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The oldest members of Gen Z, the population segment born after 1996, are leaving college and entering the workforce. How do their expectations and outlooks vary from those of the Millennials who have recently reshaped the modern workplace? Economics correspondent Paul Solman and financial journalist Beth Kobliner talk to Gen Z college students as they approach graduation and anticipate careers.
Generation Z, the group born after 1996, is starting to see its oldest members graduate from college and enter the work force.
While much has been said about how millennials have reshaped the modern workplace, members of Generation Z are beginning to chart their own course, with a very different set of expectations and outlooks for their first jobs.
Economics correspondent Paul Solman met up with financial journalist Beth Kobliner to try to understand what all this means, and to find out how Gen Z is approaching the world of work.
It's part of our weekly series Making Sense.
This is WeWork.
WeWork, where, for a monthly toll, you secure a spot in a shared work space for the young, Wi-Fi, free beer, free coffee in inspirational mugs.
"Make a life, not just a living." So, this is this whole…
These are like very much affirmations.
And perfect for college grads just moving into the job market, right?
But is follow your bliss really a good idea at this point?
I don't know. I wasn't about following my bliss. I was about moving out of my parents' house.
But WeWork wasn't designed for old-timers like me or even much younger youth money guru Beth Kobliner.
Architect Miguel McKelvey, whom I interviewed a few years ago, co-founded it in 2010 for fellow Gen X'ers and millennials.
We're a community company.
A hopping, hip sanctuary for self-starters built to accommodate any work schedule and the jobs of the future.
WeWork is the office space of tomorrow.
So, is this the future of work for the next generation, Gen Z? We gathered a diverse group of soon-to-be college grads. What's the reaction to a place like this?
The second I walked in, I was like, wow, this is nice.
Because it has so many colors, it would be, like, more thought-provoking.
Two thumbs up. Good.
So the optics appealed. But are high-risk/high-reward startups their dream, like, Fourpost, say?
Fourpost is a shopping experience for today's family.
The 18-person firm runs retail pop-up shops featuring trendy brands like Polaroid — yes, Polaroid has made a retro comeback.
So, it's like a cool department store…
Way cool department store.
… for smaller brands that aren't going to open their own outlet at a mall?
Yes, absolutely, or large brands that want test the market, like Marshall speakers is one. Urbanears is a great one, the headphones. You guys are young and cool, so I'm sure you have heard about them.
I'm old, and I have no idea what you're talking about.
They are candy-colored headphones.
OK, cool company.
But our Gen Z'ers had practical questions for Fourpost manager Frannie Shellman.
Saad Kabir, Student:
Compared to like a larger company, right, do you guys offer like a comparable salary?
Yes, definitely. So I would say probably in the 50s range. Like, that would be entry level.
Just happens to be the national average, the national average starting salaries for college graduates, $50,000.
A typical day of work, how do you — from start to finish, how would that look like for you?
We get in mid-morning, and then we're usually working through lunch. There's a lot of late nights. That's something to expect with a start-up, but no one here is going to say, if you need to go home for a family thing, you can't go. We have the benefit of being able to work remotely.
So, flexible work with the great allure of all start-ups, grow fast, move up fast, the dream of millennials, who consistently rank career success and then a good work-life balance as top priorities.
But Gen Z'ers? Kobliner set up a game to test their order of workplace preferences.
Here are five qualities that people look for in a job.
Salary, diversity, health insurance, meaningful work, mentorship. We will give you a little time, less than we gave the kids, to guess their choices.
Well, tied just below the top, a diverse work environment — and Gen Z is the most diverse generation in our country's history — and, big surprise, a good salary.
When you go to college you, you're like, OK, I need to focus on something that can fund me, my husband, my two kids, my house with a white picket fence. So I think that maybe the anxiety is not in getting a job. It's in getting the right job.
This school is $70,000 a year.
As we saw with Gen Z high schoolers in a recent story, the fear of being stuck on the low road of an ever-more two-tracked labor market always lurks.
Gen Z suffered through the anxiety of the Great Recession as kids, so small wonder they're economic pragmatists. A UCLA study found that eight in 10 college freshmen, Gen Z's first wave, think becoming well-off is a top priority, the highest level in the study's 50-year history.
But even more important is securing that first job; 88 percent of graduating Gen Z'ers say they chose their majors with a job in mind, like Saad Kabir, who began, like many of his friends, in engineering.
My brother is a lawyer. And he would tell me the people he graduated law school with, many of them didn't even get a job after law school.
And it was, like, hard because the market was oversaturated. But if you go to a market where you know that there are jobs, I guess there's no anxiety involved. So, since I did education, I'm not as worried, because, in New York City, we always need teachers.
For similar reasons, Lauren Quesada majors in clinical psychology.
My family always says that I will never be out of work because as long as they're alive, there'll be people with problems.
But here's the answer to the quiz: All but one of our students said their top job priority was meaningful work.
How many of you guessed that?
Here's Jacob Clemente, for example.
Meaningful work for me means like both something that I really care about and really, like, I want to make a difference in and something that I think could make a difference and help other people out.
It's definitely still important to me that I'm able to make a living and able to support a family someday, but I definitely want to love what I'm doing and not dread going into work every day.
Jermaine Cail intends to become a pediatric surgeon.
If it's not meaningful, what's the point, in a sense? If you're not really into what your patients are really telling you, why are you going into medicine?
But that prompted one last question from me.
So, have all of you been told by professors or parents or whomever that you're going to probably have to change careers?
And that caused Beth Kobliner to wonder…
Where do you guys learn job skills if you realize you haven't learned them in college?
I would probably go to YouTube or go to some type of Web site that can show me how to do something, like, very quickly.
Missy Dreier echoed Jermaine Cail.
I, like, recently was working on my senior thesis. And I had to last minute learn how to code. And I had never taken computer science or anything like that, but I actually found that just kind of Googling was super helpful, and I was able to do it.
And maybe this is why Gen Z can prioritize meaningful work, because even facing career impermanence, specific skills are easier to pick up than for any generation before.
For the "PBS NewsHour," economics correspondent Paul Solman, reporting from New York.
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Paul Solman has been a business, economics and occasional art correspondent for the PBS NewsHour since 1985.
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