Wednesday, June 12, 2024

For recent college grads, there’s good news and not so good news

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Fun time to be a Gen Z?

Not so much.

Many of this year’s college graduates started at the height of COVID-19’s remote learning and campus lockdowns. And many didn’t walk at their 2020 high school graduations.

Now that they’ve wrapped up final exams, some of those coming amid chaotic nationwide protests, they’re entering a job market that won’t be a breeze.

While most graduates believe they’re ready to enter the “real world,” even the best candidates face a seemingly endless web of filling out job applications, ambiguous timelines and countless rejections.

Yes, on the surface, the U.S. job market continues to be strong.

But getting on a path to a well-paid job in finance, consulting and technology has become more difficult, with greater competition for fewer entry-level positions.

As if not challenging enough, hiring has slowed down to more reasonable levels, and the basics of skills and prior experience are now valued much more than college degrees.

Gen Zs are venturing into a workforce where remote and hybrid work has now mainstreamed. That’s both good news and not-so-good.

Gen Z seeks flexibility and work-life balance, while many companies now prefer to see their bright, shiny faces in person on weekday mornings.

We can all see the disconnect here.

Reshaping the modern workplace

With Gen Z expected to overtake baby boomers in the workplace over the next few years, these preferences are reshaping the current workplace.

According to Handshake, a popular Gen Z hiring site, nearly two-thirds of college students say they’re more likely to apply for a job with a flexible schedule. Only 11 percent want to fully work in-person.

Most younger employees, not just Gen Z, want flexibility, both in days at work and hours worked. Yet they also want a mentor relationship that’s present and available.

Other than, perhaps, a past internship, they bring little to no experience. They don’t bring the kind of “hit-the-ground-running” skills that most jobs now demand.

Then there’s the matter of compensation.

Gen Z wants to be paid what they feel they are worth, rather than what the market in their chosen field is willing to pay.

Younger employees have also started to shake up company culture with more casual attire and communication styles, and more frankness about mental health and employer accountability.

Watching their parents deal with financial crises caused by the Great Recession also has made them more pragmatic.

But as long as the economy continues to chug along nicely, companies large and small will keep hiring to meet demand.

Selective about their new hires

Most companies are now more selective about new hires. As I’ve mentioned before, they’re more interested in experience and skills rather than your level of education or prestige of your degree.

Another change is that employers are no longer impressed with the attitude of “you need me more than I need you,” because that’s no longer the case.

Most companies are staffed up to the level where they can comfortably function. They’re looking for specific talents and skills that fill a void.

Thankfully, having a positive, “will-do” attitude is back in vogue.

Sell me on why I should hire you, based on what skills you bring to the job, and how your education supports those skills

Networking is as important as ever. Who do you know in my company that can walk you into my office and vouch for you?

Tell me how you will be productive immediately, how you want to take on responsibilities, and how you’re a team planner, remote or not.

Show me you’ve done your homework. You know my company and what we do, who our key clients are, what markets we serve and our corporate goals.

Tell me what you can do for me, not the other way around.

Whatever your age, skills or experience, present yourself as a mature professional with a great attitude and the skills my clients need.

Do all that and there will be, after lots of interviews and kissing frogs, an exciting opportunity for you.

But you’ll need to work harder to find it.

Blair is co-founder of Manpower Staffing and can be reached at

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