COVID-19: Gen Z workers are struggling with careers and worried about the future

Interviews cancelled, reduced hours and pay, and furlough: Gen Z gives insight into its uncertain future in a new study from CollegeFinance.com.

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Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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 the 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 were 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.

SEE: Coronavirus: What business pros need to know (TechRepublic)

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. 

About one in five employed said they'd consider going back to school to change their professional career goals. 

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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 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. 

Job outlook for the second wave

Around 71% of Gen Z said they fear going 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.

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