Generation Z is made up of folks born between 1996 and 2012—which means many of them are now at the beginning of their careers. As employers increasingly shift their focus to recruiting Gen Z, it’s crucial to know what this group values and what influences their decisions.
During our work creating recruitment campaigns for the Tennessee Hospital Association, one of the Big 4 professional services firms, and a Fortune 100 financial institution, we gathered insights on what Gen Z university students are looking for in a career. Those findings drove the messaging and creative in our campaign concepts. Here’s a roundup of what we discovered:
Insight #1: Fear of being “stuck” in a career.
When students are deciding on career paths, the amount of choices to make and total unknowns are overwhelming. While salary and meaningful work are important considerations in their career decisions, Gen Z students place a high importance on job satisfaction. Their biggest fear? Getting stuck in a job they hate and having no way out of it. Gen Z wants to see a realistic picture of the “end goal” before deciding. They’re looking to gain an understanding of what the day-to-day looks like and whether they can find job satisfaction within that. Plus, they want to gain a sense of their potential growth trajectory at a company to help them see what they're headed toward down the road.
We leaned into this insight in our work for a Big 4 professional services firm. We centered the recruitment campaign on the idea that the future is unwritten, especially for new grads—and that they have the power to shape it. To give them an image of the “end goal,” we produced a 4-part video series highlighting real employees and a 7-part podcast series diving into an authentic view of what working at the firm is like. A dynamic landing page, paid media assets, and designed emails rounded out this campaign and helped this firm fill their pipeline with new talent.
Insight #2: Real-life experiences influence career decisions.
Both positive and negative personal experiences have a huge impact on students’ decisions as they explore career paths. In interviews, multiple students shared stories of people who had an impact on them and how those instances swayed their career choice. Not only are their choices influenced by their own experiences (in shadowing or internships, which many found valuable), they also base their choices on the experiences of those in their social circles (family, friends, teachers, and counselors).
To reach Gen Z college students at the right time, we started our work with a leading financial institution by creating journey maps. We pinpointed key opportunities for the company to engage with students, whether online or on campus, and developed messaging that would resonate at each milestone. By leaning heavily into key differentiators and leveraging cultural benefits unique to this company, we were able to catch the attention of this generation.
Insight #3: They want to balance making a living with quality of life.
For Gen Z especially, finding meaning or purpose in their work is high in their priority list. At the same time, they are looking to balance that purpose with their salary, job satisfaction, and everything in their personal lives. Positive mental health is a significant consideration for this generation of students. They look at the amount of education they will need to qualify for a job, as well as the toll that long hours and stressful environments will have on their quality of life.
When researching to create a recruitment campaign for the Tennessee Hospital Association, we found that many students had not considered working for hospitals because they thought it would be a stressful work environment or that they would not qualify for a job in the field. This perception was keeping students who were pursuing other degrees, such as finance or ITS, from considering hospitals as a potential workplace. We helped THA build a campaign that highlights the flexibility of a career path in healthcare and the variety of opportunities in a way that would help relieve students’ stress and indecision.
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