As a new wave of Generation Z workers (born between 1997 and 2012) begins to enter the workforce, they’re faced with the same challenges as generations before them. But they also have a few advantages: In such a tight labor market, the chances of finding employment are good. In addition, developments in technology have led to a number of jobs that didn’t exist a decade ago.
Even faced with a seller’s market when it comes to talent, Gen Z job hunters could use a few words of wisdom to help them make the best decisions and moves as they embark on their careers in earnest. So, we consulted some professionals in their closest elder generation—millennials—to share their hard-won advice and shave a few degrees off the learning curve. Here’s what their more seasoned counterparts wish they would have known before accepting their first jobs.
Don’t always jump at the first offer
After Fabiana Melendez, a publicist with Zilker Media, a public relations firm in Austin, Texas, finished college in December 2016, her job hunt wasn’t going as quickly as she had hoped. She wanted to work in public relations—the area in which she had majored—but wasn’t having any luck landing a job. So, when she was offered a position at an advertising agency, she jumped at it. “I was so excited to just have a job that I took the first one that hired me,” she says.
But, Melendez was soon dissatisfied. She wasn’t doing the type of work she wanted to be doing. If she had it to do over again, she says she would have not taken the first job offered to her.
“The first thing I would do would be to slow down and really think about not just the industry I wanted but the type of job I really want,” she says. In marketing, advertising, and public relations, job titles have changed, and the responsibilities are constantly evolving. She says she would have been less seduced by a 401(k) plan and office perks and focused more on landing great work at a company with a strong culture.
Bottom-Line Advice: Have a clear vision in your mind of the job you want, pursue it, and hold out for it as long as you can.
There are jobs out there you don’t even know about
As the world of work evolves, hybrid careers and offbeat occupations are increasingly common. Website strategist, consultant, and speaker Joe Martin says he’s the world’s first digital marketing consultant for food tours. Rather than prepare for jobs as accountants or bankers, Martin suggests that people find a cause or activity they love and look for the little-known jobs that may make them happy.
He says that before he accepted his first job, he wishes someone would have told him just how many different jobs there are out there. “I think I was very narrow in my understanding of different professions and stuck to the major things. I didn’t know enough about the different types of jobs, or companies, I could have created,” he says. So, whether you want to do creative work from home, write code for video games, or figure out how to move goods and people around the world, there’s likely a way to get paid—and sometimes, to get paid very well—to do just that.
Bottom-Line Advice: Get to know the supporting roles in the starring career categories. Think about how to turn what you love into a job that you’ll love even more.
Negotiate beyond salary
Joey Price, CEO of Jumpstart:HR, an HR outsourcing firm, was working as a temporary employee at a Washington, D.C., law firm, when he got his first full-time job offer. He says he jumped at the offer—including the salary, which was in the neighborhood of $38,000 per year.
In hindsight, he realizes he shouldn’t have taken the first offer without trying to negotiate. “I didn’t know that, A) you could and should negotiate salary, and B), that you could negotiate other benefits as well,” he says. (This is often true, even when you don’t have much experience.) Companies often have a range of possible salary and other compensation for various positions.
He realized he may have been able to get a bump in pay, as well as tuition reimbursement, additional vacation time, and even work-from-home options, since his commute was lengthy. “I didn’t think to negotiate things like a flex work schedule or even the ability to work from home on some days,” he says, which would have saved both money and aggravation.
Bottom-Line Advice: Research salaries in your field so you have an understanding of how much you can reasonably negotiate. Also, think about the benefits that are important to you—and ask for them. The worst the prospective employer can say is, “no.”
Don’t be afraid to spread your wings
After graduating from the University of Virginia in 2015, Chanhong Luu returned home to Martinsville, Virginia. She wanted to be a writer and visited local job fairs and scoured local listings to find opportunities. But, finding writing work in such a small town was difficult.
Then, a friend moved to Washington, D.C., and needed a roommate. It was then that she began considering the possibility that she could move out and afford living on her own in an area where writing jobs were more plentiful. She began looking on other platforms, including Craigslist, and expanded her job-search horizons. She landed a copywriting job at a designer consignment business. She stayed at the job for 14 months before returning to graduate school.
Bottom-Line Advice: Widen your radius. Certain areas may offer more opportunities in your field—plus the chance to make it on your own.