Gen Z is ambitious, pragmatic, and ready to climb the corporate ladder– even though they’re still in high school and college. Learn how your business can start positioning itself now to lure top Gen Z talent.

Move over Millennials, there’s a new “it” generation in town: Gen Z. Rapidly emerging as the “next big thing” for brands, market researchers and trend forecasters, top Gen Z talent is on the cusp of graduating from college and entering the workforce. Unlike Millennials who are stereotyped as self-involved and demanding, the New York Times calls Gen Z “conscientious, hard-working and mindful of the future.”

More than a quarter of America’s population belongs to Gen Z, giving it a slight edge in size over Baby Boomers (23.6%) and Millennials (24.5%), reports US Consultancy Sparks and Honey. While much of this generation is still in their teens, they’re eager to start working. Parents of Gen Z are encouraging their children to find jobs early and independently, without their help. Gen Zers are highly driven to achieve and more than half of all high school students are eager to gain independent job experience. College students are loading up on internships and summer positions to hone in on their dream job post-college.

Understanding Gen Z’s psyche is key to preparing your business for the next generation of employees.

Who is Gen Z?
Roughly defined as anyone born after 1995, this generation is marked by 9/11 and two economic recessions. They’ve grown up watching their parents lose jobs or struggle financially, so they’re more careful about spending and wary of debt, especially student loans. Nicknamed the “iGeneration”, they are the first true digital natives. They grew up with Facebook and smartphones. They’ve never known a world without the Internet. They expect instant communication via messaging apps and spend an average of three hours daily in front of a screen.

What should employers know about Gen Z?
With the first of this generation preparing to graduate from college, Gen Z is already filling entry-level jobs and internships. At first glance, it’s easy to think of Gen Z as an extension of Millennials: another group that’s addicted to smartphones and instant communication. But being 20 in 2016 is very different from being 20 in 2006– and these differences translate into the workplace, too.

  • Giving back comes first. Gen Z cares about social entrepreneurship and giving back. They favor companies with corporate social responsibility that aligns with their beliefs and values. They believe the world needs bold ideas, creativity and optimism to solve the crises like climate change. (For a glimpse into Gen Z’s mindset, check out Adora Svitak’s wildly popular TedTalk from 2010 on why the world needs “childish” thinking to meet these challenges.)
  • Gen Z is chasing the dream job. Gen Z is pragmatic and realistic, but they also believe it is possible to achieve their “dream job” and build a career doing what they love. Nearly a third of Gen Z (32%) said their greatest aspiration is to be at their dream job 10 years from now, according to Fortune. They’re realistic about how tough it may be to find this job, however. An equal amount (32%) say that finding a job is their top concern. More than half report that student loan debt is a major factor when selecting an employer.
  • Career growth counts, too. Opportunities for professional development are essential for luring Gen Z talent. While Millennials seek a workplace culture with flexible schedules, telecommuting/remote work, and transparent salaries, Gen Z cares more about career growth opportunities. Given the fact Gen Z is at the beginning of their careers, this certainly makes sense. However, companies that tout their casual workplace culture may miss out on top Gen Z talent. They’re prepared to job hop in order to grow their career, with 27% of Gen Z reporting that they plan to spend one year or less in their first job.

Gen Z is ambitious and ready to climb the corporate ladder– as long as that ladder belongs to a company that aligns with their values. To attract and retain top Gen Z talent, companies need to offer career development opportunities like mentoring, job shadowing and professional enrichment. Relying on casual workplaces and work-from-home opportunities won’t be enough.