Gen Z’s Attitudes Toward the Workforce and Education in 2020

Gen Z’s smooth entry into the workforce was blasted into pieces in 2020, in a year that upended careers, put colleges on their heels, and fundamentally shifted the employer-employee relationship.

Tallo is the world’s largest platform dedicated to Gen Z students and jobseekers. More than 1.2 million students and professionals from 28,000 high schools and 4,600 colleges use Tallo to connect with companies or institutions of higher education. This broad cross section provides an unprecedented look into how America’s next generation is thinking about young adulthood and beyond.

This year, Tallo ran surveys every month on issues around COVID-19, diversity and inclusion, career options and more. Below are the top ten findings from a year’s worth of data.


  1. Covid-19 Put Things in Perspective for Gen Z

After being under quarantine for months, we weren’t surprised to hear that by the time summer rolled around, 79% of Gen Z was scrutinizing a company’s response to the pandemic when considering a job opportunity.

The majority of Gen Z is still on track to pursue their preferred geographic location, but 27% agreed that Covid-19 has had an impact on where their future plans may lead them, and more than a third of Gen Z are reconsidering their career choice.


  1. They Used This Year to Be Proactive

What did bored students choose to do with their summer, you might ask? We were wondering too, so as the summer drew to a close we asked Gen Zers whether they felt it was important to establish connections with employers, even if they didn’t have any immediate job openings. Interestingly enough, when we asked this question in 2019, only 59% strongly agreed with that statement. But when we asked again this year, that percentage jumped to 81%.

That proactive attitude extends to their feelings about creating a digital footprint to attract colleges and employers. Only 34% of Gen Z felt strongly about building a professional brand online in 2019, but this year over half of respondents indicated that they now do.


  1. Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice in the Workplace Are Top Priorities for This Generation

Diversity and inclusion were, understandably, important topics this year. The Black Lives Matter protests and other social justice initiatives brought issues of inequality to the forefront of the national conversation, and we wanted to know how Gen Z viewed these movements and how they were prioritizing these ideals in their own lives.

Over 90% agree that a diverse and inclusive work environment is an important factor when considering a future employer, and more than two-thirds categorized a company’s response to social issues as a very important factor in their decision.


  1. The Majority of Gen Z Experiences Discrimination in the Workplace

Along the same lines, Gen Z is very cognizant of experiencing discrimination on the job. This fall, figuring it might be easier to verbalize these concerns following the public attention on social justice movements, we asked how the fear of being singled out plays into their career decisions.

More than a third indicated that they have felt discriminated against in a workplace setting due to race, ethnicity, gender identity or sexual orientation, and 32% of Gen Z decided against applying for a position because of that same fear. On the other hand, the power of a diverse workplace in attracting Gen Z is equally evident, with 69% agreeing they would absolutely be more likely to apply for a job that had recruiters and materials that reflect an ethnically and racially diverse workplace.


  1. The Majority of Gen Z Experiences Discrimination at School

Going into a new school year, we wanted to get a sense of whether students are facing these same concerns on campus. When we asked, we found that Gen Zers aren’t just experiencing discrimination after graduation. Over 50% responded that they’ve felt discriminated against at school due to race, ethnicity, gender identity or sexual orientation.

That same fear caused 25% of Gen Z to decide against applying to a college, while about 27% would be far more likely to apply if the recruiter shared their racial or ethnic identity. These responses all point to the likelihood that the demand for diversity and inclusion at school and in the workforce will only become more pronounced, at least if Gen Z has anything to say about it.


  1. They Are Demanding That Colleges and Employers Utilize Gender Pronouns

This question stood out as one of the most popular and powerful responses we received. When we questioned Gen Z this fall about how gender plays into college and workforce recruitment practices, we were overwhelmed by their responses and the implications. Almost 90% of Gen Z agrees that recruiters and potential employers should ask applicants about their preferred gender pronouns, but only 18% have ever had a conversation with a recruiter or a potential employer where they were asked.

Given the emphasis this generation is placing on gender pronouns, and how infrequently they’ve experienced that respect in the recruitment process, this is an area where colleges and employers should take note.


  1. Gen Z Is Looking for Employers Who Will Facilitate Their Right to Vote

We might have been biting our nails through the weeks leading up to the election, and the week that followed, but we weren’t sure that Gen Z was feeling the same. Historically the United States has seen low voter turnout when it comes to young people, but we had a hunch Gen Z was going to break that trend when we asked for their thoughts a few weeks before Election Day.

Turns out, we were right! A staggering 85% of respondents indicated that future employers encouraging them to vote and facilitating opportunities to do so would be an important consideration in their job search.


  1. This Generation Expects Employers to Invest in Their Employees’ Success

After almost a year stuck at home with their families or parents, we thought that students might be feeling a little less selective about future job opportunities, as long as they were able to leave the house. A few weeks ago, we took our questions to Gen Z, asking them about their expectations when it comes to opportunities for growth. And once again, we were surprised by the results.

As it turns out, Gen Z is much more likely to be interested in jobs that offer opportunities for professional growth, with an overwhelming 99% agreeing that companies should invest in reskilling, upskilling, and learning and development programs for their current employees. When we dug deeper to learn what types of professional development programs were most attractive, nearly half (43%) chose leadership skills.


  1. Location Is No Longer the Deciding Factor in Their Job Search

You can’t underestimate the importance of location, but apparently, if you’re a part of Gen Z, location is no longer a top consideration in the job hunt. And really, after the year that we’ve had, that’s a predictable outcome, particularly with all the investment in resources that support remote work opportunities.

In 2019, 51% of Gen Z considered location to be a very important factor in their job search, but when we asked again this August, that number dropped to 39%, while 42% told us that they already live in a city other than the one where their job is located.


  1. They Prioritize Job Stability, But Are Concerned About Economic Sustainability

This last trend is also a predictable result of these unstable times, when it can seem that job opportunities are few and far between. When we asked back in 2019 how long they planned to stay at their first full-time job, 31% of Gen Z reported they would be willing to keep that position for more than four years.

In August, that number jumped to 35% of Gen Zers who indicated they’d be likely to keep a job for four or more years. However, only 35% expressed being very confident about finding a job that pays enough money to support themselves after graduation.

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