Although members of Generation Z (ages 16 to 25) are known for being adept multi-taskers with superb tech skills, new grads in that age range should expect to encounter some negative stereotypes when they hit the job market this summer.
For example, employers criticize Gen Z’s lack of familiarity with traditional forms of communication such as email. Many hiring managers are also struggling to understand the differences between Centennials and their Millennial predecessors.
“They are all exotic creatures as far as hiring managers are concerned,” admitted Sue Hay, partner with LaunchingU, a coaching firm for college students and new grads. “As a result, many managers have considerable anxiety about hiring new grads.”
Given pervasive generational stereotypes, new CS grads may need to recognize and overcome the biases listed below in order to win their first job.
Stereotype: Centennials are the New Millennials
Employers may not recognize the distinction between your values and those of the graduates they hired a few years ago.
“A tech manager may peg you as just another optimistic dreamer who expects big paychecks, titles and generous PTO unless you explain that you’re coming from a totally different place,” explained Ryan Kahn, career coach and founder of The Hired Group.
Counteraction: If the hiring manager seems to doubt your work ethic, drive or expectations, use education and facts to alter his or her opinion. Explain that your generation has grown up in economically tumultuous times, which has given you realistic aspirations and the expectation that you’ll have to work harder than previous generations.
“Point to your track record of internships, student projects and memberships in tech clubs and organizations as proof that you are used to working hard and don’t expect things to be handed to you,” Kahn said.
“Don’t focus on ‘What’s in it for me,’” Hay advised. “Emphasize what you can contribute and how you plan to take problems off the shoulders of your manager.”
Stereotype: Centennials Aren’t Team Players
Gen Z-ers are viewed as individualists who prefer to work independently. For a manager who utilizes a collaborative, team-oriented process, your autonomous spirit could prove a red flag.
Counteraction: Communicating a “we” versus “me” approach can help calm a manager’s fears.
In other words, don’t say, “Here’s what I did” to describe projects or work experience, or overemphasize the app or website you built on your own, advised LaunchingU partner Emily Porschitz: “Be ready to explain how your role and accomplishments fit into the big picture and benefited the entire team.”
“Give credit to your team when citing awards or achievements,” Kahn added. “And balance examples of solo projects with examples of team-based accomplishments.”
Stereotype: Centennials Lack Focus and Loyalty
The age of smartphones has produced a generation of workers with average attention spans of just eight seconds. As a result, employers are legitimately concerned that new grads lack the ability to focus and drill down when tackling complex issues.
Counteraction: First, demonstrate your detail-oriented nature by using facts and data to illustrate projects, work experience and accomplishments in your C.V., project addendum and interview stories. And remember to carefully proofread any documents you provide.
Next, describe situations that required tenacity, perseverance and the ability to focus on long-term goals. For example, if you juggled work and school and overcame hardships to earn your degree, or stuck with a food-service job because you didn’t want to leave your team in the lurch, showcase those life events during interviews.
Stereotype: Centennials Play by Their Own Rules
Although shunning a “We’ve always done it this way” culture may spawn innovation and creative solutions, managers worry that new grads will look for workarounds or shortcut processes without permission.
Counteraction: Commit to being a student of “As is,” Hay said, before suggesting new ideas: “When providing examples of innovative solutions you’ve developed, demonstrate respect for hierarchy, by explaining how you discovered and gained an understanding of the problem first.”