The Anti-Corporate Gen Z Workforce (& How to Hire Us)
Workforce creators & communities are the new job curators, the role TikTok is playing in helping companies find Gen Z candidates, and how AI tools are changing the hiring landscape.
Welcome back to Meagan’s Newsletter: The Gen Z POV, where I break down trends, industries, and tech with a Gen Z lens every other week. I’m Meagan and I’m so happy you’re here.
This has been a crazy and challenging week for the startup ecosystem with the news of SVB’s collapse and continued layoffs from Meta, Salesforce, Microsoft, and more. I can’t help but think about those entering the workforce for the 1st time seeing all the headlines, having their job offers rescinded, or worrying about being able to find a job at all post-college in this environment. No wonder Gen Z is the most stressed out generation.
This edition of the newsletter will be a deep dive into Gen Z in the workforce with today’s backdrop, focusing on the ways companies are adapting to hiring the first digitally native generation (tech & trends) & how Gen Zers are tackling the job search / viewing Corporate America.
TLDR: social media and communities are playing a big role with both discovery & curation-led hiring approaches, with a sprinkling of AI tools.
Now… let’s get into it! ⬇️
Demystifying The Gen Z Workforce Today
Understanding Gen Z in the workforce has been top of mind for companies, managers, and the press alike in the past few years… which makes sense given we’ll make up 30% of the workforce by 2023. Recently I was featured as a thought leader by HubSpot in an article/survey on Gen Z in the workforce, and have provided similar thoughts to outlets like Protocol & Employee Benefit News.
To kick us off, I’ll share a couple things that I think are true about my peers and how we see the workforce, plus data that supports it.
Gen Z does not “dream of labor” or idolize the 9-to-5 mentality. Many of us have side hustles (62%), and if we are heading into corporate America, we want to work for companies that:
Pay well (high-paying salary is often the top consideration)
Embrace work-life balance (5 days in the office? nah)
Have management styles that help to mentor the whole person, not just who you are in your 9-to-5, and embrace individuality / having a voice
Thrive on meritocracy & allow for upward mobility or growth opportunities
Gen Z is working to live vs. the other way around. There’s a focus on building wealth, being able to retire early (big on life & financial hacks), finding ways to make passive income, and enjoying what we do (often tying in our passions into our career).
Two-thirds of Gen Zers want to start their own business one day. So if we’re not working for ourselves, we’re prioritizing skillsets that will help us grow, pay the bills to put us on a path towards financial freedom, and hopefully create a positive impact on the world around us.
I can promise these layoffs are making big tech and Corporate America seem even less appealing these days… with even workforce-focused Gen Z creators transitioning from posting day-in-the-life videos at the office to “get-ready-with-me to get laid off” videos. This article below from Business Insider that came out this weekend was a great read on the very current shift in mindset.
I think similar to the 2008 financial crisis, we’re going to see a bifurcation in how young people react and treat their careers.
One side will choose this time of crisis to “make the big leap” — start a business, go to business school or get a new degree, try working for themselves, etc. Remember, Gen Zers are max 26 years old and this is a natural point in time to be thinking about risk.
The other side will double down on safety and security, prioritizing companies that pay well with benefits and offering all the things I mentioned above.
The rest of the newsletter will be catered towards the corporate side of things — how the Gen Z workforce is showing up online & how big companies and startups alike are playing into these trends to find and hire great talent.
The Rise of Curation-Led Job Searching
During the pandemic, many Gen Zers turned to social media as a way to stay connected to the world and make new friends with similar interests.
In Q1 of 2020 alone, TikTok had 315 million downloads, which is the best quarter experienced by any app, ever.
Digital communities became our home — whether it was the TikTok comments section of our favorite creators, or ones that brought us together around causes we care about (ie: Gen Z for Change founded in Oct 2020 during the election cycle). The other types of communities that rose to prominence were interest-based communities… especially in tech.
Polywork (founded in 2020) just raised a $28M Series B to build digital communities and a marketplace that helps people discover 5-to-9 opportunities and potential collaborators on those projects. Featured projects/asks this week include (a) 142 people at Microsoft open to mentoring (b) 21 people at Facebook open to partnering on side projects (c) 6 people at Coinbase open to speaking at events. The common theme? Bringing people together in a professionally-oriented online environment to discover opportunities outside of their 9-to-5.
Gen Z VCs is another example. I started the community in Nov 2020 for a group of 30 friends in VC that I met on Twitter one month into my new job. Then I posted about it online and it went viral immediately, growing to 1,000+ members in 4 days and landing us a cover on Business Insider. Fast forward, we’re the largest community of Gen Z innovators globally (think Gen Z investors, founders, operators, etc.) with over 22k members from 80 countries.
If you’re someone who’s young and looking to break into VC, the first place you look is not LinkedIn. You’ll likely start in the #hiring channel in our Slack community or our job board which has facilitated 2k+ applications into startup and VC jobs.
You typically follow the curator, which then flows into the community and potential job opportunities. Look to Gaby Goldberg (Web3) & Lenny Rachitsky (Product) as other examples that have turned verticalized expertise into content, community, and hubs for jobs.
I expect to see more companies leverage “curators” to help the right candidates find them, whether it’s through community job boards powered by Pallet or some other bounty-first model that serves as the new workforce creator’s storefront helping to place new candidates into highly desired roles. @balancedbaddiesco (46k followers) on TikTok are monetizing their curated job lists that feature WFH/remote jobs paying up to six figures, charging people $15 for a list of 25 companies or $56 for a list of 75 companies.
I don’t think it’s enough anymore to just post a job on LinkedIn and hope for the best-of-the-best candidates. I feel like it’s an unspoken rule that when a job is posted, you prioritize referrals from the people you trust in your network. Community curators in your vertical & creators/communities in general are going to be those people at scale.
If I were a company with a great WFH position, I’d share it with Taylor Couch (@buildwealthfromhome2, 253k followers) where she’ll get millions of views posting side hustle ideas as well as remote jobs for her followers. This TikTok for remote roles at Disney got 3.3M views, 340k likes, and 96.1k saves — and it wasn’t even a paid post.
We love a good work from home opportunity😌✨ #workfromhomejobs2022 #onlineincomeopportunities #sidehustlesfromhome #disneylovers
Or maybe I’d turn to CorporateNatalie or CorporateBro on TikTok to create funny content takes on my open role for Gen Z positions, or consult with workforce gurus that are teaching Gen Z about the workplace like @loewhaley (3.1m followers), @saraisthreads (2.4m followers), and @erinmcgoff (2.3m followers) to help make job postings more appealing for a younger audience.
For job seekers, turn to vertical interest-based communities and creators, you’ll likely save yourself time vs. spending hours scraping LinkedIn applying to roles.
For companies with open positions, get creative! Both in the way you tailor jobs/positions to a Gen Z audience, and how you’re getting the roles in front of them.
Discovery-Led Job Searching
This morning when I was scrolling on my TikTok FYP, the first paid ad I came across wasn’t a company trying to sell me something… it was a company trying to hire me.
I mentioned a number of different creators above that are focused on the workforce in some way, but workplace culture truly has strong footing within TikTok. #work has 105Bn views, #worklife has 19Bn views, #job has 17Bn views, #working has 7Bn views — some comedic plays on the workplace, some job or work-life hacks, some job openings. Needless to say, TikTok is already a destination for the next generation of workers and job seekers.
First, I’ll talk about “TikTok Resumes” (and why they failed)
In July 2021, TikTok launched TikTok Resumes to directly compete with LinkedIn — encouraging Gen Zers to create a video-first resume, search job openings, and then submit their “TikTok Resume” using hashtags. Companies like Abercrombie, e.l.f. Beauty, Nascar, Shopify, Sweetgreen, Chipotle and Target participated in the broader campaign. McDonalds tried a similar campaign on Snapchat called “Snaplications” which landed them 3,000 job applications in the first 24 hours.
But if you look around today… TikTok Resumes is nowhere to be found. I can’t tell if they shut it down or if it was a limited campaign they were trying, but I understand why it didn’t take off and sentiment was mostly negative from TikTok users.
TikTok is not about selling… it’s about storytelling. And while TikTok Resumes (72.2M views) certainly offered candidates a way to creatively express their experience to brands, it likely felt a bit off for most creators to “sell themselves” in that way with a job application as the target end goal. If you look at the videos under the hashtag, they’re all pretty traditional (listing experience, just on video vs. on paper).
The best content on TikTok tends to happen organically by following a creator’s unique style, even if it’s targeted brand posts. Look at this amazing ad from Duolingo in January — a paid creator partnership with @mmmjoemele (25M followers) on his account that got 34.5M views, 1.9M likes, and over 105k saves. This creator creates funny content with his dad mispronouncing things as a series, and this partnership played into his content style & embedded audience SO perfectly.
Girlfriend rating my dad’s Arabic😂 @Duolingo #DuolingoPartner
As a Gen Zer looking to break into a role, I think you’re way more likely to get it by expressing your creativity authentically to express your skillsets vs. listing your skills like a resume.
Now… what actually works on TikTok
Your FYP on TikTok is based on the type of content you engage with… so if you’re looking for a job and searching/engaging with job hunting tips, you’ll likely be served more tips and even job opportunities.
I think a much more effective way for brands to recruit Gen Zers is to have an owned presence on TikTok in a way that lets them “sell” the company — their product, values, style, and team — without selling at all.
Duolingo looks and feels like a fun place to work based on the way they “sell” their product on TikTok to their 6M+ followers. They play into cultural trends (their mascot is in love with Dua Lipa), have a strong product that resonates with a younger audience, provide autonomy to younger employees (the free reign that Zaria — fellow LinkedIn Gen Z Top Voice & the person behind the owl — has to create/execute on their TikTok strategy is evident!). They even have employees and the broader office as a backdrop for their content.
Another one of my favorite “corporate accounts” is @theattnseeker which is a personal branding agency based in New Zealand of all places. A 22-yr-old named Jony runs their TikTok account and it is incredible. This video below is not only hilarious (Jony convincing the team why she needs a work phone after hitting 50k followers on the brand account), but also shares a lot about the way the team comes together and the culture of the company… way more than a description might on a job application. Oh, and this video alone has 5.9M views with 1M likes… compared to the company’s 3k followers on LinkedIn (they’re truly a small business with only 13 employees).
finally got the balls to ask for more than just a dark corner office and half a glass of water 👏 #officetok #officehumor #personalbrandingagency
Gen Zers who are active on TikTok are more likely to come across brands they want to work for (big and small) and job applications put forth by those companies. OR they could be engaging with specific hashtags/keywords when it comes to job hunting (would recommend if you’re currently looking!), which will feed active openings from relevant creators/companies organically.
New tech with AI-driven candidate search
If you were applying to a job today, would you be able to break your experience down into a few key words?
Most application sites are set up to screen resumes for key words and experiences using AI, so it’s been crucial to include the right words and phrasing when job-seeking, crafting your resume, or even updating your LinkedIn profile for hireability. In the past, companies like Amazon have even got in trouble for using keyword-based screening because the AI unintentionally was trained to favor male candidates (really interesting article from an incident in 2018).
Fast forward to today, key words theoretically won’t matter as much because AI-driven recruiters are be able to find you organically by analyzing billions of real-time candidate market signals. Or at least that’s what Moonhub is claiming.
They’ve built an AI platform that allows their in-house recruiters to find billions of data points of individuals from the public web, and then the AI layer on top analyzes all that information to highlight top candidates. Startups like Verkada, YOU, Dandy, and more are already using the product
I have to wonder what the implications are here, especially for the Gen Zers who live their lives entirely online. Will these AI tools be building profiles on candidates based on LinkedIn alone, or including TikTok and other platforms for a more holisitic view? Will the “5-to-9” type of content help show the dynamic qualities of an individual, or hurt a candidate unintentionally? It’s too early to tell, but given the ever-increasing digital footprint of Gen Zers, I have to wonder how this is going to play a role as AI enters the scene.
Thanks again for reading! Truly had a hard time thinking about anything else this weekend beyond work, which played nicely into this week’s newsletter.
And as promised, here are a few things (tech, culture & life) I’m intrigued by at the moment.
Tech: The AI-generated voices of celebrities are getting crazy realistic and going viral on TikTok. By now you all know I’m a Swiftie, so obviously I’m always on SwiftTok — videos using AI-generated sounds mimicking Taylor’s voice have been going viral. Here’s one of Taylor dissing her 9th studio album Evermore, one of her saying “I couldn’t give less of a f*ck about my tickets being over $1,000, I don’t perform to poor b*tches” and another dissing her boyfriend saying “Joe is poor and annoying. If he doesn’t stop buying the cheap champagne he can go back to his stupid yogurt shop.” These genuinely sound real (esp. the 2nd one)… and it’s not just Taylor being subjected to fake sounds/videos like this. Here’s one of Joe Biden made by TryParrotAI.com that makes it look like he’s endorsing a “Hobama” fan page (aka the internet likes to dream that Harry Styles and Obama are in love / belong together). The comments? “I THOUGHT IT WAS REAL 💀💀”
Culture: Tuning into the Oscars on Twitter and we have a champagne carpet instead of a red carpet??? why??? Love to see Cara DeLavigne slaying though (best dressed imho). Separately, have been closely following the rapid rise of TikTok’s new it-boy @octopusslover8 aka Jake Shane, known for his modern reenactments of historical moments — like John Hancock signing the U.S. constitution or Jesus paying the bill at the Last Supper. He had 100k followers only two weeks ago and now has 1.3M followers… 10x growth. Haven’t seen this crazy of a spike since Alix Earle shot into the spotlight!
Life: Took a lot of time to reflect this weekend on the SVB situation and check in on my friends who work there and the founders in my life… it’s felt like a rollercoaster. One highlight was trying the new White Truffle menu at Shake Shack and then honing my content-editing skills to review it. I’m on their Influencer list and it is one of my favorite things in the whole world.
In honor of the unhinged Gen Z email sign-offs in the workplace, I’ll end this with a humble hasta la pasta!