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How Does Gen Z Define Career Success?

New Graduate Management Admission Council report reveals Gen Z has its own definition of career success and the ideal future workplace

Wed Jun 7 2023

With Gen Z set to make up over a quarter of the workforce in OECD countries by 2025, a recently published GMAC research paper found that members of the new generation of social media savvy employees hold completely new ideas towards career success and how they want the future workplace to look. 

So what does being successful mean for Gen Z? 

According to the report, which collated several pieces of research including interviews with 18-24 year olds from six countries (Germany, the United States, China, Peru, Nigeria and India), Gen Z’s definition of success means achieving emotional as well as financial goals.

As a generation that came of age during the insecurity of the pandemic and that is often defined by the amount of time they spend online, maintaining their mental health is a top concern. For Gen Z, an integral part of a fulfilling career is about achieving a healthy work-life balance—or even a complete work-life separation. 

A 22-year German survey participant cited that the reason why it was important to her to maintain a healthy work-life balance was so “you can invest your energy in the things that bring you joy”.

However, prioritizing mental health does not mean that Gen Z candidates are any less ambitious when it comes to climbing the career ladder. 

Gen Z are seeking financial independence at a time of uncertainty 

According to GMAC research quoted in the report, one of Gen Z’s most critical goals is financial independence. It was found that 68% of Gen Z prospective business school students compared to 60% of millennial students embark upon GME education with the objective of increasing their income. In a global economy marked by uncertainty, financial stability is an important bedrock upon which to build a positive future.  

“To me and my friends, the most important thing in our future is definitely money,” said a female participant, 19, from India. “We all want a quality life, and being financially stable is a very basic step towards it.”

They are also driven by a desire to prove themselves to their peers and family. For Gen Z, success is about having a positive impact on their workplaces, alongside setting goals and achieving them. 

What should their future employers look like? 

Members of Gen Z are more concerned than ever with the ethics of their employers. They value diversity, inclusion as well as an emphasis on employees and their mental wellbeing. One in three Gen Z is comfortable openly talking about mental health, which means that they value workplaces that will listen to their personal needs. 

Additionally, almost a third of Gen Z say that a poor work-life balance contributes significantly to their stress and anxiety. Gen Z wants employers that cater for a healthy work-life balance, while also promoting teamwork and communication.

A 24-year-old female participant from the US said that she values her workplace because it “believes in collaboration and building up for one another, [being] supportive in each aspect of another’s aspirations. Success here is always trying new challenges, never staying in one place with a supportive team".

The ability to be flexible is equally an increasingly coveted attribute for many prospective employees. According to the GMAC research, about a third of Gen Z candidates said they wanted to work for a company where they can travel internationally or live outside of their country of citizenship. The Gen Z interviewees were also more open to growing their own business, with 30% of Gen Z wanting to start their own company compared to 26% of millennials. This number reached up to 40% of Gen Z in India.

Next Read: 
New GMAC Report Reveals Gen Z’s Ideal Business School Experience