What Generation Z Is Looking for in a Job

By John Egan July 14, 2023

​A new study finds that nearly 30 percent of the youngest professionals in today's full-time workforce are seeking jobs in sales, account management, marketing or advertising. And depending on their work experience, these job hunters are looking for average salaries anywhere from $55,000 to $83,000 a year. 

Those are two of the key takeaways from a review of job searches in June and July 2023 on the Fetti career platform, which caters primarily to Generation Z job seekers pursuing white-collar careers. Generation Z is generally defined as people born between 1997 and 2012, who are expected to make up 30 percent of the U.S. workforce by 2030.

What Are Generation Z’s Job and Salary Expectations?

Based on data that Fetti supplied to SHRM, the five most desired positions among Generation Z job seekers are ones in:

  1. Sales and account management (14.44 percent).
  2. Marketing and advertising (14.21 percent).
  3. Operations and strategy (12.62 percent).
  4. People/HR/recruitment (12.27 percent).
  5. Product (11.27 percent).

But while those jobs turned out to be the most popular, they're not the ones with, on average, the highest minimum salary requirements. Jobs in software engineering take the top salary spot in Fetti's study for Generation Z workers across three categories: no experience, one to two years of experience, and three to four years of experience.

Here's the salary breakdown for would-be software engineers in each of those three buckets:   

  • No experience—$85,000.
  • One to two years of experience—$110,000.
  • Three to four years of experience—$125,000.

According to Fetti's data, the lowest hoped-for salaries are:

  • No experience—$52,000 in the design category.
  • One to two years of experience—$65,000 in the marketing and advertising category.
  • Three to four years of experience—$68,000 in the design category.

For jobs in the most desired category—sales and account management—the minimum salary requirements range from $55,000 to $83,000. In marketing and advertising, the second most desired category, the range is $56,000 to $72,000.

Fetti noted that some job seekers in the study might have lowered their salary preferences to boost the number of openings that popped up in their searches.

Is Generation Z Obsessed with Salary?

Sam Chen, founder and CEO of Fetti, said the study shows the salary expectations for members of Generation Z aren't unrealistic. Across the board, anticipated salaries rose in tandem with job seekers' work experience.

"There are many articles discussing how Gen Z is salary-obsessed, but the job searches on Fetti tell a different story," Chen said. "Surveys asking Gen Z what their dream salary is often depict Gen Z as a generation of hopeless idealists, doomed to never achieve their dreams. While Gen Z might dream, their actions are rooted in reality."

However, the results of a 2022 survey commissioned by financial services providers Empower and Personal Capital call that reality into question. In the survey, members of Generation Z identified $171,633 as the average salary they would need to feel "financially healthy." That was the highest figure among any age group.

Similarly, a study released in 2023 by invoicing platform Skynova cited $124,494 as the average salary that Generation Z workers thought they would need to feel as though they had "made it."

What Matters to Generation Z Workers?

Career coach Kyle Elliott said that while salary may be important to Generation Z employees, they generally consider overall compensation and benefits first, including equity stakes and workplace flexibility.

"Additionally, Gen Z workers are focused more on company culture, working for supportive and caring leaders, and finding environments where they can thrive than previous generations of workers," Elliott said. "This isn't to say that other generations don't care about the company culture, manager effectiveness or being set up for success. However, Gen Z workers tend to place a heavier focus on personal development and growth than their older peers."

Jill Chapman, SHRM-SCP, director of early talent programs at HR services provider Insperity, said her assessment of Generation Z aligns with Elliott's. But just like many older workers, a large number of Generation Z workers have bumped up their salary expectations to account for a higher cost of living, she said.

"Like any generation entering the workforce, Gen Z is attracting attention. Some sources allege that Gen Z demands higher salaries, greater workplace flexibility and a lighter workload," Chapman said. "However, managers who work with Gen Z understand the diversity of their generation and how much they have to offer in the workplace.

"Recruiters and managers," she added, "should not make assumptions about Gen Z's priorities."

John Egan is a freelance writer based in Austin, Texas.



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