Cold Dash of Reality Hitting COVID-Era Career Seekers

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Gen Z job seekers hard, and the generation that was poised to move into adulthood during an economic boom is now scrambling to deal with a bust.

As young people are moving from school into careers, a recent Tallo survey shows that during the pandemic nearly 75% are now interested in remote work, while also doubling down on building their professional brands and networking with potential employers.

Tallo, the nation’s premier online platform for connecting students with opportunities, released the results of a survey of almost 10,000 high school and college students revealing big jumps over the last nine months when it comes to Gen Zers’ commitment to networking, their desire to build a professional brand for themselves online, and their willingness to expand their job search to new locations.

As Business Clamps Down Hiring, An Increased Sense of Urgency

Last December, Tallo asked members of Gen Z how strongly they agreed with this statement: “It is important to establish connections with employers even if they don’t have an immediate job opening.” At the time, just 59% of all respondents “strongly agreed” with this statement. In the most recent survey, completed in August 2020, that percentage shot up to 81%.

Another question asked in both the December and August surveys was how strongly individuals agreed with the statement: “I feel it is important to build a professional brand for myself online.” The percentage of college students who “strongly agreed” with that statement went from 34% in December 2019 to 53% in August 2020. Similarly, while 13% of college-going respondents disagreed with that statement last December, only 5% now disagree with that statement.

“The unemployment rate for all job seekers remains much higher than it was last year, but younger workers are amongst the hardest hit,” said Casey Welch, Tallo’s CEO. “When jobs are limited, that’s the time to get aggressive in your networking to put yourself at the front of the hiring line – and the young people we surveyed seem to be acting on that.”

Geographic Considerations for Recruitment

As these young people move from their school years into careers, they are casting a wider net and considering options for remote work, while doubling down on building their professional brands. In December 2019, 51% of college-attending respondents said geographic location was “very important” in considering a job opportunity. By August, that number had dropped to 39%. Remote work is also on the table. About three quarters of respondents (72%) indicated in the August survey that they were interested in living and working in different places as a remote worker.

“A challenge for policymakers in much of the United States has been an unwillingness or inability for people to relocate to areas of greater opportunity for their careers,” said Welch. “This generation is showing an increased recognition that they may need to go elsewhere, along with the potential for those opportunities to spread to more places via remote work.”

Gig Economy and Workforce Permanence

As some states crack down on the gig economy, we may be seeing a shift back to gig work being a smaller portion of the economy. Just under 6% of respondents said they were “very likely” to participate in the gig economy after graduation.

There may even be an increased desire for career stability, reflected in a slow, but measurable shift in how long respondents expected to stay at their first full-time jobs after they finish school. The share of Gen Zers who expect their first job to last at least four years increased from 31% to 35% and the number of Gen Zers who anticipate spending less than two years at their first job decreased from 31% in December to 24% in August.

This survey was conducted by Tallo, through its online platform, from August 1-15, 2020. More results are available at https://tallo.com/blog/gen-z-survey-round-2/