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Common Sense Career Advice for Gen Z from the Marketplace Trenches

by Stacy Pursell, CPC, CERS

The VET Recruiter®

There have been numerous articles, blog posts, stories, and studies about the Millennial Generation in the employment marketplace and workplace.

But what about Generation Z?

Yes, there is a generation behind the Millennials, and that generation will soon be joining the workforce themselves. In fact, Generation Z is anyone who was born in 1997 or after. Some of those who were born in 1997 recently graduated from college and are either working in their first job or seeking employment. My own kids are in this generation. My oldest is in college now and is about two and a half years from looking for her first post college job.

I’ve been an executive recruiter and search consultant in the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession for about 23 years. And yes, that means I started in the profession before or around the time the first members of Generation Z were born.

So it’s my experience as an executive recruiter and search consultant—as well as my experience as a mother of five children of this generation—that convinced me to write an article targeting the members of Generation Z. Specifically, I want to share what I’ve learned during the past two decades in the form of common sense career advice.

I call it common sense, but sadly, not everyone in the marketplace practices the things I’m about to share. And that’s true of every generation currently in the workforce. However, I will say that the most effective strategies and techniques for enjoying career success are the simplest. And when I say simplest, I mean they’ve remained the same over time and they’ve applied to every generation that’s ever been part of the workforce.

If you’re a member of Generation Z, it doesn’t matter the industry in which you work. It doesn’t matter whether you went to college, to a trade school, or simply have a high school diploma. In fact, it doesn’t even matter how much talent you have or how many skills you possess. The advice I’m about to dispense does not depend on any of these things, which means that anyone can implement them.

With all that being said, below are five pieces of common sense advice for Generation Z, straight from the marketplace trenches:

#1—Practice “The Principle of Reciprocity.”

If I had to give just one piece of career advice, it would be this one. That’s why it’s the first item on our list. This principle means that when someone gives us something, we feel compelled to give something in return. That’s why your focus needs to be giving to others first instead of taking. Simply put, it means to give first and not take first. I know that may seem counterintuitive, but it’s the best way to approach your career.

I’ve encountered professionals of all ages who’ve had the attitude of “As soon as my employer gives me a raise, then I’ll work harder.” That’s the wrong attitude. The right attitude is to improve the value that you provide to your employer and be the best contributor that you can be.

#2—Remember that value (YOUR value) is the most important thing.

The value that you can offer to a potential employer is basically your currency in the employment marketplace. The more value that you can offer, the more valuable you are to employers. And if employers believe that you offer tremendous value, then they’ll want to reward you for providing that value to them (instead of their competitors).

That’s why it’s equally important to remember that you must always add to your value through continuous training and education. You can never stop growing. If you think that you’re just standing still, you’re not. You’re actually falling behind, because everyone else around you is moving forward.

#3—Being aware of (and practicing) personal branding is critical.

If you’re a member of Generation Z and you haven’t encountered the concept of personal branding, then this is the perfect time to do so. I think the concept is summed up very well with a quote by Jay Danzie, who said:

“Your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card, how you leave others feeling after having an experience with you becomes your trademark.”

The important part of this quote is, “how you leave others feeling after having an experience with you.” Personal branding is based on the type of experience that you provide to other people, and the type of experience that you provide for other people has a tremendous impact on how much success you enjoy in your career.

If you haven’t thought much about personal branding, then I encourage you to start now. Think about the type of experience that you provide for other people. Then think about what you can do to improve that experience and brand yourself in the best way possible.

#4—The intangibles are just as important as the tangibles.

Yes, employers consider skills and experience to be valuable, and they’re two of the reasons they hire people. However, there are other forms of value, and these forms are just as important to employers and to your career success. I have seven intangible forms of value that can made a huge difference in your career, regardless of the generation of which you’re a member. They are as follows:

  1. Being prompt and punctual
  2. Being positive
  3. Being energetic
  4. Being passionate
  5. Being prepared
  6. Being flexible
  7. Doing what you say you’re going to do (being reliable)

As you can see, none of these things has to do with your talent, skill level, or experience. However, they have everything to do with desire. If you have the desire to do these things, then you will do these things, and at the same time, you will provide more value to a potential employer.

#5—Nothing, and I mean nothing, replaces desire and hard work.

The more things change, the more things stay the same. The year is 2019, but this reality has never stopped being true. I just referenced the importance of desire, but the willingness to work hard is just as important.

To further illustrate why the advice I’m dispensing is timeless and not constrained to any one generation, I’m going to draw upon the wisdom of Napoleon Hill, an American self-help author.

“The person who works harder when the boss isn’t around is headed straight for a better job. It is a foregone conclusion that you will never reach great heights of success if you perform at high levels only when others are watching you. The most exacting standards of performance should be those you set for yourself, not those set by others for you. When your expectations for yourself are higher than your boss’s expectations for you, you will never have to worry about job security.”

Now, of course, Napoleon Hill wasn’t a Baby Boomer or part of any other generation that we recognize. That’s because he was born in 1883. However, you might recognize the next person I’m going to reference. He’s not a Millennial, either. Or a member of Gen Z. Instead, he’s a member of Generation X. That person is actor and entertainer Will Smith, who said:

“The only thing that I see that is distinctly different about me is I’m not afraid to die on a treadmill. I will not be out-worked, period.”

If you want to make yourself distinctly different in the workforce and the workplace, then you must have the desire and determination to work as hard as you need to work to be successful.

Because the crux of my common sense advice is that there are no shortcuts. This is advice I would give to any member of Generation Z—including my own children.

We help support careers in one of two ways: 1. By helping Animal Health and Veterinary professionals to find the right opportunity when the time is right, and 2. By helping to recruit top talent for the critical needs of Animal Health and Veterinary organizations. If this is something that you would like to explore further, please send an email to stacy@thevetrecruiter.com.

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