One of our copywriters shares a personal story with an industry lesson.
I’m in a coffee shop in Central London, meeting a friend for the first time in a few months. She’s had a rough couple of years caring for a partner with cancer, but they’re better now, and she’s found herself with time to focus on her career.
She graduated in 2021 with a first-class degree in Politics and International Relations from a Russell Group uni. For much of her education, she volunteered with children’s charities and the local Green Party. At University, she was on the committee for two societies, and wrote articles for the campus law magazine. Four months ago, she was excited to find something to pour her energy into. Now, countless rejections later, all she feels is defeated.
Picture it. You’re 21. Recently graduated from a top uni. Throughout your education, you’ve done everything you can to make yourself employable. You hit the job market fresh faced and excited. Ready, and able, to work. Your excitement ends there. You apply for job after job. Grad schemes. Entry level roles. Even apprenticeships that you’re over-qualified for. Only to be met with rejection after rejection. You only need to get lucky once, you remind yourself. So you keep trying. Job applications take days, sometimes weeks. Your friend with the banker dad has landed a cushy role in his company. You take a hospitality job to make ends meet. Something will come along. But it has been two years, and your salary isn’t enough to move out of your parents’ house. All that fresh faced excitement, that willingness to work and climb and excel is gone. You wonder where you went wrong.
This is the reality for much of Gen Z. And it’s certainly the reality for my friend.
But the issues don’t end there. Say you do get a job in your chosen field. You’re ready to prove yourself. Ready to prove that hard work pays off. But you’re still living paycheck to paycheck – like 65% of Gen Z. Still, you count yourself lucky. Compared to the 58% of Gen Z who report they have two or more unmet social needs, such as “income, employment, education, food, housing, transportation, social support, and safety’’, you’re doing okay, right? You cancel your gym membership. You stop giving to charity. Your savings aren’t enough to get you through a month of expenses if you lose your job. There have been redundancies in your company. You’re starting to sweat.
- The newspaper headlines call you lazy.
- Kirsty Allsop says cancelling Netflix will get you on the property ladder.
- Your mum’s friend on Facebook calls you the snowflake generation.
But what’s the real issue? Well, to put it simply, there are many.
- Rising inflation.
- Rising cost of living.
- Higher than average rates of mental health struggles.
- And a lack of opportunities following the pandemic.
To name but a few.
One of the most significant factors for my friend, however, concerns job adverts themselves. Research conducted in 2021 found that 35% of entry level jobs require 3+ years of experience – this jumps to 60% for industries such as software. The obvious question arises – how do I get experience if no one will hire me? The answer, for some time, was internships. Unpaid internships. Or paid internships, but not the kind you’re thinking of. These are internships that candidates must pay for themselves. Though counterintuitive, this might have seemed like a solution when the cost of living was proportionate to the average wage. But with huge swathes of the population struggling to support themselves even with a full-time job, undertaking unpaid work is a luxury only the wealthy can afford.
The reality for much of Gen Z is that finding work in their chosen field is going to be tough. Many, although more financially literate than almost any generation before them, won’t be able to achieve financial independence until well into their 20s.
So, as employers, what can you do?
The simple answer is to shift your definition of an entry level job to one that requires little, or no experience. That’s not an easy shift, especially in such a turbulent financial market, but for you, and for a generation of jobseekers, it’s an investment that will pay off.
For my friend, and for thousands like her, the job search continues. I hope that, for her sake, she’s able to find a job that gives her the security she needs to start building a career. And I hope, more than anything, that employers stop labelling Gen Z as lazy, and start giving them a chance to prove that they’re not.