top of page

Navigating Gen Z's Workplace Wants: A Conversation Guide for Employers and Job Seekers

By the way, when I’m talking about Gen Z I’m referring broadly to young people entering the workforce, born around 1997 and after, but please don’t get hung up on the generation speak.



I’m coaching more and more Gen Z job seekers, and I’m seeing some pretty common themes emerge regarding what they’re looking for in their first or next job. You’ve likely heard a lot of this before:


  • Gen Z is looking for a salary that’s going to pay their living expenses and student loans

  • Workplace flexibility is important - COVID proved it’s possible!

  • Development and a path to promotion is a must


What my Gen Z clients aren’t finding from a Google search though are the words they need to sell their value and get what they want in exchange. And from the exasperated tones I’m also hearing from employers, it seems they’re also lacking a common language with job seekers, leading to the conclusions that Gen Z’s salary expectations are unrealistic and that job seekers expect positions above their level of experience. 


Practically speaking, employers and job seekers have to get through these impasses; soon, Gen Z will be the largest generation of workers, and employers need the skills that are second nature to these digital natives. 


In the interest of having better conversations, this is what employers and job seekers need to be doing now to get the right people hired into the right jobs.


Employers

Yep, I hear you. These kids are expecting a lot, and don’t seem to have the experience to back up those requests. Let me tell you, though, from talking to these fresh graduates, they have what you need – it just isn’t necessarily on their resume. 


I’m talking about innovative approaches, fresh perspectives, and a real desire to make a positive impact in the workplace. They are digital natives, highly connected, and possess a strong entrepreneurial spirit. They thrive in collaborative environments and are eager to learn and grow professionally. Were you hiring a professional coach in your early 20s? These kids are, because they’re hungry to grow.


As hiring managers, you might not be able to give them exactly what they expect, so let’s dig into what they’re asking for, and how you can communicate to them what you are able to offer. 


Fair compensation

Gen Z is looking for financial stability, and they also view competitive salaries as indication that your company values and respects their contributions. Communicating salary expectations up front (this is also increasingly the law) will keep both employers and job seekers from wasting their time on positions that won’t fit financial expectations. Also communicate the traditional benefits that your company offers (the oldest Gen Zs are aging off of their parents’ health insurance), and other factors such as flexible schedules or paid training opportunities. Mostly, be direct. If you can’t offer what job seekers are asking for, say so. 


Flexibility

Remote work, flexible work hours, and alternative work arrangements are important to Gen Z, who is seeking work-life balance. Again, be direct about your company’s policies (and if you’re in a position to change them, maybe consider a conversation about changes you can make). When a Gen Z job seeker asks about flexibility and you don’t have clear-cut policies, I recommend turning the question back on them. Find out what their plan is for meeting deadlines and goals, what tools they use for keeping productivity and communication on track, and how they imagine building important relationships with colleagues and clients. Listening to them tell you how they will work in a flexible environment will help you decide whether you (and they) can meet their requests for flexibility. 


Growth

Gen Z craves opportunities for career growth and development. They are ambitious and driven, eager to acquire new skills and take on new challenges. If you’re looking to reel in a great prospect, prioritize professional development, mentorship programs, and advancement opportunities.


Gen Z Job Seekers

You know you’re worth it, I know you’re worth it, but the people you have to convince are employers who probably aren’t speaking the same language as you. Let’s talk about the key steps to articulating your workplace wants effectively to potential employers. 


Research and Preparation

Before entering negotiations or interviews, research the company's policies and culture regarding salaries, flexibility, and career advancement. Understanding the company's values and practices will help you tailor your requests effectively.


Sounds like: “I see that your company is really committed to work life balance - what does that look like in practice?”


Highlight Your Value by Emphasizing Skills

Be prepared to outline your skills, experiences, and the value you bring, and emphasize how they align with the company’s goals and objectives. An employer may see jobs on your resume that aren’t a direct match to the position or industry and think you don’t have the required experience to merit what you’re asking for. It’s up to you to identify the skills you gained from your experience and then connect these skills to the position you’re applying for. 


For example, you may have had a college job tutoring SAT prep. The actions that you did for this job included passing a certification test, meeting with students, and helping students work through a preparation curriculum. The skills you employed and learned through this job, however, can be applied to positions moving forward. To be a good tutor you had to: set achievable goals and create a plan with steps to meet those goals, break complex topics down into simpler and easily understandable terms, adjust your approach according to your clients’ needs, and maintain a patient and supportive attitude even when working with people who may have been very different from you. It’s up to you to break down the skills you used to do this job effectively to demonstrate to a future employer why your experience is worth paying for. 


Sounds like: “I’ve tutored dozens of high school students, guiding them through SAT test prep and challenging them to be their best. I really tried to treat every student as an individual, crafting study plans according to their needs.” 


Boast, Don’t Brag

Boasting and bragging are different and yield different results. Bragging is a good way to come across as young, inexperienced, and cocky. Boasting on the other hand will convey experience and maturity. One way to begin a boast is, "I'm proud to say..." This is a good segue into talking about something that required your action and resulted in your success – like an accomplishment or award. It’s an active statement that shows ownership. Other good phrases to begin a boast are, “I’m fortunate to have…” and “I’m someone who…” 


Sounds like: “I’m someone who really values execution and precision. I bring that attitude to my work and am very good at managing complex projects, working independently or collaboratively.”


Frame Requests Positively 

When discussing salary expectations or flexibility, frame your requests in a positive light. Instead of focusing solely on your personal needs, emphasize how these accommodations can benefit both you and the company. For example, highlight how remote work can increase your productivity and lead to creative breakthroughs. 


Sounds like: “I know that we both want to commit a quality product and I believe I’m a great fit for your team. I want to ensure that the compensation package I’m receiving is commensurate with the value I’m bringing and makes sense for your budget. What opportunities are open for further compensation?” 


Provide Solutions and Be Open to Negotiate

Offer creative solutions or compromises that address both your needs and the company's interests. For instance, propose a performance-based salary structure or suggest a trial period for flexible work arrangements to demonstrate their effectiveness. Approach negotiations with an open mind and willingness to collaborate. Listen to the employer's perspective and be flexible in finding mutually beneficial solutions. Remember that negotiations are a two-way street, and compromise may be necessary to reach a satisfactory outcome.


Sounds like: “I find that I do my best work when I’m well rested and able to dedicate my full attention to a project. A hybrid work model where I’m able to spend 3 days a week remotely would really allow me the flexibility I need to be my best. Do you think we can agree to that if I commit to being in the office two days a week?” 


Express Interest in Growth

During interviews or discussions, express your eagerness to learn, grow, and contribute to the company's success. Ask about opportunities for professional development, mentorship programs, and career advancement to demonstrate your long-term commitment and ambition.


Sounds like: “I’m eager to contribute to your team and I’m curious about growth opportunities. What could the next 3 years look like for someone who is successful in my role?” 


Say Thank You 

After interviews and other discussions, send a thank you note. This can be a message on LinkedIn (yes, you need to have a LinkedIn profile) or an email, and is short and simple. Show that you were engaged and excited by including a link or to an article you mentioned or some kind of personal follow-up line based on a memorable moment in your interview. 


Sounds like: “Thank you again for your time and consideration. I learned so much about the company and the important work your team is doing. Please let me know if I can answer any further questions or concerns you may have about my candidacy.


P.S - It’s so great to meet a fellow space lover. Here’s a cool article on the James Webb you might like: 


Everyone Benefits from Practice

Whether you’re an employer looking to better connect with Gen Z employees and job seekers, or a Gen Z job seeker, the best advice I have is to practice. The conversations we have during job interviews are some of the strangest that we have – the stakes are high, they’re between people who usually don’t know each other, there’s a stark power imbalance, they’re conversations we have relatively infrequently, and they’re often structured by someone external to the conversation (such as HR). Putting in practice is the best thing you can do to both soothe nerves and identify the talking points that are going to perform the best. 






Comments


bottom of page