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Today is the last day of exams, after which preparations for the day of graduation will begin, and we will finally be done with college. I have been asking my classmates what they intend to do with their lives. Do they plan to go back home for a while or immediately find a job? I have noticed something common among the majority of the friends that I have been talking to. They seem a bit lost, speaking of passions and the fear of losing themselves in workplaces. Job security is not really their pursuit; they seek something authentic, a venture to fill them with life, give them fulfilment, a sense of belonging, and meaning. They seek freedom.

After all, they have grown up in a world where smartphones are extensions of their hands and social interactions transcend physical boundaries. This generation of mine experiences a hyperreality where online and offline worlds converge. Social media platforms become spaces for constructing individual and collective identities, blurring the line between reality and the digital realm. With a few taps, they are able to access a wealth of information and connect with global perspectives. In coffee shops, you’re likely to find them engrossed in virtual conversations, effortlessly navigating the digital world. 

This era of influencers and content creators has given rise to a generation unafraid to embrace their unique identities and broadcast them to the world. YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram are not just platforms; they are canvases for self-expression. Postmodernism’s rejection of fixed categories also aligns with my generation’s fluid approach to identity. Beyond challenging traditional gender and cultural norms, they embrace individualism and explore the diverse facets of their personalities. My generation questions established norms and institutions and seeks alternative sources of information, challenging the narratives woven by traditional structures. Every dynamic of reality is subject to scrutiny as they seek transparency and authenticity. My generation is what many call free – Gen Z.

So, let’s look at this freedom for a minute. We are not just entering the workforce; we are reshaping it. Or are we? If you are seeking to retain us, then you have to let go of the traditional work model and offer a hybrid or fully remote work option. What does a career track even mean anyway? We are the generation that desires to attain a life balance that is deeply intertwined with work, and appreciate employers who understand the importance of flexibility in achieving this equilibrium. Our fluency in technology isn’t just a proficiency; it’s a way of life, a revolution. We are not just streamlining work; we’re very aware of the need to transform it. As a matter of fact, gig owners looking to attract our talent must embrace and invest in advanced technologies that align with our preference for efficiency and connectivity. 

Unlike the many who came before us, we are not content with merely fitting into the corporate structure (Does the structure still exist?) We value environments that nurture creativity, encourage independent thinking, and provide avenues for innovative projects. If you are a boss that embraces the spirit of experimentation and values employees’ creative endeavours, then you are likely to unleash our full potential. We like a culture of frequent, constructive feedback and expect recognition for our contributions. Know our value before you approach us; work is not just a job for us, it’s an avenue for making a difference in the world. If you do not offer us the possibility to thrive, we’ll find other means of surviving. 

Let’s look at the numbers

A 2023 Bankrate survey of 2,417 adults found that Gen Z was more likely than other generations to switch jobs. Additionally, for 55 per cent of Gen Z workers there was a strong likelihood that they would be seeking new employment in the next 12 months, compared to millennials (43 per cent), Gen Xers (28 per cent), and baby boomers (13 per cent). The high rate of job turnover within this generation is not a symptom of restlessness but a reflection of a collective insistence that work align with personal values and passions. It is a declaration of independence, a refusal to conform to outdated models of professional success.

As I write this article, I’ve only been out of school for 36 months, yet I’ve already worked at more than four jobs. Is it me or is it the new workplace reality? In this short time, I have experienced something between feeling inadequate, being in a challenging environment, and not affirming what I want from life. On the one hand, is the parent who wishes that their child lands a good job in good time to give back, to forego personal fulfilment to financially support even the extended family members. On the other, is us, having suddenly woken up to the realisation that one is now an adult expected to make rational decisions and fend for oneself. Now, this weight of expectation, though rooted in familial bonds, starts to become a stumbling block in my generation’s professional struggles. The desire to give back, to be a pillar of support, often collides with the pressing need to navigate personal ambitions and aspirations. In this dance, we collectively grapple with the complexities of transitioning from the sheltered embrace of education to the often harsh realities of adulthood.

We value environments that nurture creativity, encourage independent thinking, and provide avenues for innovative projects.

A broader societal concern therefore emerges – one marked by fear and diminished optimism. The dilemma is whether one should overcome the fear in pursuit of a potentially more meaningful life or settle for a simpler existence that brings immediate happiness. By “simpler existence”, I refer to a life with fewer complexities or external pressures. The challenge lies in striking a balance between career demands and the desire for deeper connections, which often contributes to a hesitancy toward constant real-world connectivity. Frustrations arise and a habit of mindless doomscrolling is nurtured. It increases the pressure to curate a perfect online presence, a façade that mirrors the societal expectations placed upon individuals. The pressure to showcase success, happiness, and seamless life experiences, and the constant barrage of information contribute to elevated stress levels, and, in some cases, depression. Anxiety also becomes a constant companion, and the fear of falling short in the eyes of digital peers worsens the strain on the mind. The ever-present smartphone becomes both a gateway and a prison – a tool for networking and a source of relentless comparison.

Frustrations arise and a habit of mindless doomscrolling is nurtured.

The fear of missing out (FOMO) on opportunities, both professional and personal, fuels our habit of mindless scrolling through social media feeds. We find ourselves wrestling with the challenge of authenticity in an era where the lines between reality and virtual personas are blurred. This relentless digital immersion, born out of a need for connection and validation, raises dependency and contributes to my generation’s growing sense of isolation. Real-world interactions become daunting, attention spans dwindle, and the quest for immediate gratification takes priority over the patience required for enduring challenges that demand time and effort. And so, the paradox arises, a generation born free into this culture of immediacy, losing itself in instant gratification and its potential impact on patience, perseverance, and the ability to navigate the challenges presented by life.

Cynicism (not sex) sells

People now prefer to find partners on dating sites, some even break up via text messages. We are trapped in a system that demands constant digital engagement with technological leaps, identity exploration, and the ever-evolving contours of a postmodern world that define our lives. We are constantly wrestling with societal narratives that often prioritise sensationalism over hope. The fear of drastic life changes becomes a focal point and prompts a profound identity crisis. The fear starts being monetised, particularly in the media, contributing to a collective hesitancy to forge basic relationships. All this gradually has an impact on my generation’s productivity in the workplace. Individuals have a hard time initiating face-to-face communication and interaction with co-workers, clients, and bosses. They slowly lose communication skills, especially soft skills such as empathy, active listening, and dealing with difficult situations. While we appreciate a culture of frequent, constructive feedback and expect recognition for our contributions, there may be instances where providing feedback is perceived as an attack on our values. In such cases, a Zoomer might instinctively avoid confrontation or criticism, not out of an aversion to growth but as a means of fostering a more supportive and understanding environment for personal and professional development. This doesn’t change our appreciation for feedback and recognition; it just shows our preference for handling these situations thoughtfully.

If you ask individuals from previous generations what Gen Z’s main problem is, they are likely to tell you that the generation has lost “community”. They will go on to discuss the perceived lack of ambition, individualism, and social interactions within the generation, emphasising that a shift away from excessive social media use is key on the journey towards improved wellness. While there is a collective hesitancy to forge basic relationships, as mentioned earlier, there also seems to be a longing for deeper connections and a sense of purpose beyond the superficial. This apparent paradox reflects the complex dynamics within the generation, where individuals may experience both a desire for meaningful social connections and challenges in establishing more fundamental relationships. That said, there is potential in finding like-minded communities, resilience, and adaptability within Generation Z in their pursuit of life. It’s not just a call for personal change but a collective effort to create spaces where meaningful connections can flourish. This speaks to Gen Z’s need for systemic changes that allow for a more balanced and meaningful existence, where technology complements rather than dominates. It is a call for peers to rise above the mundane and engage in conversations that matter, fostering connections that go beyond the surface.

So, there you have it. A tightrope emerges between ambition and anxiety; the weight of expectations, the fear of failure, and the uncertainty of the future casting a shadow on the well-being of a generation in pursuit of economic stability. Success, which was once defined by clear milestones, now feels like a shifting target. The weight of familial, societal, and self-imposed expectations creates an atmosphere where every decision feels monumental. There’s this constant pressure to live up to the expectations of not just our parents but society as a whole. We’re expected to be successful, to make a mark, and to do it faster and better than any generation before us. The unrelenting nature of these expectations often translates into a ceaseless hustle, where burnout becomes a constant companion. The fear of falling short is always there, lurking in the background. The constant comparison with others, the fear of making the wrong career move, the job market feeling like a turbulent sea, being told to be adaptable, to learn constantly. Yet sometimes it feels like we are lost, navigating without a compass.