Highlights from Chapter 4 in our forthcoming book.
Dear Wonderful Readers,
We hope you’re enjoying our five-month blog series that previews the book we’ll release, open-source and free for you (and on sale via online booksellers), on New Year’s Day. So far, we’ve shared true stories from Gen Zers working toward or already in their dream jobs . . .
Now, it’s YOUR turn. As we turn the pages to Chapter 4, our book will offer tips and tools to get you well on your way to the career of your dreams. Nearly one-third of the book’s content, in fact, will cover how to discern your skills and talents, pursue an internship or job interview, conduct your best interview and professional communications, negotiate your salary and, sometimes–your rights.
But first, we felt compelled to research best practices for how to cope with COVID. Let us know how your job, or job hunt, goes from here!
–Suzanne and Sanam
Impact of COVID on Gen Z
The oldest members of Gen Z have been hit hardest by COVID-19, a novel coronavirus discovered in 2019 that shut down countries around the world in 2020.
Gen Zers, having just graduated high school or college, or halfway through school but suddenly limited to online learning, experienced a double whammy:
- More than any other age group, Gen Zers worked in service industries such as retail, transportation, food, and hospitality — and lost their jobs during shelter-in-place ordinances. And it remains to be seen whether these jobs will come back, in some altered form or at all.
- If you didn’t have job experience yet, how would you get it now?
One-third of Gen Zers lost their jobs during the pandemic, according to Pew Research, and that’s higher than any other age group. One-third have experienced cancelled interviews, almost 30 percent have had their hours cut, and overall Gen Zers took an average pay cut of $6,000 in 2020, according to a study by Collegefinance.com.
Younger job candidates lack experience or are in entry-level positions that make their jobs the most vulnerable of all.
Double-Whammy: Pandemic + Recession
What makes things even more difficult is trying to enter the workforce during a depressed economy. Even before the pandemic hit, Gen Z’s unemployment rate was higher than other groups: According to Pew, when the overall unemployment rate hovered around 10 percent in 2020, the level for those ages 16 to 24 was 28.4%.
“For Gen Z,” says The Guardian, “life has practically been upended and the ramifications of the virus and the financial crisis it has engendered threatens their livelihoods for years to come.”
If you feel like the odds are stacked against you before you even apply for a job, hold on; we’ve got your back. This section will give you helpful tips to get you on your way to employment, in ways you might not have considered.
The good news: Because so many people work remotely right now, your location has never limited you less than this moment.
And remember, you’re a Gen Zer — it’s in your generational DNA to take matters into your own hands to change your world for the better.
“We’re seeing a lot of employers really embrace the notion of the virtual internship, and they’re trying to make the most of that by figuring out how to ensure students are still going to get the same learning,” says Christine Cruzvergara.
So, reach out: You can shoot for an internship with an ad agency in New York from your parents’ farm in Nebraska, or take on some of your aunt’s data entry work for an Australian company from your apartment in Los Angeles.
A remote internship can allow you to build skills and beef up your resume … even if you’re prone on your bed in your pajamas while doing so.
Communicate, Communicate, and Check in Again
Even if you pride yourself on being a good communicator, buckle up, because you’re in for a wild ride when it comes to remote-work relations.
Videoconferencing can help, but during most of your work hours, you don’t have the benefit of observing your supervisor’s body language and workaday habits.
We two writers, for example (Sanam and Suzanne), have relied on weekly telephone check-ins, every one of which starts with, “How are you doing during this weird [pandemic] time?” and ends with, “Is there anything else concerning you/on your mind?”
We talk about various aspects of life, such as the weather outside our respective windows, and the eccentricities of our family members in quarantine, that may seem off-topic — but actually do wonders to help us build mutual trust and improve our ability to work as a team.
You cannot ask too often, “How’s it going for you?” Ask direct questions about whether you’re on track with your productivity and quality of work.
All the power you feel you’ve lost in the economy, society, and immunity, has now flipped over and put you into full control of yourself and your time.
If you’re an introvert, brew your cup of coffee and hunker down to work. If you’re an extrovert, get a job as an online chat agent, take breaks to video chat with friends, talk your family’s ears off in the kitchen, or better yet, call a lonely grandparent who can’t get enough of your news.
You might try mapping out your day, scheduling regular wakeup times (bonus: you’ll sleep better), adding more fitness and mindfulness, work periods and breaks. More than ever before, you rule.
Schmooze with Your School
No one sympathizes more with your situation than your teachers, professors, administrators, and career/guidance counselors. Be cheerful and courteous but barrage them with requests for referrals — whether for an internship with the dean’s spouse’s company or a job doing lesson-planning research for your favorite teacher.
If the position you seek lies beyond your school’s networks, at least ask people in your academic community for references. Always make sure to check with that person before you give out their name as a reference: not only is this best practice, it’s also a keen way to get them thinking about your skills in advance of being queried.
Acquire a New Skill
Ask yourself: Where does my dream job and the changing job market intersect? Maybe you have talent hidden inside one of your hobbies.
For example, our MY JOB intern, 18-year-old Sarah Helly, felt that COVID kidnapped the second half of her high-school senior year, prom, and graduation. Instead of starting college the next fall, she opted for a gap year.
Sarah never could have predicted what happened next.
She loves to create textile- and tattoo-style art and, in a simple desire to reach out beyond her quarantine bedroom, she posted several of her graphics on TikTok … and watched in shock as her post received over 200,000 shares, and so many requests to purchase her artwork that she launched a new business on Etsy.
Or, maybe it’s time to sate your curiosity about a job you secretly covet. As nearly all learning shifts to onscreen, it’s more affordable and practical than ever to get ready for your career online. You already know you can learn anything from YouTube. Gen Zers are pros at finding answers and teaching yourselves. So, take advantage!
Coursera offers 3,800 courses in computer science, data science, job skills, and career search courses. EdX provides access to over 2,500 courses from universities all over the world. Khan Academy, whose free tutoring you may already have accessed, has added curricula materials to support learning on your own during COVID. And if you’re not sure where to start with online learning, try Class Central, an online “matchmaker” between the field you desire and what courses you need to get you there.
You may have to pay to earn a certificate in your new field. However, if you’ve been laid off from your job, you may be able to earn course certificates for free on Coursera.
Create a Position for Yourself out of the Pandemic
Use your imagination. Is your neighbor juggling working at home with their kids’ online learning? Maybe you could take their kids out on nature walks or learning field-trips. Do you have a relative whose workplace needs to be sanitized? You could offer to clean in exchange for them training you to keep the books, sort the files, collect client data — voila, you just became a business intern.
Listen to the people in your life still lucky enough to have jobs. If the pandemic or the recession have left gaping needs in their resources, you can offer your skills to supplement — for a price.
Work in Contact Tracing
If you’d like to work from home, on your own terms, and make $17-38/hour, then contact tracing might be the job for you, at least for now. Money.com calls contact tracing “one of the most in-demand jobs right now.” You can work from anywhere, for any region of your country that has the highest need at this time.
You do not need a college degree or experience in public health. You simply take a brief training course and then get on the phone, calling people who’ve tested positive for COVID, to track where they went and whom they interacted with before contracting the virus.
Emily Gurley, a Johns Hopkins epidemiologist, calls contact tracers “part detective, part therapist, and part social worker.” She offers a free training course on Coursera for contact tracing.
The three skills most crucial to this job: an ability to build trust, as you must essentially violate each person’s privacy with your questions about their whereabouts, and convince them of the greater good of stopping the spread of the virus; patience, as people may react rudely or negatively to your inquiry; and resilience, to let the stress of people’s struggles that you hear about all day roll off you when you clock out.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have posted details on what you would do as a contact tracer here. If you have fluency in more than one language, you stand an even better chance of helping your community while making good money during a crisis.
Cover image used with permission from and gratitude for magnet-me-LDcC7aCWVlo-unsplash.jpg of 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