Podcast

How to Prepare Gen Z for the World of Work

Ang Richard, the Assistant Director of Career Education at Boston University, shares her thoughts on how career services can prepare Gen Z for the world of work.

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Ang Richard, the Assistant Director of Career Education at Boston University, shares her thoughts on how career services can prepare Gen Z for the world of work. 

In this episode, Ang shares:

  • Information on who Gen Z is (and some common misconceptions)
  • How employers can better hire and retain Gen Z employees
  • How career services leaders can communicate those best practices to their employer partners
  • How career services leaders can prepare Gen Z for the world of work (in a high-touch, personalized way!)
  • How career teams can better reach Gen Z students while they’re still in school
  • And more

Resources from the episode:

Transcript

Meredith Metsker:

Hey everyone. Welcome back to the Career Everywhere Podcast. I’m your host, Meredith Metsker, and today I am joined by Ang Richard. She’s an assistant director of Career Education at Boston University. Thank you for being here, Ang.

Ang Richard:

Thanks so much for having me, Meredith.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, I am super excited to have you, and I am looking forward to talking to you today about how career services can better prepare Gen Z students for the world of work. And I know this is a big focus for you personally and professionally, so I’m really excited to dig into your expertise on this topic today.

Ang Richard:

Excited to talk about it.

Meredith Metsker:

Before I get into my questions, Ang, is there anything else you’d like to add about yourself, your background or your role there at Boston University?

Ang Richard:

Sure. Yeah, so some really important things about me that I bring into my practices and doing this work of career services, especially when it comes to Gen Z, is I’m Gen Z myself. So I am constantly learning a little bit about myself when we’re learning about Gen Z and career services every day. And in turn, chatting with students, young alumni, early career pros about that journey. It’s really powerful to be in a similar situation and to be able to empathize with all of these things that Gen Z is going through when it comes to the world of work. And I’m also a first-gen student and professional, so this work is super important to me and I am constantly reminded of my privilege and I’m very grateful for being able to support lots of Gen Z both here in Boston at BU and beyond, through LinkedIn and other means. So super excited to chat about Gen Z today.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, I love that. As a millennial, I’m excited to learn.

All right. Well, before I get into my more specific questions about our topic, I do want to kick us off with a question I ask all of our guests here on the podcast, and that’s what does Career Everywhere mean to you?

Ang Richard:

Yeah, I love this question. As I was preparing for this episode and I was thinking to myself about my own journey of Career Everywhere, I feel like career has seeped into so many aspects of my life, and it’s sometimes hard to separate between, “Well, here’s my career and here’s all the other things that I do.”

But what it came down to for me was career being an important piece of the conversation from a really early age. That feels like Career Everywhere for me, right? So every kind of turning point in your life, maybe not even just starting college, but really thinking about it earlier. And that can start with, “Well, what things am I really good at? What are some values that I have? What have I seen people around me doing that’s really inspiring to me? What are some goals that I can name for myself either for tomorrow or years down the road?” And so Career Everywhere is having career in conversations at an early point, not just when we’re preparing for a first job, not just when we’re getting ready to have our diploma and get out of university, not just when we’re turning to a new role. That’s what Career Everywhere feels like for me.

Meredith Metsker:

I love that. And I think that’s a really great point you made about that it’s not just starting in college. Career starts so much earlier. We were talking about this with my last guest who was David Kozhuk, the founder and CEO of uConnect, and he was talking about this is a K-12 thing too. We should be thinking about this so early. So I love that you brought that up.

So now I would love to dig into our topic today, which again is how career services can prepare Gen Z students for the world of work. So to get us started, maybe we should first define who Gen Z is. Who are they? What are some of their characteristics? What are some common misconceptions? How are they different from previous generations and so on?

Ang Richard:

Absolutely. So what Gen Z is, so there are some discrepancies in terms of when exactly they were born and when that cuts off, but it’s generally accepted to be somewhere around 1996 to 2012. So our oldest Gen Zs are already about five years into their professional careers. They’re slated to make up 30% of our workforce by 2030. That number is rapidly climbing. We’re seeing it every day. And so that’s Gen Z’s age and kind of where they’re positioned right now.

Some very common characteristics about the generation, they are very passionate. Gen Z is super into what they’re into is what I like to say. Gen Z is very value-centric. We see that a lot in the world of work. We see Gen Z being very, very concerned, the most concerned generation about environmental health, about sustainability, about corporate social responsibility. They’re very in tune with what their employers are doing and facing in the world, sort of how they’re branding themselves. Gen Z is very, very value-centric. They’re also super eager to learn. They are curious. They are truly the digital native generation. They are super technologically savvy. Gen Z is very considerate.

I think a common misconception about Gen Z is that they really struggle to communicate and they don’t know how to communicate professionally or exhibit those traits of professionalism in the world of work. I simply don’t think that that’s true. I think that Gen Z is super transparent and communicative, which is a new way of communicating that’s sort of getting into the workplace and becoming a new norm. So that’s a misconception.

And then a big one that’s really sweeped TikTok, that sweeped social media is this lazy generation. You may have seen back in 2022, Brian Crowley describing quiet quitting. I think Gen Z took that term and sort of ran with it, even though a lot of us are just sort of starting our careers. But it’s really about not being so dedicated to and stressed about work to the point that it’s all consuming, to the point that it’s really impacting our mental health, to the point that it’s becoming unbearable to even think about a future of work or a really solid career for ourselves.

So there’s a lot of misconceptions about Gen Z and how they fit into the world of work, but I’m really excited about how those fits can start to change and take shape and really influence other generations as we start to work intergenerationally and our younger workforce builds as some of our older workforce starts to leave.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, I think it’s going to be really interesting over the next 5, 10, 15 years how much the culture of workplaces is going to change because of Gen Z and their preferences, their passions, as you were saying. In my mind, it’s a positive thing.

Ang Richard:

Absolutely. Absolutely.

Meredith Metsker:

So knowing this, what can employers or what should employers be paying attention to in order to recruit Gen Z employees and importantly retain them as well?

Ang Richard:

Absolutely. So something that I mentioned just a moment ago was how employers are showing up, right? What’s their brand? How are they able to be found both online, on a job board? How are they showing up at face value, that’s super important to Gen Z, right? Gen Z wants to see a clear mission. Gen Z wants to see a clear vision. Gen Z should be seeing values. There should be information about what the team looks like. There should be insight on what this employer cares about. If that employer is serving a particular group or serving a really important part of a particular industry, it should be clear what they’re giving, what they’re benefiting, how they’re growing, all of those things. Because Gen Z is really, they care a lot about what an employer is dedicated to and how those values align with their own.

So I think an employer’s brand is super, super important. We’re seeing that more on social media coming to life. I think brands, their marketing and social media teams are really taking off when it comes to, “Well, how do we show up? How do we relate? How do we appear in touch?” So that’s really key.

I think another really important thing for employers to do, especially when it comes to recruiting, retaining, and supporting Gen Z talent as they move into their careers, is developing the model of a successful employee. So one of the misconceptions about Gen Z is that well, they don’t know how to communicate. They’re showing up unprofessionally. They don’t know how to send an email, they don’t know how to sit in a meeting. They’re not able to multitask well. They get distracted. Whatever it may be. There’s a lot of misconceptions out there.

I think employers can do a good job of modeling what that behavior looks like and setting expectations by modeling a great employee. And that can start in the job application description. That can start in the interview process. It can start really early on to exemplify for Gen Z what is needed and what they’re looking for. And this will vary industry to industry, right? So I think every employer can kind of make it unique, make it their own, and show Gen Z what they need from them.

I think employers can also capitalize on the benefits of having an intergenerational workforce and having mentoring programs in place to support early talent. I know for myself, speaking from personal experience, that a career mentor, whether they’ve been so far into their career or maybe they were about a year ahead of me, having any sort of guiding perspective, it doesn’t have to be this super aged wisdom or anything like that, but having some sort of guiding voice, someone to bounce ideas off of, someone who is there to challenge you but also support you at the end of the day is crucial. And I think it creates an opportunity to learn from one another and to really develop these NACE Career Readiness Competencies that we know so well and that we coach our students on so well, but that they may not have had a lot of time to exercise in an internship or a practical… and because that internship was unpaid.

So I think employers can do a good job of capitalizing on the employees they already have to support this early talent coming in because Gen Z has so, so much to offer when it comes to technological skills, innovation ideas. I’m so excited by what they bring to the world of work.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay. Yeah, I’m excited too. As we were talking about earlier, I just think the next couple decades are just going to be very, very interesting to observe and to be a part of too since you and I will both still be in the workforce at that time.

Ang Richard:

Absolutely.

Meredith Metsker:

I’m curious for the career leaders who are listening to this podcast, in your opinion, how can they best communicate some of these best practices to their employer partners?

Ang Richard:

Absolutely. So I think that starts with an employer engagement team that is really dedicated to knowing recruiters, specifically early career and campus recruiters, and communicating with them about where their students are currently at, whether that’s at that university or on a larger scale and what that employer needs. I think there needs to be some more communication there. I think we can both benefit from understanding, well, what are recruiters seeing from Gen Z applicants? And then in turn, how can we coach these students on how to best position themselves in a resume, how to reach out to that recruiter and communicate well?

So some synergy there I think is super important for developing this early workforce into a very competent workforce as they pursue this early career, but then move on to whatever else is in store for them. I think we can also leverage data. I look to NACE all the time. I look to what they’re sharing in terms of what employers are reporting on and the competencies that they see in Gen Z, what they’re really seeing from these hires and what they’re needing in return. And so trying to have some synergy there I think is super, super important.

I think also that model of the great employee or what a successful employee looks like is really important for an emerging talent pool to understand what it means to be successful. We know Gen Z loves feedback. That has been in lots of data about what they need from a manager, what they value in a workplace. It even goes into considering offers, right? “Is this manager going to provide me with feedback on my performance on how I can improve? Are they going to talk to me and challenge me about how I can get even further?” So showing that model first and foremost is really important. I think that’s another place of synergy between career service leaders and our employer partners to really support Gen Z on a holistic level and not just have it be a handoff here.

Meredith Metsker:

Right. I’m curious for that model of a great employee that you’re talking about. What are some things that you think should be included in that model?

Ang Richard:

Yeah. So what I think of first and foremost is the model of the T professional, which really positions someone as having systems thinking, industry specific thinking, and a lot of enduring skills encompassing that person. And so I think the employer should look at specifically that role. What’s a successful employee there? Maybe even more industry-wide, company-wide. What are the enduring skills that are super important to this company and this team? How does communication look here? How are equity initiatives brought forward? What’s really important to the growth of this team? Do we work in this project management system? Are we open to other ideas? So what kinds of thinking and elements from a particular major industry focus are also part of this organization or this team as a whole?

And so I think employers can get creative with it. I think someone on a team, whether it’s a recruiter or a hiring manager, can kind of own that and collaborate. So that way we’re communicating what’s necessary to the early talent pool. And again, Gen Z loves those visuals and ideas. I, for one, love when a job application talks to me about what a successful employee looks like here, what I’m bringing to the table, because then I can really affirm for myself, “Okay, yeah. I think not only do I have these, but I would be a great fit for this team. I already see a natural match in synergy there with my values and characteristics and also what they’re looking for.”

Meredith Metsker:

Right. It’s interesting. All of this kind of reminds me of a quote from, I think it’s Brene Brown where she talks about like, “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.” So that’s what I think of when I think of this model. Like being super clear and direct about what a successful employee looks like, what your expectations are is so much kinder than just assuming that a new member of the workforce is just going to naturally understand. Because there’s so much to figure out aside from your actual job. There’s figuring out how to be an employee, how to work full time, what does all of that look like, how to interact with coworkers. It’s a lot.

Ang Richard:

Right. I’m glad you mentioned that because it’s also a privileged perspective, right?

Meredith Metsker:

Mm-hmm.

Ang Richard:

As a first gen student and professional, I didn’t know a lot of the office norms, office culture to anticipate, maybe how to even find out what my manager’s preferred form of communication is. How was I supposed to know, right? And so it’s a disservice to not only you as a manager or recruiter or whoever as an employer, it’s also a disservice to your early talent. And so I love that quote. It’s a perfect example of what I’m thinking about.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah. Well, kind of on the flip side here, in your opinion, how can career services leaders best prepare Gen Z students for today’s world of work?

Ang Richard:

Absolutely. So thinking about educating employer partners, I also think sharing data and outcomes with students is really important. I think it’s really important to be real right now. The job market is really tough. I mean, it’s a hard, hard fight out there for Gen Z to secure an opportunity related to their major, unrelated to their major at a company of choice, at more of a safety company. I mean, we’re seeing unprecedented challenges, competition, lots of odd scenarios out there that Gen Z was not anticipating, right? And gosh, they don’t deserve it, but it is a reality.

And so I think being truthful with students and sharing about, “Well, here is a rise in job openings in this particular industry. Maybe we pivot your skillset and your ideas. Maybe we’re not looking in for-profits right now. Let’s maybe take a look at an NGO, a nonprofit, a startup even.” And so I think sharing some of that data, those outcomes for industry trends and hiring, but also on what employers are saying about early career folks is really important for Gen Z to best position themselves for the world of work.

I also think it’s super important for career services to be cognizant of a balance between some digital asynchronous online resources, whether it’s an external resource, a partner organization like Deloitte’s Future of Work Institute for example. Or it’s a source like Teal or Ramp as sort of a job tracker or identity centered resources. Those are really important. Gen Z is very self-sufficient. They can go there, they can make the best use of those and learn a lot from those. But it’s also really important to have some of that one-on-one, that in-person, that tailored care that Gen Z is looking for.

Gen Z really caress a lot about human touch. Surprise, surprise. I know we’re a very digital generation, but I think also as a result of the pandemic, we’re really looking for that connection. And Gen Z does feel best supported when they do have more of that individual tailored care, which is such a hard balance, and I feel it here at BU to balance that and scale that. But it is so important to at least think about and be cognizant of. Gen Z needs it and deserves it.

I also think it’s really important to show models of career progression for Gen Z, kind of thinking about the future. Gen Z is really caring about their careers a lot, I will say. We’re seeing a lot of intention behind opportunities that they’re searching for. We’re seeing a lot more care about finances, just planning as a whole, and career goes into that. So I think having alumni voices come in and sort of share about their experiences. I think showing opportunities for Gen Z and what that can look like as they progress throughout their career, showing models of growth and what to look for when it comes to, “Okay, we’re six months into this job. How am I developing professionally? How can I look at what I’ve done so far? How can I position that to a new connection I want to make or to this conference I’m going to?”

That’s really important for Gen Z as they feel secure and stable in their job and their world of work to think about the future because they really are a generation that’s concerned with, “Well, what’s coming next? What’s coming next?” Because they’ve had to be on edge quite a bit. And so that’s important too to remember and care to.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay. I am curious, what advice do you have for trying to show those career pathways?

Ang Richard:

Yeah. So I’m a big fan of alumni visits, panel events. Just having those voices and perspectives come in to just share and experience a journey, what’s worked for them, maybe what hasn’t is really, really important. I think employers can also do a good job of this, just like they can model a successful employee right from the start, maybe there are lattice career pathways that they showcase. Maybe they showcase potential for upward mobility and kind of what that looks like on that team, at that company, in that industry. Hopefully, they provide opportunities for connection across the company and the team. “I’m thinking small, I’m thinking really large.” But for those things to happen is really helpful for not only Gen Z, but also everybody else who’s working there, right? It gives us a better understanding of what everyone’s doing, where employees are headed, what positions are our opening up, what needs to be filled, all of that good stuff is really important to take a look at.

And that information changes, right? Career progression and pathways, those things are fluid. So it’s also on Gen Z to self-evaluate and map that out on their own. Hopefully, they have a good manager. And if they don’t, there are thought enhancers out there that can provide that support. Hopefully they have a mentor and a connection that can help them maybe map for that and plan for that. We see a lot of college roadmaps out there from first gen organizations like Rise First. I would love to brainstorm and think of what that further looks like for career progression, and I think there’s a lot of cool opportunity for that.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, it sounds like there’s a lot of resources out there for this kind of discussion.

Ang Richard:

For sure.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay. And I loved your point about alumni visits too. It speaks to me because one of my favorite things to do is to go back to my alma mater, University of Idaho. Go Vandals. I love to go back to the journalism classes because I graduated with a degree in journalism. And I love to go back and just talk to them about my career path, building a personal brand on LinkedIn, transitioning from journalism to content marketing, just topics like that. So yeah, that really speaks to me because I think a lot of alumni like to do that. They want to give back.

Ang Richard:

Folks love to donate their time. Thank you for doing that to your Vandals community. That’s awesome. I know that they appreciate it.

Meredith Metsker:

It’s so much fun. I really enjoy it. I like that mentorship element.

Ang Richard:

Absolutely.

Meredith Metsker:

For sure. So earlier when we were talking about Gen Z in the workplace, especially for those who maybe are first gen or maybe don’t come from a privileged background, how can career services leaders help them learn those skills or those kind of expectations that they just may not be aware of?

Ang Richard:

Right. Yeah, and I’m so glad that you asked that, Meredith, because I think it’s so important when it comes to working with Gen Z, which is the most diverse generation we’ve had to date, is to remember that they’re coming from a lot of unique lived experiences, a lot of unique backgrounds. And centering that and their identity as the pinnacle and the grounding of every conversation is so, so, so important.

So maybe that’s you offering up that resource, but maybe it’s connecting them with folks who share similar experiences who have had to overcome similar adversities, right? So it’s connecting them in those ways and remembering that those lived experiences and those identities can either be a really significant barrier or a privilege, and we have to figure out what those needs are based on that information.

But when it comes to supporting first gen students for example, and really any student from an underserved background is engaging them as early as possible. I remember stepping foot on my college campus, I talked about this in my TEDx Talk last year, and it’s great to bring it up here again. But I remember stepping foot on my college campus and getting to my dorm. I went to a very small, very tiny college in Vermont. I got there and I was getting to my dorm and I was kind of getting ready to unload my stuff and just thinking, “I’m here, but I don’t know really what’s here. I don’t know what to expect. I don’t really know the offices, I don’t know the people.” My college didn’t have a first gen office. I think BU students are so lucky to have the Newbury Center and other colleges have that as well.

But career service leaders need to engage those first year students, summer program students as early as possible to show them, “We’re here. There’s more that we can help you with besides finding a job or an internship. We can help you name your skills. We can help you name your values. We can help you talk about those things to maybe your peers at first, but then an employer. We can help you structure your resume and your LinkedIn.”

“I never made a resume before. What’s a resume?”

“I don’t know.” And so it’s engaging them from a very early point. And maybe that’s an orientation, maybe that’s in classrooms by partnering with faculty to have strong career connections and communities across campus. I think it’s going where they are as well. So it’s a dedicated effort from career services leaders, right? Career Everywhere. Let’s meet them in their dorms. Let’s meet them when they’re dining. Let’s meet them at these events and when they’re being exposed to activities that are going on and having an open fair about things to get involved in on campus. So it’s getting in front of them and showing the value and the support that they can provide from day one that is so crucial to building up the best early talent pool that we can.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, I could not agree more. I’m curious there at BU. What are some of your favorite ways that you and your team do that?

Ang Richard:

Ugh, I love going outside of my office. Not to say I don’t love the digs here in the Center for Career Development, but I absolutely love traveling around campus to where our students are. Something that I launched last year was Career Conversations, and we do those at our Howard Thurman Center in tandem with drop-in resume and cover letter reviews.

So while a couple of my colleagues in our career ambassadors do a lot of document reviews, I get to sit on these lovely stairs, hang out with students, they get to come in and say, “Hey, Ang, I’m really having trouble figuring out if I want to do an operations internship or a more data-focused internship.”

“Let’s talk about it,” right? “Well, why are you thinking that? What’s kind of influencing your decisions? Are there any other factors you’re considering?” So those are really, really awesome, and I think getting outside of the office is super important for that. And we also do tailored workshops for our young students, for our first year students. Those are the best.

I absolutely love talking all things career, whether it’s career exploration, to those official documents, to starting that internship search and maybe bringing us back down to earth a little bit sometimes about what that first practical experience can look like. But those opportunities really let us engage in a different way with our first year students.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay. I love the sound of that Career Conversations initiative.

Ang Richard:

Awesome. I love it.

Meredith Metsker:

I am curious, maybe I’m going down a rabbit hole here, but how do you go about advertising that, like getting students to show up?

Ang Richard:

Yeah, so we are very fortunate to have a great marketing and communications team that shares it far and wide on our socials. We also do targeted Handshake email campaigns to our first year students. And we share it with campus partners who are maybe directly engaged with them, whereas our office serves everybody. We reach out to our office of First Year Success and they’re able to share it with their students. Residence hall directors as well, to share in their residences. And I think students know us probably best for our resume and cover letter reviews, whether that’s appointments or drop-ins. So I’ve tagged on to the branding of that and said, “I’m here.” And the Howard Thurman Center, where we do it now, is such a great place for conveying and allowing those conversations to happen naturally just from the mission of that space alone. It’s all about common ground. It’s about knowing community. And it’s known as the campus living room, so what better place to have a conversation.

Meredith Metsker:

Right. I love that. It takes the pressure off a little bit.

Ang Richard:

Absolutely. Relax our shoulders, unclench our jaw, lean into it.

Meredith Metsker:

Yep. I imagine you have much more organic productive conversations that way than if it’s always the one-on-one in an office. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s nice to have another option.

Ang Richard:

Absolutely. And it could be two minutes, or I’ve had an hour where I really got to know one student inside out in terms of her LinkedIn, where she’s from, all about her career progression and what brought her to BU. So it’s such an awesome opportunity.

Meredith Metsker:

I love that. Kind of on this note, and we’ve touched on this a little bit, but how can career services teams better reach Gen Z students while they’re still in school?

Ang Richard:

Absolutely. So again, starting from that early point and making that sustained connection and touchpoint with those students. So it doesn’t just stop when they first get here. It doesn’t just stop when they leave either, but how do we engage them through the middle of their college journey and sort of keep them more so on track toward the career goals that they have for themselves? We’re not trying to prescribe a certain pathway. We’re big believers that your major does not need to equate to what your career becomes, but how do we keep those conversations and those sort of general timeline thinking points available to students and reaching students kind of wherever they’re at, wherever they are? So that engagement, that sustained connection is really important.

And you can’t do it all alone, sort of what I’ve talked about before too. So how do we find campus partners, whether that’s other offices, whether it’s other staff, faculty, alumni partnerships, physical spaces to facilitate these conversations? It is very, very hard at an institution that is so big. We don’t reach everybody. I mean, it is really, really hard. But how can we make the effort and the intention to do that in a way that students still know that we care, that it’s not just an email, that it’s not just another message, that they don’t just come see us when it’s March and their senior year and they’re panicked? Having that sustainable communication, I think that starts with having partners and believers in the work, champions in the work of career services, and we’re excited to further those conversations and get the BU community excited about career.

Meredith Metsker:

Right. This makes me think of something you were talking about earlier where you were saying that Gen Z really values the human touch.

Ang Richard:

Yes.

Meredith Metsker:

So for career services teams who maybe have small teams and huge student populations to reach, how do you do that human touch in a scalable, sustainable way?

Ang Richard:

Yeah. Gosh, Meredith, that’s a great question.

Meredith Metsker:

It’s the million-dollar question, right?

Ang Richard:

It is the million-dollar question. It’s a big, big question. But it starts for us still with those appointments. And there’s a really nice partnership that we have with our office of First Year Success. That’s a brand new initiative that launched last year or a year and a half ago. So every student has a dedicated First Year Success advisor that they’re able to chat with just about the transition to college, just about the transition to getting to be you. And they’ll often refer students to us if there’s more career questions in that space. So that’s a really awesome organic way to meet those students.

We’re also trying to develop more group programming. So instead of one-off workshops, trying to maybe have a few more cohort-based opportunities for students to engage with. Not only to know us and to talk about career, but to build community with each other. I think there’s so much value in that. And I think students want it. We see students wanting it after coming off the pandemic, after going through high school and the pandemic. And they really want people, which is great. And so it gives us more time to figure out how that works, how that can function in career services, how we scale that and make the most of that. And we’re also really fortunate to have a team of super strong, super competent career ambassadors. So these are current undergraduate students who serve really as paraprofessionals when it comes to the work that we do.

And we also know that students learn a lot from one another. They like learning from each other. And so that support of our career ambassador going to a student group and talking about resumes can be just as valuable as pro staff going and doing that same conversation. So leveraging that and the work of our students has been a really impactful way to get in front of as many students as we can.

Meredith Metsker:

I love that. It’s like you were saying earlier, it’s all about those partnerships, right?

Ang Richard:

Yes, 100%.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay. So I’m curious, Ang, what advice do you have for other career services leaders who just want to better prepare Gen Z students for the world of work?

Ang Richard:

Yeah. Well, my favorite thing that I live by, I feel like every connection request I ever send on LinkedIn or when I meet someone for the first time, I try to say, and it’s really true, “I look forward to learning from you.” I take that with me everywhere I go. And so I encourage not only my team and the people I work with, but I encourage everyone to just ask questions and be ready to learn. I’m still asking questions, right? I’m just one member of Gen Z. I know a little bit about a lot. I am learning from fellow Gen Z myself, from fellow Gen Z colleagues, from colleagues in other generations that have different approaches to the world of work.

And so we ask questions, right? “Well, what are we currently seeing our computer science students wanting and exhibiting? How are we best supporting our College of Arts and Sciences students, which is our largest population, but also our most varied population when it comes to career planning?” So ask questions and don’t be afraid to dig into the literature. Don’t be afraid to take a look at the data that’s pouring out when it comes to how Gen Z is giving feedback on the world of work and their career planning. Ask your students what they want and need from you too.

Survey fatigue is a real thing, I will acknowledge that. But try and gauge feedback where you can in terms of, “Did this best serve you? Is there anything we’re missing? Is there anything that we can do better to meet your needs? And can you please name what those needs are?” That only helps us get better and to better understand Gen Z, the students that we are trying to serve at this point in time. And I also encourage folks to remember, yes, we’re talking about Gen Z, but let’s not pigeonhole folks into just who they are based on when they were born and their generations, right? We have an intergenerational workforce. We have characteristics that span everybody that aren’t just a factor of one subset of people. So I think it’s important to remember that, and that we’re all benefiting from the many, many things that we bring to the table, not just the sum of what a certain generation or demographic is being known for is representing, right?

I think Gen Z, technologically savvy, sure. So are so many other people, right? So are most millennials. So are boomers, the silent generation, Gen X, right? I mean, they’re all competent in that way as well. And so that’s important to remember, the fluidity there and the multifacetedness of that.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, that’s a great call out. And it’s made me think of another question here, but how can career leaders prepare Gen Z students for that intergenerational workplace, how to work with other generations?

Ang Richard:

Absolutely. So career leaders need to be talking to Gen Z about communication, about those career readiness competencies that we’re seeing. Career readiness is a factor. It’s important to make sure students and young alumni are competent in those eight areas that NACE names. But those competencies I think are career long, not just career ready. So those enduring skills and knowing how to communicate, how to collaborate, what teamwork looks like, how to ask really good questions, how to communicate with folks who are at different leadership levels than you, that’s super important for engaging Gen Z in preparing for and intergenerational workforce. And then I also think part of the onus is on employers to set up those opportunities for intergenerational communication and collaboration. Something that I found out recently from the Society of Human Resource Management is that organizations, when they’re doing DEI trainings, only 8% focus on age as a factor of those trainings.

Meredith Metsker:

Interesting.

Ang Richard:

Yeah. So how are we fostering inclusion and belonging beyond other aspects of diversity and equity? I know a lot of companies will focus on race, on culture, on gender, on sexual orientation. What about age? I think that’s just as important to factor into the conversation to just make sure we’re all working well together and so that we’re understanding each other and approaching each other with empathy. And career services leaders can also do a lot of that work as well with alumni, with themselves, with campus partners. It can be done.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah. I think it’s like you were saying, it starts with just acknowledging the fact that there are different age groups in the workforce.

Ang Richard:

Right. Yeah. And with that, older workers are leaving at slower and slower rates. People need to keep their jobs. We’re in an economic crisis. People are not ready to leave work when they may have been 5, 10, 15 years ago. People are staying in their roles. And companies, there’s been unfortunate data that shows companies are starting to prefer to hire older workers and are feeling, I think, unprepared, but are saying that Gen Z is difficult and challenging to work with. So how do we figure out this need to support and retain and make sure all generations of employees are successful, but also to successfully integrate Gen Z into that workforce? There’s a lot to unpack there as well.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah. We might need to have you back on for a part 2 for that part of the discussion.

Ang Richard:

Absolutely. Anytime.

Meredith Metsker:

Cool. Well, I do want to be kind of mindful of our time, so I’ll start trying to wrap us up a little bit. But Ang, is there anything else about our topic today that you would like to add? Any questions that I didn’t ask that you’d like to address?

Ang Richard:

I would just like to remind everyone out there, Gen Z listeners, career services leaders, employer partners, whoever you are, stay curious, stay empathetic, approach everyone with kindness and try to learn from one another. I think we can all benefit from that perspective a little bit more these days. And remember, we’re thinking about Gen Z a lot right now because we’re set to make up almost a third of the workforce in just a few years. But that is always ever-changing, right? Those populations are always swaying and flowing. Gen alpha’s coming on the scene as well. There’ll be 11% of our workplace by 2030, and they’ve got their own set of life circumstances, historical landmarks and moments that are shaping them as a generation too. And it’s exciting. It’s exciting to see what’s coming to the workplace. I would encourage everyone to just have an open mind to what that looks like. And again, be empathetic, be curious, and always be willing to learn.

Meredith Metsker:

I love that. It’s a great note to end on there. Well, Ang, if people would like to connect with you or learn more from you, where’s a good place for them to do that?

Ang Richard:

Absolutely. I would love for folks to come find me on LinkedIn. It’s Angela Richard, M.Ed. I also just earned a top voice badge on LinkedIn. I just found that out an hour ago before we started recording there.

Meredith Metsker:

That’s awesome.

Ang Richard:

It might be easier to find me with a little blue comment box. So find me on LinkedIn. I’d love to connect there. I also have a website, it’s angrichard.com. You can find more information about my events, presentations, and my blog on there. I’d love to stay connected.

Meredith Metsker:

Great. And for those of you watching or listening, I’ll be sure to include links to Ang’s LinkedIn profile, her blog that she just mentioned along with that TEDx Talk she mentioned earlier.

So Ang, at the end of every interview, I like to do this, answer a question, leave a question thing. So I’ll ask you a question that our last guest left for you, and then you’ll leave a question for the next guest. So our last guest was David Kozhuk of uConnect, and he left the following question for you, “Compensation aside, if you had a magic wand, what would you change that would have the biggest impact on your ability to recruit top talent for your career office?”

Ang Richard:

David really had me thinking with this one. I really sat with this for a minute, and oh my gosh, there’s so much that I would change I think not only for my office, but just in general. Some things that come to mind pointedly are, I think salary transparency needs to be a national thing. We really need to get better about that. I know he said compensation aside, but just showing it. Maybe not making it better, but just showing it is really important.

And then I had a thought about job descriptions as a whole and how do we position a role in ways that make the most sense. How do we show some character there from the organization? How can we talk about the team that this role is going to be kind of joining and contributing to and adding to? I think job descriptions can use a little bit of love these days.

And then a funny answer that I had was that I work in nonprofits. We don’t have those fun cantinas and cafeterias and lunchrooms that our friends like maybe Google or Amazon or other headquarters have. So I think that would be really fun to have a little snack area for folks to get really jazzed about before they even apply to the company. I think more cantinas and cafeterias and nonprofits in 2024. Let’s go.

Meredith Metsker:

I love that. All right, so more pay transparency, better job descriptions, maybe some more fun stuff in the physical place of work.

Ang Richard:

Yeah. One thing is more important than the other there, but let’s have a little [inaudible 00:46:02].

Meredith Metsker:

But hey, we have a magic wand. We can ask for all of it.

Ang Richard:

Absolutely. David gave me the magic wand.

Meredith Metsker:

Awesome. Well, that’s all the questions I’ve got for you, Ang. Thank you so much for taking the time to join me on the podcast today. This was such a fun conversation. I learned a ton. I know our audience is going to learn a ton too, so just thank you again.

Ang Richard:

Thank you so much, Meredith, for having me. And thanks to uConnect as a whole for everything that y’all are doing for putting Career Everywhere.

Meredith Metsker:

Oh, thank you. We’re certainly trying our best.

Ang Richard:

You’re doing an awesome job.

Meredith Metsker:

Thank you. All right. Well thanks again and have a great rest of your week.

Ang Richard:

You, too. Take care.

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