Gen Z is looking to put its stamp on the workforce

Jason Dorsey is president of the Austin, Texas-based Center for Generational Kinetics. He will be talking about Gen Z as keynote speaker for Minnesota State University Moorhead’s “Transforming Workplaces” event on Feb. 7. (Special to The Forum)

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. - If Ashley Devier and Aaron Simmons are the templates, sleep is a low priority for Generation Z.

Devier splits her time between working at the Ecumen Detroit Lakes nursing home and studying to become a registered nurse at M State Detroit Lakes.

The 23-year-old Gen Zer often starts at 6 a.m. and stretches into the evening. She founded and leads the student nurses association on campus and is a senator in student government. She is also a mentor with the Lakes Area Rape and Abuse Crisis Center.

Ashley Devier is attending M State Detroit Lakes with the aim of becoming a registered nurse. (Special to The Forum)


But Devier’s got her eyes on the prize.

“Tired? Yeah, for sure. You get burnt out from it. I like to stay busy, because it helps me manage my time better,” Devier said.

She picked her career because she wants a chance for advancement and for the challenges it presents.

“I think that it is a super special thing I’ve been called to do. I want to make a difference,” Devier said.
Generation Z is ready for life’s challenges and opportunities, she said.


“We want to make a change, change people’s lives,” Devier said.

Aaron Simmons, pictured Friday, Jan. 17, is a videographer, photograher for Flint Group and wants to be a country singing star. (Helmut Schmidt / The Forum)

Simmons, at 25, is what those who study generations call a “cusper.” He could be either a Gen Zer or a Millennial, depending on where you decide to make the age cutoff.


The downtown Fargo resident is a videographer and photographer for Fargo’s Flint Group. He’s also a go-getter.

“It’s been stressful at times, but I absolutely love it, and I wouldn’t want it to be any other way. I get to be creative. My boss gives me the flexibility and freedom to be creative. And I really, really love that,” Simmons said.

He wants to make an impact - for his firm’s clients, for himself, for the world.

But is it his forever job?

Not if his side hustle pans out. He dreams of becoming a country music star, and he likes that Flint gives him the flexibility to pursue it.

“Everyone has their side hustle, their side job,” Simmons said. “And I’m a person that doesn’t like to stay stagnant. I like to be busy. I like going traveling. Especially talking about my music. Anytime I’m not working and devoted to Flint, I feel like if I’m not putting extra time in, then somebody else is getting there.”

Focused on impact

Jason Dorsey is president of the Austin, Texas-based Center for Generational Kinetics, which does research on Millennials and Gen Z.


Jason Dorsey. (Special to The Forum)

Dorsey, the keynote speaker for Minnesota State University Moorhead’s “Transforming Workplaces” event Feb. 7, said Gen Z is very focused on making an impact.

“They are very much attracted to employers that have a mission to make the world a better place in addition to making a profit,” Dorsey said Monday, Jan. 21. “They really bring a lot of skills that are very exciting in terms of how they use technology and think about innovating. So, we’re very bullish on Gen Z entering the workforce and the values that they bring.”

Dorsey said members of Gen Z have a different relationship with technology than previous generations, “because many of them do not remember a time before social media or smart phones. And so, what they consider normal in terms of technology, is a big shift compared to previous generations.”

That seems to describe Simmons’ world well.

“There’s a new trend all the time. There’s a new meme all the time. And the younger generation just has the ability to latch onto it so much quicker,” Simmons said. “As far as being tech savvy, I feel like anytime there’s a new platform, or there’s a new tool, I’m all over it, I’m trying to learn it, because you never know what is going to be the big one to hit. You never know what’s going to be the next TikTok, or the next Facebook or things like that. And I think there are a lot of people out there that are itching to be the expert in those things.

Change is expected

Dorsey said there is a perception that younger generations are more comfortable with change than previous generations.

“But what we actually see is that younger generations don’t remember a time before rapid change and innovation. And so that is simply what they expect,” Dorsey said.


Other generations can be just as good at adapting - if they want to be - and (if) the company has a culture of innovation, he said.

“Where Gen Z has an advantage is many of the innovations, for example, in the workplace or the marketplace are often tools and technologies that they are accustomed to. So, while It may look like change to others, it’s actually all they’ve ever known,” Dorsey said with a chuckle. “We like to say Generation Z represents the new normal.”

Dorsey said Gen Z definitely wants a challenge in the workplace.

“They want to know that they are valued, and that they have a voice. And when it comes to change, a lot of times, when you dig deeper, what they want is diversity of work and the ability to be more creative and try new things, rather than actually driving the change themselves. … Getting to do interesting, or at least try different types of work within a workplace. That really seems to connect with them,” Dorsey said.

Gen Z is also looking for opportunities for growth, Dorsey said.

“Specifically, what we see, is that Gen Z tells us they most want to develop their problem solving and public speaking skills,” he said

Alexander Hook, pictured Wednesday, Jan. 22, is a data analyst for RDO Equipment Co. He expects the next four or five years will be interesting as more Gen Zers enter the work world. (Helmut Schmidt / The Forum)


Alexander Hook says he’s all for challenges.

The 22-year-old Fargo native challenged himself throughout his time at University of Minnesota-Duluth, majoring in economics with minors in math and political science.

He now works at RDO Equipment Co. in Fargo as a data analyst.

Hook believes in the “mentality of constantly growing and getting better every day. Obviously, in a long career, that’s a very day-by-day process, just constantly learning and improving,” he said.

Hook expects workplaces will be changing.

“I think it’s going to be interesting to look forward (to the) next five or six years as more of the generation kind of enters the workforce,” Hook said. “I think it will be interesting seeing how workplaces change, going forward. I think we’re just at the cusp of seeing what our generation is going to bring to the table.”

Stability is valued

“The irony that’s not talked about a lot of times, but has come through strongly in our research is that Gen Z is also attracted to companies that they view as stable, because they’ve come of age after the Great Recession, and they’ve also seen Millennials frequently struggle,” Dorsey said.

They want a place where they can build a career, “if they decide that the company is a fit for them after they’ve worked there.”


Mara Zupko, pictured Thursday, Jan. 23, works in communications and marketing for Noridian Healthcare Solutions in Fargo. (Helmut Schmidt / The Forum)

That has been Mara Zupko’s strategy.

The 23-year-old Fargo woman graduated from North Dakota State University in August and now works in communications and marketing for Noridian Healthcare Solutions.

Her mother is a vice president of a hospital, and Zupko says she wants to follow that example and work her way into an executive position. Zupko said working for an established firm was a priority.

“The company’s not shaky, It’s really solid and their teams are solid. They’ve been doing this for a long time. I trust their process for how they do things,” Zupko said.

But company culture is important, too.

“I just really wanted to work for a company that is a good company. But also, I just wanted to make sure it was something I could go to everyday and still feel happy and not dread getting up in the morning,” Zupko said.

“You want to be proud of the place you work for. It’s kind of like how you want to make your parents proud. You want to make your company proud. … You want to feel like you’re not coming to work for nothing. Like you’re doing something or making a difference, whatever it may be,” Zupko said.

Give them a better start

How can employers help Gen Z get a better start in the workplace?

Dorsey has a few suggestions:

First, present job and career offers and opportunities in a way that connects with Gen. Z, and be candid and clear on what various jobs entail..

Second, employers can do a better job with onboarding Gen Z, he said.

For example, there’s a company called Enboarder, which does onboarding by text message. … “so they (younger workers) are prepared to show up for work and feel very welcomed. And that has had really significant impacts and very different from the typical first day of here’s your printed manual. Here’s all the ways you can get fired,” Dorsey said with a laugh.

Third, consider earned wage access, which helps employees better handle unexpected expenses and avoid late or overdraft fees, Dorsey said.

“There’s a company called Instant Financial which enables employees to get paid half of their wages every day at no cost to them,” Dorsey said. “Now we’re seeing a lot of employers offer this to Gen Z, because Gen Z will come of age only knowing that they can get access to some of their earned wages every day.”

Tips for Gen Z, too

There are also some things Gen Zers can do to help themselves in the work world.

First, the old saw of you only get one chance to make a first impression still applies.

“Being prepared for that first day and that first week makes a big difference. Doing research ahead of time and doing what you can before you start a new job, so you’re prepared when you get there, we find is really a benefit and also reduces stress and anxiety for Gen Z,” Dorsey said.

“The second thing we teach them is to ask for help. Because many times, when you’re the youngest employee, or in a group or a team or a company you may not be inclined to ask for help because you don’t want to look like you don’t know what you’re doing or you don’t have the experience,” Dorsey said. “But the truth is, that people generally want to help you, and it’s better to ask for help than to make mistakes and have to learn the hard way.”

The third thing Gen Zers need to be aware of is how they appear on social media.

“Just be thoughtful that the impression you put out there can have a much more longer lasting impact than you would think,” Dorsey said.

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