There are many stereotypes about those of us who are in our twenties and early thirties and fall into either the Gen Z or Millennial population. As a member of the Gen Z generation, here are some examples that I’ve heard, and a few I may have even said myself:

  • They don’t know how to work.
  • They are so lazy.
  • They can’t function without their phones.
  • They don’t like people who hold authority over them.
  • They are disrespectful.
  • They don’t know how to work in the real world, they don’t understand that things don’t just get handed to you.
  • They probably had daddy pay for that. 
  • They are non-committal.
  • They act like they know everything and are better than everyone else.

The goal of this article is to explain how these stereotypes miss the mark and to share what many of us from the Gen Z and Millennial generations want from our work experience. I hope that by the end you see the younger generation within today’s workforce as a group who cares, works hard, has goals and aspirations, and wants to learn from those who have the life experience and knowledge we don’t.

Gen Z and Millennials want clear, consistent guidance from experienced mentors

Instead of writing this article based on my thoughts and feelings, I wanted to get the opinions of others in my age group. I asked each of them the following question, “What do you want from your employer?” Here are some of their responses:

“I’d love advice or experience with a mentor to help me with future jobs.” — 23-year-old female from Provo, Utah

Like anyone just starting their professional life, my generation is trying to grow and acquire knowledge that will help us achieve the life we want to live. Respectfully given advice based upon personal experience is something we eat up because we don’t know it all.

“Clear instructions. I don’t want to play guessing games trying to meet and/or exceed expectations.” — 22-year-old female from Southern California

Most young professionals want to excel at what we are doing. When we set our mind to doing something, we are all in. I admit, we do have an “all or nothing” approach to life, which is probably where the stereotype of being non-committal comes from. If we come across as non-committal, it is probably because we have determined that whatever it is we aren’t committing to doesn’t serve a purpose in creating the life we want.

“Reassurance that I’m doing my job correctly and that I can move up in that particular career.” — 23-year-old female from Southern California

When we commit to something, we want to do it to the best of our abilities, and we are looking for direction from our colleagues and leaders. Tell us what needs to be done and then let us do it. When we succeed, reward us and allow us to continue to learn and take on more responsibility.

A chance to succeed and earn enough to support their life ambitions  

 “Fat stacks of cash.” — a group of 30-year-old males from Southern California and Utah

That speaks for itself. And, who doesn’t want that?  Honestly apart from gaining new skills and acquiring knowledge to use in the future, we need money to help us accomplish the list of ambitions we add to every day.

Yep, that’s right, we are ambitious, we have an entrepreneurial spirit and we take great pride in our work and success. We don’t expect anything to be handed to us. We want to be able to say, “I built this from the ground up.” We want the credit and the win when it is earned and deserved. That doesn’t mean we don’t want advice, suggestions, and guidance. We just want the opportunity to prove what we can do.

We recognize that many of our life ambitions are expensive which goes back to needing to make “fat stacks of cash.” We also recognize that we have to put in hard work to make the big bucks, and while we are willing to put in that work, we expect our employer to provide the opportunity to EARN more.

Opportunities to grow – professionally and socially

 “I want a direct and clearly explained process of how to progress in the company. Also, it has to be clear that it’s possible and not far-fetched to move up, otherwise I want casual employment and leniency because I know I’ll just end up quitting because there’s no future there.” — 24-year-old female from Utah

This is great insight into how many of us in the younger generations think. There is a misconception that we are lazy, or we don’t want to work. We want to work, but we want to work for a company that rewards our time and effort. As stated before, we want the opportunity to move up and progress. We want to be able to accrue accomplishments that we can use as stepping stones to reach a higher destination. If an employer can’t offer that, we will put forth the minimal effort required until we find a company that does offer what we need. If a company is lazy in their approach to our employment, we have little reason to work hard. We know how to work hard, but we also know our worth and want to be respected and appreciated.

 “To become friends so you can have fun together [in the workplace]!” — 22-year-old female from Utah

A simple but very important need that addresses the stereotype that our generation can’t function without our phones or that we are constantly distracted by social media. While there is some truth to that stereotype, it speaks more to the fact that we are very social human beings! In my personal experience, the more opportunity I had to be social with my coworkers and to make friends inside the workplace, the less likely I was to feel the need to check my phone. My generation experiences anxiety and loneliness without social interaction. If we don’t get social interaction at work, we fill the void by checking social media or texting.

An environment that fosters teamwork

 “Teamwork, trust, the ability and knowledge to further a career or position. Also, boundaries.” — 24-year-old female from Utah

This is yet again another way of saying that we want the opportunity to GROW and ACCOMPLISH more. And we want to be part of a team that we can trust. The minute we feel trust is lacking within an organization, we will be hunting for a new place to work.

My colleague also made a great point about boundaries, which goes along with wanting clear directions mentioned earlier. Boundaries help us understand what we can and cannot do as well as what we should be attempting to do. No one wants to be reprimanded for doing something you didn’t even know you weren’t supposed to. And we definitely don’t want to get in trouble for going the extra mile if we take on something we shouldn’t.  Providing boundaries helps us know where the lines are, and we will make sure we don’t cross them until given the go-ahead.

 “The idea of working WITH people, NOT UNDER them. The team mentality where everyone works together. — 21-year-old female from Utah

No one likes to feel as though they don’t matter, and my generation is no different. As I said earlier, we know what we are worth; if our employer doesn’t value us, we will be moving on to the next opportunity. We want to LEARN  by WORKING WITH our coworkers and managers.

A culture where trust, respect and equality are practiced, not preached

The same 21-year-old female cited above said:

“Fairness – I want my employer to treat all of us with respect. I think they should treat all employees equally and the consequences across all employees should be equal. No one employee should be seen as more important than another, despite how long they’ve been there.” 

The employer/employee relationship is built on trust and respect; each must play a part in earning the trust and respect of the other.  We will earn our employer’s trust through hard work and by meeting our commitments. If we are successful, we expect to be treated as an adult and provided flexibility and support to meet our personal commitments as well.   

Now that’s not to be confused with everyone earning their ranks and getting more privileges. We understand that we must earn our way up. But we are no less important because we haven’t worked at a company, or been in the workforce as long as someone else. Equality is very important to my generation and we will gravitate to companies who foster a culture of fairness, diversity, and equality across the organization. 

A chance

To the employers reading this article, I hope I’ve provided some insight into what the 20 and 30-year-olds you are hiring, or have already hired, want out of their experience with your company. The one thing no one said – and what we probably most want – is a chance.

We want a fair chance to pursue the opportunity to become successful. We want the chance to show you we can and will work hard to earn your trust, with hopes that in return, you recognize, reward and respect our abilities to contribute to the company’s success. We want the chance to excel alongside peers and coworkers who are also our friends. We want the chance to move up and earn more. We want the chance to make our dreams come true. And, honestly, isn’t that what we all want?

Contributed by: Brittany Terry, a 22-year-old project manager for PeopleStrategy. Brittany lives in St. George, Utah.