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Are Gen Z Grads Facing a Job Market That’s Rooting Against Them?

Every generation seems to face biases when they enter the workforce, and it appears Gen Z grads are no different. A recent study by shows that 40% of business leaders believe recent college graduates are unprepared for the workforce. Of the business leaders who say Gen Z is unprepared, 88% say this is truer now than of grads over three years ago, and 94% admit they’ve avoided hiring Gen Z grads.

So, what’s the deal? First, let’s take a closer look at the findings. Among the business leaders who feel Gen Z grads are unprepared for the working world:

  • 50% of business leaders think the lack of preparedness is due to parents, 46% say educators, and 48% say the pandemic.
  • The majority (88%) say it would be helpful if colleges offered office etiquette classes.
  • 57% have experienced recent graduates asking for an unreasonably high salary request. (Half had a candidate ask for $100,000 when most of those positions offered $70,000 or less.)

Searching for research to refute this, we found something even more abysmal: Resume Builder reports that 49% of managers say it’s difficult to work with Gen Z all or most of the time. A whopping 74% believe Gen Z is more difficult to work with than other generations. They even admitted they would prefer to work with (gasp) Millennials. In this case, the respondents felt Gen Z grads lack traditional technological skills (like MS Office), effort, and motivation. 

Now that we’ve insulted an entire generation that will soon make up 27% of the workforce, what can Gen Z grads do to combat this distaste for hiring them?

You could start with patience and understanding. You may be too young to remember this, but the Millennials before you were deemed the absolute worst employees ever, mainly because they questioned the status quo. Turns out, their ability to adapt and innovate has made them great post-pandemic leaders. The slacker Gen Xers before them now hold 36% of all the power positions in the workforce. And don’t sleep on the Baby Boomers. They were a mixed bag of disruptive thinking in their day. Workplace attitudes towards Gen Z grads may simply be part of that “kids these days” mentality.

“People have complained about younger generations for thousands of years. In fact, looking down on the generation that comes after you could simply be human nature,” writes BBC’s Katie Bishop.

You can’t change the year you were born, but you can counteract some of these biases while job searching in the following ways:

  • Take a hint. Match your strengths and skills to each job description and the information recruiters give you. We’re talking exact phrase matches because employers may use specific jargon and keywords to plug into their Applicant Tracking System (ATS) for reviewing resumes. Calling yourself “motivated” when the job description asks for a “go-getter” may be just enough of a difference to get you overlooked.
  • Capitalize on your “old soul” attributes. Very few organizations are looking to hire entry-level professionals already hell-bent on disruption. Take time to assess and highlight the traits and skills you have that align with being responsible, reliable, collaborative, and committed. Save the altruistic lingo and ideas on how you’d love to change things up for later. And don’t pursue a job with a company that will need to change its ways to please you. Chances are, it won’t.
  • Be realistic about compensation. Negotiating your salary from the beginning is a terrific practice that we fully support. However, it’s important to research and be realistic about salary expectations. Never before have job seekers had so much access to salary and benefit data: use that to your advantage. While asking for $50,000 over the job offer (as many Gen Z grads have been doing) may feel necessary to put you on a more comfortable financial trajectory, it’s likely to put the job offer at risk.
  • Find where you’ll be appreciated. While you may need to put some thought into highlighting the attributes that outshine your generational label, you shouldn’t have to change who you are for the right employer. Many organizations are on board with disrupting hustle culture, prioritizing mental health in the workplace, giving young workers a seat at the table, offering satisfying and nicely compensated entry-level careers, and more.

Gen Z grads are valuable and desperately needed additions to the workforce, whether employers show their appreciation or not. Be mindful of the biases that might prevent you from getting your foot in the door and work to highlight your non-generationally tied strengths while meeting employers more where they’re at with salary and needs.