How Gen Z Can Stand Out in Workplaces of the Future

By: Ashley Fell 

Over the last two years, the world of work has undergone some massive transformations. Mandating that people work from home started out as a necessary measure to keep people safe. Now, it has become the new expectation of workers.

Even aside from work becoming more flexible, there are other transitions at play. As robotics and artificial intelligence become more sophisticated, there is a shift from manual to machine learning.

Yet at the same time, the uniquely human skills of empathy, leadership and critical thinking have become even more important for workers to possess.

Then there are the transitions of the generations. We have more generations mixing in our workplaces than ever before. With Baby Boomers living longer and working later, we are also seeing Gen X leaders and Gen Y middle managers mixing in the workplace.

And then we have the emerging generation of employees entering the workforce – Generation Z. Describing those born between 1995 and 2009, Gen Z are tech-savvy, visually engaged and sustainably minded. They want to work for organisations where their values align, and their work is connected to a purpose.

As the world of work changes, here are five ways Gen Z can not only stand out in the workplace, but thrive in it.

How Gen Z can Stand Out in Workplaces of the Future

1. Operate in the tension

Rarely in life is anything black and white. The same is true for work. Especially when starting your career, navigating the tensions can be tricky. It is true that workers today need both human skills and technical skills.

That there are benefits to having specialist skills but also being a generalist. We all need to determine when to say yes to new opportunities and when to say no to ensure we have boundaries. To ensure that work meets our passion and purpose while also contributing to earnings and security. These tensions aren’t simple but understanding that they exist is the first step to working out the balance that will best work for you and your career.

Young person working at home
Above: Photo by Windows on Unsplash

2. Challenge the stereotype

Intergenerational conflict or banter is not a new phenomenon. It was Socrates in 500 BC who said, “Youth today love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority, no respect for older people and talk nonsense when they should be working.” Whether generational stereotypes are justified or not, one way to stand out from the crowd is to defy them.

It’s common for leaders to have low expectations of young workers. But, if you a young worker, don’t let that get you down. Sometimes low expectations can work in your favour. It can be an opportunity to show people otherwise.

Instead of being late or lazy, work hard and show diligence. If you provide value to your employer, not only do they see it but so do others. Don’t let people look down on you just because you are young. Show them your value by working hard, making connections and contributing to the culture. It’s likely that not only will they see it, but so will others and you never know where it may lead.

3. Remember that careers are jungle gyms, not ladders

Rarely is life linear like we think it will be. The same can be said about our careers. If you speak to anyone, their story of how they ended up where they are today is more than likely a combination of factors like hard work, opportunities, random coincidence, intentionality and luck. So, what is the takeaway here? Build relationships with others. Never burn any bridges. Work hard, stay focused and be open to opportunities. And know that it’s more than ok if you’re career isn’t looking like a path or ladder as much as it is a jungle gym.

4. Prioritise your work wellbeing

As a cohort, Generation Z are living longer than any previous generation, and will therefore need to work later in life. Therefore, you will do well to prioritise your wellbeing as it pertains to work. This doesn’t mean quiet quitting (although boundaries are definitely a good thing!). It means having relationships with peers and colleagues, finding your purpose and doing work that is meaningful, purposeful and has a positive impact.

5. Contribute to the culture and become a leader

Leadership is not about authority; it is about influence. That means that anyone, of any age, can be a leader. Even without an official title. If you want to stand out in workplaces of the future, then contribute to the culture of your organisation in a positive way. Bring the good vibes, work hard, contribute and challenge others in a safe way. Remind people of the purpose of what you are working towards and celebrate the impacts of others. Those who display these leadership qualities get noticed and are given opportunities to step up, as leadership is about others.

“If you want to stand out in workplaces of the future, then contribute to the culture of your organisation in a positive way.”

The world of work is changing, and Gen Z are coming through with a unique set of skills from the context that has shaped them. They are a valuable asset to organisations that employ them, and if encouraged, empowered and entrusted with opportunities, will continue to have positive impacts in workplaces of the future and beyond. Infographic mockup

Equipping students for the new world of work

Download the latest infographic with all the insights on preparing students for the new world of work and their expectations for the future workforce


Article supplied with thanks to McCrindle.

About the Author: McCrindle are a team of researchers and communications specialists who discover insights, and tell the story of Australians – what we do, and who we are.

Feature image: Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash