Gen Z workers are struggling with careers and worried about the future

Boomers had the Vietnam War, Gen X had 9/11, and millennials had Columbine (which started the swath of school and workplace gun tragedies). Now, Generation Z has a worldwide coronavirus pandemic. Each generation witnessed or experienced watershed events that greatly affected many lives. On July 1, the highest number of US COVID-19 cases for a single day was recorded: 50,000. 
Gen Z found itself in an unprecedented situation. The first "class" of Gen Z graduated from college in May 2019 and unceremoniously lost jobs or had their work situation dramatically change. The next-Gen Z class was high school seniors, and from mid-March to their virtual graduations, they finished that iconic year in near isolation from peers.
About one in five employed said they'd consider going back to school to change their professional career goals. While they may have a lot to say, they're also extremely uncertain about how the pandemic will affect their careers, according to a study by College.Finance.com: "Gen Z Career Outlook After COVID-19." The COVID-19 recession has directly impacted their finances. Nearly half of respondents (49%) said COVID-19 hasn't made them reconsider jobs or careers, 21% said they weren't sure if it would, and 31% were actually looking forward to considering new careers and jobs. 
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Image: CollegeFinance.com
Gen Z respondents to the survey said:
  • 46% said their job paths or careers were less stable than previously expected
  • 42% claim to be absolutely unaffected by COVID-19
  • 13% said the virus brought about stability to their jobs.
  • 48.7% said it's very unlikely they'll change their career or job due to the coronavirus
  • 30.6% said they are likely to find a new career path
  • 20.7% are unsure if they will or won't change their trajectory
  • 21% of employed respondents are considering  a change to their careers
  • 27% of those with student debt were most interested in going back to school
  • 14% of those without student debt wanted to go back to school
Those who were seriously considering returning to school said they'd be willing to take on $15,465 in student debt to do so.
A whopping 65% of Gen Z Americans are thinking about returning to school, because of the economic impact of the virus and felt their planned career paths were much less stable. Others who are contemplating a return to school:
  • 16% are working in retail
  • 14% are working in a hotel, food services, and hospitality
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Image: CollegeFinance.com
The most appealing industries to those who want to change jobs were:
  • Technology 15.9%
  • Medical and healthcare 9.6%
  • Finance and insurance 7.9%
  • Information services and data processing 7.3%
  • Education 7%
  • Construction and manufacturing 6.3%
Most interested in changing careers? Those in education (62%), technology (57%), and construction and manufacturing (56%). The education industry has not held the interest of 28%, who are now interested in pivoting into the tech industry. Those with jobs in tech (29%) were most interested in finance and insurance. 

Some Gen Z workers consider changing jobs

For a generation, without a lot of practical work experience (and the savings to survive the pandemic), it's a good deal of uncertainty and frustration.
COVID-19's effects are less-favorable than more favorable, said working Gen Zs:
  • 34% experienced cancellations of planned job interviews
  • 30% have had their hours reduced
  • 19% were offered less pay
  • 12% were furloughed
The effects of COVID-19 are tough on the working life of Gen Z. Respondents said the average salary decrease for them was $6,000. Only 29% said COVID-19 had no impact on their jobs.
Among those who are thinking about a career change:
  • 40% are interested in positions of essential workers (includes 47% millennials)
  • 27%--the least likely to consider a job in essential careers
  • 16% were considering technology
  • 10% were considering healthcare
  • 8% were considering finance and insurance. 

The job outlook for the second wave

Around 71% of Gen Z said they fear to go into the job market because of the instability the potential second wave of the virus would cause, and 60% of employed workers believe a second wave would negatively impact their jobs; 23% are worried about being laid off.
Of those whose job stability wasn't affected by COVID-19, 26% will be on the lookout for a career change when the second wave hits.
Even though President Donald Trump said on July 1 he believes the virus will go away this month, about 60% of employed Americans are afraid that a second wave of the coronavirus will have a negative impact on their jobs, and 23% are afraid of outright layoffs.  

Methodology

CollegeFinance.com surveyed 1,007 people from the ages of 18 to 70 to explore how COVID-19 affected career and job outlook. Survey respondents, polled between May 28 and June 4, included a sample of 189 people identifying as Generation Z in order to explore their outlook on jobs and interview or job application experiences since the COVID-19 outbreak.