Generation Z and the Role of the Career Development Professional in the Workplace

By John Balentine

Who is Generation Z?

Generation Z, born between 1994 and 2010, ages 6 to 22 years old, currently represents 23 million Americans. In 2016, the first group of Generation Z-ers graduated from college and entered the workplace (Schawbel, 2016). This generation makes up the first truly digital and global generation that was born into a world with the Internet, smartphones, and constant connectivity. Even though their predecessors, the Millennials, are also technology-savvy, educated, and want to have an impact on the world, Generation Z has their own set of work values that cannot be ignored.

What are the Work Values of Generation Z?


Generation Z tends to be comprised of tech-savvy self-starters who have a strong desire to be autonomous and entrepreneurial. In a recent survey of high school students, 72% of respondents named “entrepreneurship” as their preferred career choice (Labrien, 2016). According to Patel (2016) the vast majority (76%, as compared with 70% across all working generations) believe they are the owners of their career and will drive their own professional advancement. Nearly half (49%, compared with 32% across all working generations) also want to have their own business.



Although motivated by the pragmatism of money and job security necessitated by today’s economy, members of Generation Z also want their careers to have a purpose. They are passionate about individually relevant social and cultural issues, and they want to work for companies that share a commitment to their cause(s). In a 2015 research report from Robert Half Inc., 30% of Generation Z respondents said they would take a 10-20% pay cut to work for a company with a mission they care deeply about. Generation Z-ers want to make a difference at work and in the world, and they are willing to put in time and effort to make big things happen.


Communication and Collaboration

Interpersonal interaction is highly important to Generation Z. However, somewhat surprisingly, communicating via technology, including social media, is far less valuable to them than face-to-face communication (Biro, 2015). Even though they are proficient with technology, most Generation Z-ers prefer to collaborate with small groups in an office setting rather than working alone virtually. According to Patel (2016) Generation Z may be more independent and entrepreneurial than previous generations, but they enjoy collaborating with coworkers and prefer environments with multilevel participation and contribution.



How Does Generation Z Impact the Role of Career Development Professionals?

It is increasingly important for career development professionals to understand and become familiar with the characteristics and work values of Generation Z, to better assist its members with career development needs and to bring out the best in this emerging young workforce. Here are a few ways a career counselors can help Generation Z clients with professional preparation:

Assess Entrepreneurial Desire

When helping Generation Z individuals evaluate personal interests and values, career counselors should consider administering an entrepreneurship-focused self-assessment to help determine level of entrepreneurialism and provide targeted guidance for the client. There are several entrepreneurial self-assessments and surveys available at no cost that provide instant scoring and feedback. Three examples are the Entrepreneur Self-Test from the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, the Entrepreneurial Self-Assessment Survey provided by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, and the Small Business Readiness Assessment from the U.S. Small Business Administration. Before administering these types of self-assessments, career counselors need to emphasize to their clients that these assessments are not tests, they do not predict business success, and no single set of characteristics accurately describes all entrepreneurs. In addition to self-assessments, the counselor can help increase a client’s career awareness by helping identify apprenticeship, internship, or job shadowing opportunities with entrepreneurs, to help them witness firsthand the work environment and application of professional skills in their occupation of interest.


Connect Passion to Company Mission

When helping with job searches and preparing clients for interviews, counselors can emphasize the importance of researching an organization’s mission and vision statements, determining how it aligns with their own passions. This type of insight can be helpful when conducting informational interviews, preparing cover letters, and coming up with questions for job interviews that get at the heart of the potential match between Generation Z candidate and the places they are applying.


Look for Communication and Collaboration Skills Required in Job Descriptions.

During career exploration, it will be important for the client to research the skills and abilities needed to succeed in their occupations of interest. Knowing that interpersonal interaction and face-to-face communication are important to Generation Z, career counselors can help clients read position descriptions to decipher the level of engagement one might expect in the roles they are considering.


Be Familiar with Preferred Social Networks

Career development professionals should be familiar with social media sites frequently used by Generation Z-ers like Snapchat, Twitter and GitHub to examine how these sites might be useful in helping with career development needs. An increasing number of hiring managers and recruiters are logging on to these sites to find potential job candidates. Companies are also using these sites to post job opportunities and highlight their work, culture, and employees. Job seekers are utilizing social media sites as a platform to post online resumes and building their personal brand by showcasing their skills for hiring managers and recruiters to see.


Increasing Knowledge and Awareness of Generation Z

Generation Z and its members are still developing and maturing, so there will be more to learn and understand about this group over time. What we do know is that this is a generation of digital natives who are comfortable with technology in a fast-paced changing world, and individuals tend to be entrepreneurial, passionate, communicative, and collaborative. To best assist Generation Z clients with career preparation, career development professionals will need to increase their knowledge and awareness of the unique traits and interests of this generation and adapt to the changes its members will bring to the workplace.



Biro, M. (2015, September 27). What Gen Z’s Arrival in the Workforce Means for Recruiters. Talent Culture. Retrieved from http://www.talentculture.com/what-gen-zs-arrival-in-the-workforce-means-for-recruiters/


Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama. (2013). Entrepreneur Self-Test. Retrieved from http://www.youronestopcenter.com/entrepreneur-test.php


Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. Entrepreneurial Self-Assessment Survey. Retrieved from https://www.kansascityfed.org/education/entrepreneurship


Labrien, D. (2016, February 29). Why Gen Z Is More Entrepreneurial Than Gen Y. Tech.Co. Retrieved from http://tech.co/gen-z-entrepreneurial-gen-y-2016-02.


Patel, D. (2016, October 28). 8 Ways to Prepare for Generation Z in the Workplace. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/deep-patel/8-ways-to-prepare-for-gen_b_12679118.html


Robert Half, Inc. (2016 September). Is Your Company Prepared for Generation Z? Retrieved from https://www.roberthalf.ca/en/workplace-research/is-your-company-prepared-for-generation-z


Schawbel, D. (2016, August 31). Meet the next wave of workers who are taking over your office. CNBC. Retrieved from http://www.cnbc.com/2016/08/31/after-millennials-comes-gen-z-meet-the-next-wave-of-workers-that-are-taking-over-your-office-commentary.html


United States Small Business Administration. Small Business Readiness Assessment. Retrieved from https://eweb1.sba.gov/cams/training/business_primer/assessment.htm



John BalentineJohn Balentine, MSPsy, CDF is a Professional Learning Specialist for the Arizona Department of Education’s Adult Education Services. He has over 25 years of experience working directly or indirectly with students in their preparation for college, careers and civic life. Some of John’s professional experiences include teaching at Barry Goldwater High School, serving as a Solutions Manager for the College Board, directing and managing the Dropout Prevention and Excellence in Civic Engagement Programs for the Arizona Department of Education. You can reach John at John.Balentine@azed.gov.

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Brian Montalvo   on Wednesday 08/02/2017 at 01:06 PM

Great article! Thank you for sharing with the NCDA community.

Zachary Lee Branch   on Thursday 08/10/2017 at 12:31 PM

Very good read.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the comments shown above are those of the individual comment authors and do not reflect the views or opinions of this organization.