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Setting New College Graduates Up For Career Success

While each generation has been met with their own challenges entering the workforce, Generation Z has arguably had one of the most turbulent times, between the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation, and recession fears. As it’s often been the case, it can be challenging for young candidates without previous work experience to land roles; while typically, internships were a way to gain real-world knowledge, COVID-19 and the mandated restrictions prevented many from having those experiences. In an article on Forbes they write, “Generation-Z is facing tough challenges in the job market. Many of this cohort could not secure internships or co-ops while the pandemic raged. In the aftermath of the virus outbreak, there was an overhang of people out of work. Rather than hire a young person without any experience and needing to train them, companies were able to select from hundreds of experienced people who were out of work and desperate for a job.” Here we look at some of the challenges facing Gen-Z candidates and possible solutions moving forward.


The Challenge

For some recent college graduates entering the job market, they may be met with unsuccessful results. In an article on Fox Business they write that, “In a Dec. 2023 study, the New Jersey-based research group Intelligent surveyed 800 U.S. managers, directors and executives who are involved in hiring. The respondents reported that Gen Z candidates struggle to pick up professional cues, causing 39% of employers to favor hiring older candidates. About 60% of employers said they are willing to offer more benefits and pay higher salaries to attract older workers rather than recent grads. For that same reason, 48% of employers are offering remote or hybrid positions to older employees and 46% are willing to hire overqualified candidates, according to the new study.” Additionally in the study, some of the key complaints of Gen Z candidates were their inability to make eye contact during the interview, inappropriate work attire for the interview, and having too high salary expectations. The lack of preparedness for younger candidates doesn’t end just at the interview though. The survey went on to find that “Two in three employers reported that Gen Z employees are unable to manage their workloads, while about 60% said they are frequently late to work and often miss assignment deadlines. Sixty-three percent of employers consider Gen Z employees to be entitled, while 58% said they get offended too easily and are overall unprepared for the workforce.” While some of the findings in the study may portray Gen Z candidates in a negative light, the article is quick to point out that these young individuals also bring many valuable skills and offer a fresh perspective in the workforce. The fact is, Gen Z candidates are the first fully digital native generation, raised in a different technological world, challenged with growing up during the height of COVID-19 and recent social movements have shaped how they view and react to the world.


The Solution Moving Forward

It will take work from both Gen Z candidates and companies to find a solution moving forward for how to best work together. For young candidates wanting to find success in the business world, it may take some effort and adjustments on their end. However, companies also need to do their part. In an article in Harvard Business Review they write, “Having grown up with unfettered access to information, Gen Z seeks to make informed decisions on their own. They need room for experimentation to prove themselves. Thus, in order to keep them motivated, flex your management style and give them greater room and autonomy to explore and figure out improvements in work processes.” They also recommend companies provide frequent feedback. “Annual feedback is a great recap of what happens in the year, but often does not create an opportunity to learn, optimize, and pivot to make an impact on the outcome in real time. Look to provide continuous, clear feedback with real-life examples of what is working or not working, and action steps that increase your Gen Z team’s self-awareness.”