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Work is a four-letter word. OK, not for everyone. But members of Gen Z are getting a bad reputation when it comes to employment. It looks like it’s time for Boomers to step in and help out again. As much as Gen Z hates it.
A new survey from Intelligent.com reads like an indictment of younger workers. There were lots of bad numbers, but here are two to really notice: “38% of employers avoid hiring recent college graduates in favor of older employees” and “58% say recent college graduates are unprepared for the workforce.”
When nearly 40% of employers are avoiding your entire demographic group, that’s a problem. But that’s the result of a survey of “800 U.S. managers, directors, and executives who are involved in hiring.” Welcome to the era of TikTok ruining careers – not just for those who post insipid job comments, but those who post are causing collateral damage across an entire generation.
Gen Z members (I’m told they don’t like the term “Zoomers”) fall in the age range of 11 to 26, so only a small number of them have hit the workforce. So far, the work world is hitting back … hard. Turns out, what younger people call “adulting” and we used to call growing up, well it’s tough.
Yeah, we know. It always has been, for every generation.
A Reddit thread from 2022 was headlined, “Holy sh–. Adulting is hard.” It has nearly 28,000 up votes and more than 3,000 comments. Other similar threads were almost as popular – like “Adulting sucks” and “Can’t handle adulting.”
I won’t try to address all of the problems of life here. So let’s just focus on work. Because if you don’t have a job, all the other problems get much worse – bills, healthcare, dating, renting and even owning pets. Turns out your dog Max expects to get fed. And, if you have kids, they will insist on food, as well. Kids are funny that way.
Much of the problem stems from the bad advice Gen Z is getting and a lot of it comes from the Chinese spy app TikTok. Workers are being told to quit without giving two weeks’ notice, which will likely come back and bite you. And they complain about low pay or are encouraged to take so-called “lazy girl jobs” that the Guardian described as “jobs that are undemanding but well enough paid, with little personal passion involved.”
Even the U.S. Army is facing a “TikTok mutiny” because Gen Z recruits aren’t happy with either food or pay. Apparently, some recruits never saw a war movie or Googled ‘Army life.”
Some new workers are whining about working 9-5, like they are Dolly Parton fans. “How am I supposed to fit my whole life into a 9-to-5 work schedule?” recent grad Piper Hansen asked. She referred to a viral video where another Gen Z-er complained: “I want to shower, eat my dinner and go to sleep. I don’t have time or energy to cook my dinner either. Like, I don’t have energy to work out, like that’s out the window. Like, I’m so upset.”
One recruiter found a Gen Z intern who wanted to work just five hours a day and expected a lot of money to do it. InFeedo’s Sameera Khan explained on X back in July, “I was interviewing a GenZ intern today and he says he is looking for work life balance with not more than 5 hours of work.” He added, “Also, wants 40-50k stipend. God bless the future of work.”
Unfortunately for Gen Z, perception soon becomes reality. Stories like these became commonplace. “Silence of the Lambs” star Jodie Foster publicly complained that Gen Zers in Hollywood can be “really annoying” in “the workplace.” (Movie fan note: Foster is also stunning with Denzel Washington and Clive Owen in the amazing Spike Lee movie “Inside Man.”)
Foster then targeted two of the ongoing criticisms of the younger set – laziness and poor grammar. “They’re like, ‘Nah, I’m not feeling it today, I’m gonna come in at 10.30am.’ Or, like, in emails, I’ll tell them this is all grammatically incorrect, did you not check your spelling? And they’re like, ‘Why would I do that, isn’t that kind of limiting?’”
Yes, laziness and illiteracy are a bit “limiting.”
Even “The View” co-host Joy Behar has hopped on the anti-Gen Z train. During a discussion of the generation’s financial complaints, Behar responded, “There’s a million job openings in this country, get a job!” Behar said.
Now, let me remind everyone, Gen Z isn’t the first generation to have a bad reputation. It was the Boomers’ who spawned the hippies with their guidebook by Timothy Leary, “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out.” Then there were the stoners in the 1980s (Think “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and Jeff Spicoli.”) And they were followed by slackers from the 1990s and early 2000s, including my favorites Jay and Silent Bob.
In the real world, they all grew up and embraced work. Admittedly, none of them were coddled, indoctrinated and then isolated by a global pandemic. So maybe we need to cut Gen Z a little slack and also understand not every complaint they make is a bad one.
Work-life balance, for example. That concept was unheard of by Boomers – much to our personal detriment. All the stats about declining families, lower church attendance and divorce might not be so bad if Boomers had focused a bit more on life outside the office.
And money is something most of us are struggling with. Government might tell you it has good news for the economy, but government doesn’t pay your rent or mortgage and doesn’t go food shopping for you. (Unless you are an illegal alien.) And those prices have all spiked thanks to Bidenomics.
Thankfully, not everyone is giving up on the next generation. MegaMeeting gave HR professionals some tips about how to interview why to hire so-called the younger generation. Some are quite good. It mentioned, they “are digital natives,” “learn fast” and are “independent.” All very helpful, especially for new employees.
Two of the positives it listed might not work for every employer: they “are passionate activists” and “care about company ethics and culture.” Those are great if they agree with you. Not so much if they don’t.
Ultimately, employers will need to adapt some to Gen Z, but the new work generation will have to adapt more to employers. Because they still have lots of options on which candidates to hire.
This has been Adulting, the graduate-level course. Here endeth the lesson.