This year’s crop of college students hails from Gen Z – people born after 1997. They were born into chaos in a post 9/11 world and unfortunately are entering adulthood in the middle of a global health crisis. The world economy is shuddering, U.S. unemployment is skyrocketing, and thousands of Generation Zers will soon flood the job marketplace.
Sounds disastrous, right?
Not necessarily. This week, EBI is focusing on how COVID-19 is affecting the Gen Z population. Even though a portion of Gen Z is graduating college during a global pandemic, they are poised to still come out on top. Here’s why.
Tech-savvy. Flexible. Imaginative. Independent. Driven. These are some of the most common attributes given to the Gen Z population. And they were born this way.
Generation Z has never lived without the internet. They are the first population to grow up with smart phones, texting, apps, and social media. They absorb heaps of information every day because it’s been readily available at their fingertips. The result is an entire population that learns fast, naturally multitasks, and feels comfortable speaking online.
Older Gen Zers are working; Gen Z was predicted to comprise 24% of the workforce this year. And we’re already seeing how their skills are ideally suited to this new COVID-19 employment environment.
ICYMI: Another Gen Z read: Are Summer Internships Ruined Because of COVID-19?
When thousands of employers rushed to deploy remote workforces as stay-at-home orders were issued around the globe, many employees cringed at the idea of having to work from home – especially those employees of the sandwich generation. The struggle to balance work, homeschool their own children, and care for aging parents was, and continues to be, overwhelming.
Gen Z as a whole, however, is still relatively childless, and, although they may not earn as much as their parents did at their age, they are financially risk averse. Translation: Aside from student debt, they live lean and don’t have the caretaking pressures of people older than them.
Combine that with their digital prowess, and the transition to working from home has been relatively smooth. They don’t need as much coaching or assistance to navigate digital tools, they enjoy working independently and can self-manage projects, and they can easily adapt to video platforms because they’ve grown up on camera.
COVID-19 is not only affecting Gen Zers already in the workplace, but it is changing how employers recruit the next wave of college graduates. Career fairs are a staple on nearly every college campus and these face-to-face events place thousands of new graduates into full time gigs.
However, the coronavirus has closed college campuses and forced these career fairs online. While Gen Z may prefer face-to-face communication, their tech-savvy skills help them adapt to the chat room meet-and-greets of virtual career fairs.
AJ Moya, 19, a sophomore at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, is double majoring in supply chain management and marketing. Like every other college student, he’s now finishing his semester at home. Moya recently attended his first virtual career fair, and although it didn’t live up to his expectations, he made the most of it.
“Originally, I thought it would be a bunch of virtual FaceTimes, so I was dressed up and ready to go. But it was just chats with recruiters. It was all typing. So, I decided to be in multiple chat rooms at once to maximize my time. I was talking with 3 different recruiters in 3 different chat rooms from 3 different companies,” says Moya. “It was challenging to make sure I was saying the right thing to the right person and not getting mixed up. I also wanted to stand out and not ask bland questions. It is 100% accurate to say the technology and multitasking skills I have as a Gen Zer helped me during this virtual career fair.”
These examples show how Generation Z has been able to use its knowledge of technology to adapt to a fluid situation. Adaptability is a hallmark of this population; they witnessed their parents struggles during the Great Recession of 2008 and know how to remain flexible and make short-term concessions for long-term success.
That’s why the turbulent COVID-19 economy won’t scare them; instead, they will laser focus on upcoming opportunities in the job market that will provide stability, growth, and protection from a volatile job market. Don’t confuse Generation Z with Millenials. Millenials are free-thinking opportunists who know how to capitalize on trends. Gen Zers are forward-looking analysts who maximize their skills and crave security and safety. Moya is a perfect example. Although he’s two years away from graduating, he’s already predicting the flow of the coronavirus’s economic impact on the supply chain.
The effect will still be there my senior year and beyond. But I’m also hoping the supply chain jobs that dried up globally because of this will start to roll out again. I’ll be ready.
EBI recognizes the difficulties we’re all facing in this challenging COVID-19 environment. From enterprise employers to graduating seniors, 2020 has, so far, not gone as we’d hoped.
But maybe we can learn from the best characteristics of each generation and work together to come out of this stronger, more resilient, and more creative.
If you have some ideas for how all of us can continue to move forward, we’d love to hear about them. Email us, share your idea on our LinkedIn page, or Get to know EBI and speak with one of our experts.
Writer. Digital marketer. Storyteller. An award-winning writer and editor, Tricia O'Connor is the Marketing Content Manager at EBI. Tricia worked as a broadcast and print journalist for nearly two decades writing and producing programming for high-profile networks like ESPN Radio, History Channel, and Hallmark Channel, as well as contributing editorial work to publications nationwide. Tricia joined the EBI marketing team in 2019 and is responsible for content strategy, development, and engagement. Tricia earned a master's degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and is a proud undergraduate alumna of Wheaton College in Massachusetts.