What Early Talent Thinks About the Future of Work

  • Over 50% of students show strong preferences for in-person work where they can be around colleagues and clients. 
  • 70% of students would be willing to stay in a job longer if a company offers opportunities for learning and development.
  • Their biggest concerns center around cost of living, economic instability, and debt. 

Our last article looked at the education preferences of Generation Z. In this survey, we examine the attitudes and perceptions of these high school and college students towards work, the factors influencing their decisions, and some new insights that should help us reshape longer-term work predictions and recruiting strategies. 



While students have better access to an ever-expanding set of tools, online resources, and data, most still rely on the people to whom they are closest in life when it comes to career and calling decisions. Eighty five percent turn to their family members. After that, friends (54%), teachers/coaches (50%), and career counselors and organizations that provide career-specific advice (41%) are preferred. 

Seventeen percent said they would trust colleagues or managers, 14% said churches or religious organizations, and only 11% said career exploration technologies. 


Fifty-four percent of students surveyed would prefer to work in a setting where they can be face-to-face with the people they are helping or serving. Despite what has happened over the past two years, students don’t seem to be daunted by in-person settings. In fact, recent events may have given them a greater desire to be around other people. 

Similarly, 51% of students would prefer to be in an office setting around colleagues and close to their team. Hybrid environments (a mix of home and office) appeal to 50% of students. 

These three options stand in stark contrast to the fully remote option, which only 26% marked as desirable. This may be pretty surprising, given what we’ve heard about work since 2020.





It was no surprise that as students prepare to enter the workforce, they’re most motivated by simply finding a good career. We defined this as “a well-paying career that fits the students’ skills and interests.” Fifty-two percent of respondents marked this as their top priority. This is consistent with responses to one of our previous surveys about higher ed.

A small number of students (1% of respondents) are motivated by remote work. They aren’t necessarily against it,  it just isn’t their top preference or motivator as they get started in the labor market. 

After that, students showed preferences for jobs that would act as stepping stones to other careers (17%), as well as for those that offer a lot of learning and development opportunities (16%).



In this day and age, keeping talent is key. In past research, we’ve found that 50% of students would like to stay in their first job for at least three years (you can read about this in Tallo’s Early Talent Playbook), which also seems to contradict other narratives about younger workers being prone to job hopping. So with this question, we wanted to learn what it would take for employers to keep them for at least that long.

The results show that employers should focus first on offering personal development opportunities. Seventy percent of students would stay in their jobs longer if their employers helped them learn and grow as professionals. After that, 67% students voted for connection, which we defined as being “on a good team with people I really like.” Next, students opted for careers with a greater societal impact, and money came in fourth. This is consistent with other surveys that have shown that meaning is more important than money to early talent. 

Here are the questions and responses. Students could pick more than one option. 

  • Money. I am interested primarily in compensation.
  • Connection. It is important to be on a good team with people I really like. 
  • Company culture. I want to work for a company that has a strong internal culture and good work perks (like company activities).  
  • Employment brand. A company that has great public perception and a great band.
  • Impact. Working in a career or on projects that have a great impact on society, culture, and others. 
  • Flexibility. A company that allows for a lot of work-life balance, flexible schedules, and work options (like remote or hybrid work).
  • Personal development. A work environment that prioritizes learning and development, paying for additional education,. mentorship, and growing up / promoting employees from within to retain them long-term.  



Today, many of us are greatly concerned about the nation’s economic direction. Here, we wanted to get a better sense of how such issues are impacting Gen Z’s career decisions. 

The top concern of high school and college-age students is cost of living. We defined this as “the high cost of living, inflation, and finding a good, affordable place to live.” Given the dramatic rise in housing prices and inflation across the country, it’s no surprise that 82% of students are feeling that burden. And if students are carrying a lot of debt, that just compounds the problem.

Fifty-three percent of the students marked the economic instability of the past two years as one of their primary concerns, and 52% said personal debt and money worries are key issues. 

Forty-eight percent of students said that they’re worried about ending up in a bad work environment. COVID-related issues are a declining concern. Only 1% of students surveyed said they had no concerns. 

Here are the questions. Students could pick more than one response. 

  • Debt and money concerns. I have too much debt and bills to pay. 
  • Economic instability. How the ups and downs of the past couple of years will impact my ability to find a good, stable career.
  • Work environment. I am worried about ending up in a bad work environment, having a negative work experience, being mistreated, and/or let go from my work. 
  • Cost of living. The high cost of living, inflation, and finding a good place/community to live in / that is affordable.
  • Meeting and connecting with people. I think it will be hard to find good places to work, good co-workers, friends, and/or a future spouse.
  • The pandemic. I still have a lot of health-related concerns.
  • Political, societal, and/or cultural instability. I am troubled by covid restrictions, domestic political turmoil, and now larger global threats. 
  • Nothing. I am happy about the direction of the nation/economy. 

How should employers respond?

  • Offer a hybrid model 

While remote work is popular and preferred by many existing workers, employers should not automatically assume that remote work is the best way to attract incoming talent. Many young workers understand that a primarily virtual existence might not help them learn and develop as well as being in-person. If your company is primarily remote now, a hybrid model likely makes the most sense moving forward. If your company is struggling to get Gen X and Millennials to return to the office, Gen Z might be a good place to start getting people together in person again. For more on the attitude of high school and college students toward remote work, check out this survey

  • Focus on learning and development 

As high school and college students prepare to enter the labor market, they’re looking for firms that prioritize personal development and even list it as a benefit. So the more you offer those opportunities and emphasize them in your recruiting efforts, the better your chances of winning and keeping talent long-term.

  • Communicate benefits 

Because many students are concerned about cost of living, economic stability, and debt, they’re looking for work that will help them find real personal and financial security. You should be open about any benefits your company offers that would offset those concerns.


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