Several factors in 2020 (we still see you, global pandemic) are contributing to an unexpectedly tough job market, especially for first-time job seekers like Gen Z. This, in turn, is contributing to lifestyle changes that many members of Gen Z didn’t see coming—one of them being the infamous “moving back home” step. In a recent survey, we found that the majority of Gen Zers, 66%, currently live at home.
If this is you, know you’re not alone. If this is you and currently living at home is not your ideal scenario, we have a few helpful tips to make your job search stand strong against the forces of 2020.
Turn your “Gap Year” into a “Leap Year”
Gen-Zers are no strangers to the voluntary “gap year” concept of taking a year off between high school and college, or between graduating and entering the workforce. In 2020, however, this gap year may not have been planned. If that’s the case, there are still plenty of ways to transform your gap year into a “leap year.”
Making 2020 a leap year is all about showing your future employer how you’ve used this time productively to better yourself. Maybe that means preparing for continued education by working part-time or full time for a company like Starbucks or Publix that offers tuition assistance. Maybe you no longer spend time on campus leading clubs, sports teams, or student organizations, but you are helping younger siblings with their online learning, or have started volunteering virtually. It could also mean you’re harnessing an entrepreneurial spirit and are drafting a business plan for that idea you’ve always had.
Whatever it is, commit to it, make the most of it, then be ready to showcase it to a potential employer. Doing so will emphasize that despite an unprecedented year, you’ve committed yourself to grow in unconventional ways. This is a key skill employers will keep an eye out for.
Don’t lose sight of what matters
Gen Z is continuing to distinguish themselves from other generations, and part of that is by developing—and sharing—their strong opinions about social justice issues, diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and politics. In one of our recent surveys, we found that the majority of Gen Z cares greatly about connecting with companies focused on a diverse and inclusive work environment. The vast majority would “absolutely” (69%) or “probably” (21%) be more likely to apply for a job that had recruiters and materials that reflected an ethnically and racially diverse workplace. Additionally, nearly one in three Gen-Zers have decided not to apply for a job because they feared being treated unfairly because of their gender, ethnic, or racial identity.
When it comes to issues of social justice, 68% of Gen Z said that it’s important for their employers to support a cause they care about, and the causes at the top of their lists are human rights and healthcare/human services.
If you know what you want, seek out a company that aligns with what’s important to you. While you may not land your “dream job” initially, getting in with a company that aligns with your top priorities is the first step. Perhaps the strongest piece of advice I can give you is: don’t wait to start making connections. Network often, and network early.
We’ve found that 81% of Gen Z strongly agree that it’s important to establish connections with employers even if they don’t have an immediate job opening. Timing is a critical factor in the job search process, and making—and maintaining—strong connections with potential employers will give you a significant advantage when it comes time for them to hire a new team member.
Finding the “right fit” is a two-way street
Here’s a secret: Just as you’re targeting your job search to align with your priorities and greater sense of purpose, companies will be targeting their candidate search to align with theirs. When it comes time for a job application or interview, be honest about what you’re looking for and what you’re able to contribute.
At Tallo, we found that Gen-Zers are looking for more job stability than their predecessors: less than 6% are very likely to participate in the gig economy after graduation, and 51% want to stay at their first full-time job for at least three years.
Recruiters know that finding an employee who is the “right fit” will lead to greater job satisfaction, higher productivity, and ultimately better employee retention. Internal roles, team structures, and company goals may shift, so your future employer wants to invest in someone who aligns with their company’s bigger picture focus.
Gen Z is entering the workforce in a tough job market when much of the workforce is working remotely. While this carries a suite of challenges, it’s also a chance for important opportunities. Use this time to reset, rethink, and re-strategize. Take a beat to figure out what is really important to you, and where that sense of purpose meets economic opportunity. If living at home isn’t where you want to be right now, stay focused on transferring your skills and passions into your next career step forward.
Casey Welch is the CEO and cofounder of Tallo, a digital platform that matches talent with opportunities.