Six generations share our world today. While we will welcome generation β (beta) in 2025, universities and organisations are now welcoming Gen Z. How can Master’s degree studies make a difference for their smooth transition to enjoyable and rewarding jobs?
The generation mix
First things first. Let’s shed some light on all the different generations that, more or less, make up the current workforce.
The Silent Generation or the Builders
First, we have the Silent Generation, those born between 1928 and 1945, who’d witnessed some devastating social and economic global events. Given their past, what distinguishes them at work is their loyalty, trust in hierarchical structures, and respect.
The Baby Boomers
Then we have the Baby Boomers, which are often mocked by the younger generations. Baby Boomers are born between 1946 and 1964 and raised in the aftermath of numerous social changes. For them, career, company loyalty, and teamwork are the main drivers in the workplace.
Generation X (or Gen X) comes next. It consists of people born between 1965 and 1980, the first generation to come in touch with digital changes, such as the dot-com boom and Internet adoption in the 90s. For them, work is no longer the only aspect that matters personally; work-life balance and flexibility are also important.
Next come the Millennials, also known as Generation Y. Born between 1981 and 1996, most Millennials grew up surrounded by the Internet, emails, and SMS (instead of phone calls or pen-and-paper letters). Seeking challenge and growth, for them work matters the most only if it provides meaningful assignments and flexibility.
And then we have Generation Z (or Gen Z), born between 1997 and 2012 and currently heading to graduate school or entering the workforce. They are digital natives, extremely tech savvy, due to growing up in the digital age. Nevertheless, they have a preference for face-to-face communication in the workplace but also prefer to work individually, which allows them to showcase their skills. This generation prioritises a healthy work-life balance and according to some of them, the notion of “career” is dead and not something they strive towards.
What can Gen Z expect in the workplace?
The younger generations are blessed with a longer life-span, compared to the generations that came before the Silent Generation. This allows most of them to work longer, leading to a big mix of generations in the workplace.
Finding their place
Gen Z has already begun to enter the workforce and will be fully integrated within a few years. But sadly, the Covid-19 pandemic trapped some of Gen Z while still at university or in entering jobs. This deprived them of some of the strongest benefits of academic and work experience – networking, peer learning, face-to-face social interaction. Struggling to connect, many turned to, or even created, apps and social media groups to discover where they fit or belong. But now there is a whole new world out there – the workplace. What does it look like?
Flexible and diverse work environment
In recent years the work environment has transformed, offering flexibility. There are a lot more remote options now; in addition to working from an office, open space offices are a lot more common now, along with the traditional closed offices. Team work is really mixed with individual performance, which Gen Z sometimes prefer, and teams can now change per project, making the work more diverse than ever.
How to prepare
Get a Master’s degree
Master’s degree holders have an advantage when it comes to hiring; it also provides skills that will help you thrive in any work environment. This is a great first step to ensure you know how to face every challenge on your way and get a flying start at a higher level.
Gain interpersonal skills
Opt for a full-time on-campus Masters in order to compensate for all the time spent online during the pandemic. This will help you gain more interpersonal skills and confidence in face-to-face communication in a diverse environment. Consider also studying internationally to increase your intercultural awareness, experience new cultures and make friends across the globe (you can never start networking too soon).
Get a feel for the workplace
Hands-on Master’s projects, placements, internships all help shape a realistic picture of what the workplace is and how to keep learning to grow there. University career services, job fairs, networking events help map options and how to approach job opportunities.
X-Y-Z peer learning
While their professional life starts in turbulent times, Gen Z are not the first generation to face social and economic shifts that affect the workplace. It is wise for the younger and older generations to mix and share their experience of handling difficult times.
Baby boomers and Gen X have the advantage of decades of work experience. They are familiar with workplace politics and organisational hierarchies, and they are likely to be competent in their respective roles and immersed in the organisational culture. They can share this information with the Millennials and Gen Z. Younger employees have high work expectations. Gen Z see themselves as career owners, whereas millennials seek rapid career advancement. These attitudes can inspire older employees to reconsider what they want from their jobs, reinvigorating their ambition.
Just like all these letters we label generations with, we all form a string – not only of letters but of skills, titles, aspirations, and goals for a better world. And guess what? Soon Generation Alpha will add its own flavour to the mix.