.
A surprising number of you want to be in the office.
Just not in the office all the time. More than half of our Gen Z survey respondents said workplace flexibility is a priority for them (68 percent of millennials feel the same, by the way). “I’m hoping hybrid work remains a constant for years to come,” says one. “It’s really nice to have options.” Meanwhile, 24 percent of Gen Z workers prefer a full-time in-person situation, and 21 percent would prefer to be all remote all the time.
Glitzy work “perks” don’t fool you.
"There was a time when many businesses put in 'fun' things like pool tables and break lounges," says certified financial planner Bobbi Rebell, author of Launching Financial Grownups, " but at the end of the day, those only go so far." And not far at all when it comes to Gen Z, according to our survey. Unlike millennials, who are more likely to swap a hefty paycheck for nap rooms and free happy hours, the youngest working generation is ultimately motivated by plain and simple money. Fifty-five percent say compensation is the single most important factor when choosing a job, well above other perks like upward mobility (14 percent), hybrid and/or remote work options (13 percent), inclusive environments (7 percent), and expanded health care benefits (6 percent).
In fact, when asked what they liked least about their jobs, 47 percent selected "my current salary." Eighty-three percent revealed that "money to support myself and/or my family" is the main reason they work at all. "The reality is that everyone has expenses," says Rebell. "Young workers realize that a high salary can buy things that improve the quality of our lives."
You have no desire to become the office golden child
More cash may be the ultimate job focus, but for Gen Z, that's not the same thing as the ultimate life focus. For that, the majority of respondents said, "My mental and physical health," which is not something you want to let work get in the way of.
"I'm not as willing to go above and beyond my job title, and I'm not afraid to leave like some of my older coworkers are," writes one respondent. "I owe the company I work for what they pay me to do, nothing more and nothing less. I feel like millennials and Gen Xers bow down to their companies, but fuck that." Explains another: "I feel like my generation doesn't think they owe their employer anything beyond the baseline. Older generations tend to feel more loyal to employers. I have an aunt in her 60s who brags about not taking vacation days!"
A lot of this stems from already crushing burnout, which 49 percent of Gen Z respondents have experienced (41 percent say it's made them think about quitting their jobs). Many of you blame your employers' inability to adapt to changing workplace needs plus the stress of being asked to be available 24/7. Others note that Gen Z has had to deal with added anxieties that previous generations did not: things like climate change, the pandemic, mental health crises, and outsized student debt. "There's more pressure on young people," says on respondent. "The world is more complicated and complex now, and young people in the workforce have unrealistic expectations placed upon them."
You *do* believe dream jobs exist—and you want one
"Even if we are working to live, I think many of us still believe in chasing that dream job," says one survey taker among the 63 percent of you who think it's out there. (And fun fact: 15 percent of you already have it.) Another respondent suggests that Gen Z believes in dream jobs because of your exposure to so many different types of careers and experiences through a little thing called the internet. Seeing what it's like to be anything from a general contractor to a doctor to an influencer to a chef is as easy as typing the words "day in the life of a [insert any job here]" into TikTok. "Part of being in such a connected culture is that we're all aware of how many dream jobs there are out there," a survey taker writes. "It means that at any given time, I can see the versions of myself that might thrive in different cities or positions and compare my current situation to that."
Modeling the lives we all want for one another is, in many ways, what this whole generation—and the work movement it's spawning—is about.
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