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5 HEART-based Career Lessons We Can Take From Gen Z

Gen Z career adults sitting around a table

In 2015,  the first members of Generation Z began entering the workforce, and employers have been increasingly flummoxed ever since.

Remembering how Gen Z deftly led the “quiet quitting” revolution on TikTok can help you begin to understand why, but the concerns and complaints about Gen Z didn’t stop there.

A ResumeBuilder.com survey found 74% of managers and business leaders think GenZ is “more difficult to work” with than previous generations, with HALF saying they find it difficult to work with Gen Zers “most or all of the time.” And the complaints about Gen Z have spanned the gamut, from poor communication skills to lack of motivation, with “too easily offended” topping many employers’ lists.  

“The lunchroom used to be a blast,” one manager complained to the New York Post. “Talking s–t was part of the fun.” 

In the same article, another one fretted, “They want to determine when and how they do work.” 

One viral post from Mumsnet, a U.K.-based online forum, lamented the challenges of Gen Z workers, complaining of their “not being willing to ever (I’m not talking often) work more hours.”

Truly, as a generation that refuses to settle for the conventional, Gen Z has earned the label “difficult,” and yet…I believe we can learn a lot from these rulebreakers and rebels. Gen Z is effectively rewriting the playbook for us all as they craft their own careers—from a HEART-based perspective. 

Maybe these so-called “difficult employees” are showing us how possible it is to align our work with our values and create a life we love. 

In this article, we’ll uncover 5 valuable insights we can learn from these rulebreakers and how you can apply them to your own HEART-based career planning. 

Gen Z’s Approach To Work 

Comprising a quarter of the population in the United States, Gen Z is the most diverse generation in American history, and they’re already making waves in the workplace with their unique approach to career and success. With their strong values at heart, they are challenging traditional norms and rewriting long-held work principles. 

Studies have revealed that Gen Zers exhibit a sort of career restlessness, seeking change easily and frequently. They’re also “more likely to report hostile work environments” and “physical and mental health problems.”

According to the World Economic Forum, by 2025, Gen Zers will make up approximately 27% of the workforce, so we can expect to see many more remarkable changes in the next few years—changes that previous generations had believed were unattainable. 

With that in mind, here are some HEART-based career lessons we can all take from this wave-making generation. 

Lesson #1: Choose meaningful work. 

One thing that sets Gen Zers apart from previous generations is their need for meaningful work. With a focus on anti-capitalist values, they reject the idea of “work for the sake of work.” In fact, according to data gathered by Deloitte, “Generation Z values salary less than every other generation.”

As one Gen Zer put it, “I’m not interested in sacrificing 30 years of my life for a handshake and a golden watch.”

So, if they don’t care about making big bucks or climbing the corporate ladder, what does Generation Z care about?

Meaning. Purpose. Their core values. 

You see, it’s not that Gen Z won’t work; it’s simply that they value purpose over paychecks. Collectively, Generation Z demonstrates a determination to find work that is aligned with their personal values. They want work that gives them a sense of purpose and supports the causes they care about. 

They already know the truth that so many of us spend too many years learning: Success isn’t defined by some numerical value on a paycheck. It’s defined by your ability to flourish and make a positive impact. 

Lesson #2: Make work-life harmony non-negotiable.

In the past, career planning has been about climbing the corporate ladder, working long hours, and putting your personal life on hold for the sake of your employer. But not for Gen Z.

Gen Z adults balancing work and life

It’s as if they got one glimpse of “hustle culture” and said, “Nope, not for me.” And all the rest of the generations said, “Wait. You can do that?”

Gen Zers understand that burnout is a real thing. They’ve seen their parents battle it, so they consciously try to avoid it themselves. 

They don’t allow themselves to be constantly available 24/7. Instead, they set healthy boundaries, use their PTO, and log off at 5 p.m. because work does not equal life. While they value promotions as much as anyone else, it means little to them if it comes at the expense of their mental health or physical well-being.

Gen Z shows us that a HEART-based career is all about finding harmony between work and play.

So, let’s take a page from their book. Guard your time at home as precious, use your hard-earned days off, and commit to always logging off at a reasonable hour. Most importantly, remember: Your career should enhance your life, not consume it. 

Lesson #3: Embrace change. 

Most of us were encouraged to stay with one company or, at least, in the same field our entire working lives, and we’ve tried to do it, often battling feelings of failure when we didn’t. 

This is not the case with Gen Z.

Gen Z has witnessed firsthand how globalization disrupts traditional career paths. Instead of resisting or complaining about these changes, they have embraced them.

According to Newsweek, Gen Zers are notable for the way they “regularly dart between roles, industries, and locations.” 

“Squiggly careers” (coined by authors Sarah Ellis and Helen Tupper in their 2020 book of the same name) are career pathways that don’t follow a vertical line to the top of a company or industry. Instead, these nonlinear (or “squiggly”) career paths Gen Zers take are fluid and changeable. 

Following a “squiggly career” approach means developing a HEART-based career plan and pursuing the different opportunities that align with your passions and values. Using the wisdom of Gen Z, we should embrace change as a natural part of life—instead of resisting it. When you do, you’ll realize you’re free to explore new paths, take more risks, and discover what truly makes you happy. 

Lesson #4: Challenge the status quo.

If there’s one statement that will not fly with Gen Z, it’s this: “We’re doing it this way because it’s the way we’ve always done it.” 

As so-called rebels and rulebreakers, they’re absolutely NOT going to follow a bunch of norms blindly, and I admire them for it. 

Gen Z has cracked open our workplace rules and made us all look at them again. They need to know why.

Why do you have to dress a certain way at work? Why do you have to go into the office when your work could be done from home? Why do you have to follow a set hierarchical chain when there’s a much faster way to get things done?

From accelerating the move to more relaxed dress to demanding flexible work options, Gen Z has changed the rules and set an example for all of us to look closer at the things we accept as the norm. To be more like Gen Z, try looking at what we accept as normal and ask yourself, “Why?”

Lesson #5: Hold your employer to a high standard.

Maybe through modern parenting practices, Gen Z was raised with more self-confidence. Or maybe as a techie generation, it’s the outspoken nature of the internet where you can say anything. For whatever reason, Gen Z is less afraid than previous generations to speak up and ask for what they need/want in the workplace. And if they feel disrespected or undervalued at work, they are quick to leave.

In job searching, their focus isn’t solely on securing a job; it’s about finding the right job for them. A survey conducted by Deloitte in 2022 revealed that even though they have just entered the workforce, 37% of Gen Zers have already turned down a job or an assignment due to personal ethical concerns. 

Generation Z wants their workplace to be a safe and inclusive environment, and they won’t settle for less. In fact, in a survey by Tallo, a whopping 99% of Gen Zers surveyed said they consider workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) “important,” with 87% calling it “very important.” (In that same survey, 80% of Gen Zers said they would be more inclined to apply for positions at companies that offered resources for individuals who identify as neurodivergent.) 

With their high standards in place, Gen Z seeks out companies whose values align with their own convictions—values often centered around environmental sustainability and social justice issues. They want to work for organizations with a “people over profits” approach and a commitment to responsible global citizenship.  This includes addressing societal issues like sustainability, climate change, and hunger.

As I mentioned, many Gen Zers have a negative view of capitalism, but they recognize their power to affect positive change from within the system. 

The Bottom Line

The nature of work is evolving. For many people, I get that that feels scary. But Gen Z has shown us that finding meaning in our work is possible, and by doing so, we can lead more fulfilling lives.

If you want guidance on incorporating these HEART-based career lessons into your own life, Flourish Careers is here to help.

Together, we can create a career that aligns with your values so you can truly flourish.

September 9, 2023

5 HEART-based Career Lessons We Can Take From Gen Z

5 HEART-based Career Lessons We Can Take From Gen Z

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