Taking the time to make a difference
Generation Z (those born since the mid-90s, for the uninitiated) are now entering the workplace in droves, and they have lots to offer.
They tend to be flexible in where and when they work, which can suit modern-day employers. They are individual and they are curious, which adds to the knowledge capital of the organisation they work for. They are conscientious and seek meaning in their job – their work needs to make a difference beyond the bottom line. For us this is probably the stand-out feature of this demographic and one we encounter on a daily basis.
Some may cynically dismiss this as the idealism of youth, but it’s not something we’ve witnessed in past generations to the same extent. And it is refreshing.
But there is another stand-out feature of Gen Z, and one that runs contrary to this lofty goal. The tendency to “job-hop”.
What makes a job-hopper? Three jobs in two years will probably qualify you in most recruiters’ eyes – unless you can present a very good explanation for the changes.
Not that you’ll get that chance at interview. Research shows that for two-thirds of employers, a CV with too many work stints in it belongs in the bin. That sounds harsh, but staff turnover is highly disruptive operationally for any business, and recruiting is a long, resource-intensive process, especially in the current tight labour market.
But back to the main point – how can you be a job-hopper on the one hand and hope to make a real difference on the other? The two are mutually exclusive. Making an impact through your job entails influencing colleagues around you. That in turn involves forging relationships with those colleagues, earning their respect and trust by mastering your role and getting under the skin of the company you’re working for.
Making a difference is a creditable goal for anyone entering today’s workplace, not least given the grave social and environmental challenges the world faces. But it needs to be tempered with a recognition that influence only comes by earning your spurs through time and hard graft. That requires sticking with an organisation for a meaningful length of time.
Look to the business icons who have made a difference. The Bill Gates, the Steve Jobs, the Sheryl Sandbergs. Spot the common denominator? They’ve all done their time – decades of time – amassing skills and knowledge within the one organisation. No job-hoppers here. If anything, perseverance may be their single greatest attribute. That’s a quality we don’t see often on the typical Gen Z CV.
So do Gen Zs lack patience? That’s one for the psychologists to debate, but certainly their upbringing has featured much more variety, more opportunity and more instant gratification, against a backdrop of faster change, than past generations were used to.
Patience is a virtue. That mantra is not one you’ll hear too often in today’s pacey workplace. Yet, like all classic sayings, there’s more than an ounce of truth in it and it holds particular salience for Generation Z. The world is your oyster. Just give yourself time to get to know it.