REAL Gen Zers Working Through COVID

by | Sep 18, 2020 | Behind the Scenes

Highlights from Chapter 2 in our forthcoming book.


Meet five resilient members of Generation Z who’ve found inventive ways to keep the cash coming in, or take a breather, during the COVID pandemic. 



Age: 18

Job: University Student

Location: St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland, U.K.

“My first job was as a barista, but my dream job would be anything that allows me to express my activism creatively (for example: ad agency, media company, etc.). I expect my career to be a lot more art- and technology-focused than the careers of my parents. My number one goal is stability, but making an impact is a close second for me. 

Currently, I am a university student and do not have a job due to time constraints. Previously, I worked as a behind-the-counter person and barista at a local bakery. I dealt with customer relations as well as the general wellbeing/cleanliness of the bakery. I worked three to four shifts a week for a pay of $11/hour. I mainly chose to work at this bakery in order to gain experience as well as earn money for my future travels. 

I believe my career path will head in a far different direction than the jobs I’ve previously held, but still believe they were important to the development of my career.”


COVID Update:

Last March, I had a job lined up to work as a waitress at a hotel restaurant. Due to the travel ban and my school going online, I left the U.K. and went back home to California, ultimately having to turn down the job. I haven’t considered getting a job this summer due to concerns about COVID. I thought about getting a remote internship, but figured I was busy enough with work from the committees I joined at school.




Age: 24

Job: Crew Member at Trader Joe’s

Location: New York City, New York, U.S.

“My career will be different from my parents’ in that I will probably end up working for myself rather than for someone else,” Jasmin says. She ranks stability and making an impact as her highest career goals. 

“I currently work at Trader Joe’s in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. As a crew member I work every section of the store and process transactions. I earn $17.35 an hour. I love the company culture and the benefits that Trader Joe’s offers. I dislike having to work with difficult customers while having to keep a smile on my face.”


COVID Update:

At the beginning of 2020, I was working six to seven days a week between a full-time job as an urban farmer in a controlled environment hydroponic farm, and a part-time job as a crew member at Trader Joe’s. In May of this year, after two months of working remotely doing research and online learning for my position at the farm, I was let go. 

Fortunately, I was able to return full-time to Trader Joe’s–although that also meant increasing my potential exposure to COVID-19 as an essential worker. During the weeks following my return to TJ’s full-time, I felt very hopeless about securing another agriculture job, considering the many years of experience needed and degrees I do not have. I even questioned how the urban agriculture industry as a whole would survive this period of time. 

Recently, however, I was offered a part-time position working for the Hydroponic Team of an award-winning nonprofit organization that builds hydroponic labs in schools. I will be back to working six days a week to make ends meet and make my own (career-related) dreams come true.




Age: 18

Job: Restaurant Waitress and Hostess

Location: San Mateo, California

I’m a waitress and hostess in a restaurant where I’ve been working since I was fifteen. I make $15/hour, and while it’s nice having the spending money while I’m in school, the best part of the job for me is getting to interact with so many kinds of people—including those I normally wouldn’t get a chance to know in my day to day life. 

Having coworkers from different age groups and ethnic and financial backgrounds has opened my eyes to what lies outside my geographical community. 

Befriending everyone from the undocumented immigrants in the kitchen to the young single mom working sixteen-hour days, and honing my communication skills and patience with customers, I’ve gotten the opportunity to practice unconditional kindness and acceptance. I wouldn’t change anything about the job if I’m being honest. 

I know it’s not much income for an adult paying bills in the Bay Area, but for me it’s the perfect space to use a part of my brain that I don’t get to use at school or with my friends. Even though I won’t work in such an environment forever, starting my life in the workforce with a minimum wage job has been all about helping me see what lies outside the world of the one percent.

I want to give my life for the betterment of the world rather than for my own financial gain. Also I want to contribute to a global community rather than just my own little bubble. 


COVID Update:

For the past few years I have worked at a local restaurant as a server and host, and this summer I was planning on doing the same. However, the restaurant industry has been hit incredibly hard by the pandemic and mine in particular has had to rely on the loyalty of its employees just to stay afloat. 

All of us are working three or more jobs for the same wage as before. For example, I not only manage the takeout counter but have also been doing inventory and accounting, dishwashing, and prep for the kitchen. I can feel how stressed and overworked my boss and the other employees are every time I go to work. 

I’m very grateful to have a job at all right now, but it’s hard to watch my coworkers worry about their livelihoods when there’s no immediate solution to their struggles.



Age: 22

Job: Electrical Engineering Intern

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio

I currently work as an electrical-engineering intern at a company in Monroe, Ohio called NuWaves. I enjoy getting to solve problems that no one else has solved before. 

Because it’s a small company, I get to not only work on new problems but many aspects of those problems. I currently make ~$18/hour. That wage is a good starting point for when you do not have any experience in the industry. 

I’m starting to get into a field called Digital Signal Processing (DSP) and that is a very math-heavy field and one that not a lot of people get into. You have all new problems to solve. Since everything is done digitally, people can sell the solution to problems as soon as they have it completed and working. The downside of my work is that we have significant interactions with the government, so there’s a ton of paperwork and bureaucracy that goes along with those contracts.

My parents and grandparents had more ‘traditional’ jobs and currently I am going down a very new path of engineering. If that ever fails or I decide that I do not want to do it any longer, I’ll probably go become a mountain-climbing guide.


COVID Update:

I still expect to be graduating in less than a year. By that time I hope things will return to normal, but am preparing and planning for things to still be closed. So as far as a job goes with that, I am focusing my search for jobs that can be done both remote or in person. 

Right now I am still working. I currently have two jobs, one full-time and one part-time. My full time job is 90 percent online and the part-time job is about 50/50. The part time job includes a good amount of manufacturing that cannot really be done at home. 

Given this outbreak, I think there will be a significant shift towards online work. Even if the majority of jobs do not begin to work completely from home, I think employers will allow people to work from home one or more days a week and not have that be part of a “benefits package.”  

With my career I do not see a large delta in what I planned on originally and what I believe is achievable now, simply because I am able to do so much of it online as opposed to in the office. 



Age: 23

Job: Nursing Home Activities Director

Location: Walla Walla, Washington

Since graduating college, I have worked in an assisted living and long-term care facility in the activities department, coordinating and leading both group and individual activities for over two hundred seniors. 

I also work part-time as a nursing assistant, helping residents with bathing, dressing, toileting, feeding, eating, etc.). By working both roles, I am learning how to care for residents’ physical and emotional needs. 

I earn minimum wage, which is $12/hour in Washington State.  

Working in this environment is simultaneously rewarding and heartbreaking. My favorite part of the job is the exchange between my own vibrant youth and the residents’ calm wisdom and lived experience. Both parties benefit from this beautiful exchange, and the connections I have made fill me with so much love and joy. 

The hardest aspect of my job is having to confront death and mortality on a daily basis. Each day I go in to work knowing a conversation with a resident might be my last. While this is undoubtedly challenging, I am grateful to be learning how to accept loss and change.


COVID Update:

I’m currently unemployed–I recently moved cities (from Walla Walla, WA to Portland, OR) and decided to take a few months off while settling in. Based on my prior work experience and the need for essential workers during COVID-19, the job market currently available to me mainly consists of caring for people and health-oriented positions. Over the next few years (while navigating the effects of the pandemic), I hope to pursue a variety of different work, volunteer, and travel opportunities so as to find a future career well suited for me.



Cover photograph used with permission from and gratitude for the United Nations via Unsplash. 


This post comes to you as a portion of the book:

MY JOB Gen Z: Finding Your Place in a Fast-Changing World

 (c) 2021 by Suzanne Skees and Sanam Yusuf

An open-source, narrative nonfiction book full of true stories of jobs along with best practices for how to make your dream-job come true.


Note from the authors:

Join us each Tuesday and Friday as we release highlights from our new book, that will be FREE to our community members.

Share with your friends and followers; it’s FREE, open-source, and available to everyone.

No one makes a penny on this book project, which is intended to inspire and empower Gen Zers to launch their careers and land their dream jobs. Suzanne and Sanam have volunteered their time, and we’ve chosen this platform to transmit our book so that YOU don’t have to pay for publication costs.

However, if you feel inspired to help someone in poverty to have access to dignified work, jump here to donate directly to the nonprofit job-creation program of your choice–all vetted and supported by Skees Family Foundation.

Thanks for being with us! We’re excited to share our book with you.

–Suzanne & Sanam

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Suzanne Skees, author of the three-volume MY JOB series on real people in remarkable jobs, believes in the power of our jobs over our identity and wellbeing and, conversely, our ability to change our world with the work of our minds and hands. She lives by the Pacific Ocean and spends as much time as possible listening to the surf, and to silence.



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