Gen Zers are locked into career echo chambers. Here’s how to get out of them

By Abby Amoakuh

Published Apr 1, 2024 at 11:26 AM

Reading time: 3 minutes

It’s no secret that Gen Zers have a love-hate relationship with work. As the first generation that effectively shattered the capitalist dream, revealing the mind-numbing and soulless grind culture behind it, Gen Z are challenged with the task of learning how to navigate career progression without it coming at the expense of their motivation and mental health.

@ajla_talks

“Gen Z is lazy”, “Gen Z doesn’t want to work” Here’s a major reason why they don’t want to work! #genz #work #workfromhome #job

♬ original sound - Ajla - all things $$

One essential thing that would help with managing this perilous challenge is the advice and guidance of someone older and wiser. After all, Harry Potter had Dumbledore, Katniss Everdeen had Cinna, and Dr Strange had Tilda Swinton in a bald cap to look after him, showing that mentors are an age-old tradition to help the younger generation realise their potential.

However, in the search for their own wise advisers at work, Gen Zers are confronted with even more challenges. These include a small professional network, insufficient workplace development programmes, and the difficulty of bridging a generational gap. This is keeping Gen Z confined in what has been dubbed a career echo chamber.

When they scroll through their connections on LinkedIn, many Gen Zers will quickly notice that most people within their online communities share similar ages and have comparable career paths. According to new research by LinkedIn, this is keeping diverse perspectives, knowledge and insights out of Gen Z circles.

In fact, new data shows that one in five Gen Zers, or 22 per cent, haven’t spoken to someone over 50 in the workplace at all in over a year. This is placing them in a vacuum at work and limiting their professional development, LinkedIn Career Expert, Charlotte Davies, told SCREENSHOT.

“With the world of work evolving at a rapid pace and [the required] skills for jobs expected to change 68 per cent by 2030 globally due to AI, there’s never been a better time to encourage professionals to learn from each other and break out of their career echo chambers,” Davies noted.

The reasons for this lack of intergenerational communication vary. About half of Gen Zers report that they don’t feel confident enough to communicate with other generations, or simply that they feel like they don’t fit in at work. 17 per cent of them say that they don’t know how to approach colleagues of other age groups, and honestly, I don’t blame them.

All of this is transpiring despite 74 per cent of Gen Z respondents knowing that they could learn a lot from other generations.

If your social anxiety-ridden brain self is shuddering at the thought of leaving your house for anything else than meeting friends or hopping to your local grocery store, you’re not the only one. Trust me.

There is also something to be said about the responsibility for overcoming cross-generational hurdles being placed on Gen Z. We didn’t make ourselves feel alienated and excluded at work. Far too often, we find ourselves written off as ‘difficult’, ‘lazy’, or ‘unqualified’, merely for expecting good training, supportive management, a fair workload, and good compensation.

And now we are asked to put in more effort with the very people who so easily dismiss and undermine our potential? The answer is yes.

Although we are not entirely responsible for our career echo chamber, there is an element of complacency, when we don’t try our best to get ourselves out of a tough situation.

A report by Forbes from September 2023 showed that Gen Zers are quiet and loud quitting their jobs in droves. This is due to increased job mobility in a market that appreciates our youth, tech-savviness, and global mindset, as well as the cultural stigma around quitting having greatly depreciated.

That’s why Gen Zers are leaving their jobs loudly and proudly, or posting content centred around ‘quiet quitting’, which means putting in the minimum amount of effort to keep their jobs.

“My fear is that [if] we flash forward five years, there’s going to be a disproportionately high number of people who have had eight jobs in five years. And what’s going to happen is that an employer will look at them and be like ‘I can’t take the risk that you are not going to stick around. I’m not hiring you. You sound like an amazing candidate but you’re too high risk for me’,” author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek said on the Diary Of A CEO podcast.

@steven

What do y'all think?? #thediaryofaceo #simonsinek #genz #millennialsoftiktok #careertiktok

♬ original sound - Steven Bartlett

Sinek went on to explain that the bar for a toxic and unworkable job is quite high, creating the fear that Gen Zers won’t learn how to navigate common challenges, leading to a lack of commitment and a propensity to leave when the job gets too hard.

What we need to understand about the job market is that most people get hired because of their skills and experience and not because of their people skills. As a consequence, the managers of today starkly differ from the teachers, lecturers and parents that we are used to before we enter the job market. Most of them have no training in teaching, mentoring, or simply effectively listening to others. Bad management, as a result, is not uncommon.

That means learning to bite the bullet a little bit and going the extra mile to get oneself out of a tough spot, like a career echo chamber.

So brush up on your boomer and millennial trivia, because the next step is getting up your desk and talking to them.

@ben_prentiss

its the best! #coworkers #fyp

♬ original sound - Ben Prentiss

Yes, the thought of awkwardly approaching them during our lunch break after Googling ‘What do Boomers like?’ to find some conversation starters might already make us want to run for the hills. However, a lot of Gen Zers online are discovering that their older co-workers are kind of… lit.

@ashbashhidthestash

She like 20 years older than me but we’re besties 🤭 #bestfriend #tea #oldercoworker #fyp

♬ original sound - Oopsiedaisy🌈⭕️
@gailburn

Oopsies🫠 #worklife #coworkers #workbestie #agegap #fyp

♬ original sound - Kevin Hart
@gtechsocial

LOVE HER #gtech

♬ C'est La Vie (Lip Filler) - Z1NO

They’ve been through it all and consequently know exactly what they are talking about when they share advice. This can greatly differ from your well-meaning friends who, more often than not, are just taking a stab at your problems.

So, despite the discomfort, reaching out to older coworkers for mentorship could be the key to unlocking a wealth of knowledge and experience that could not only get you out of your career echo chamber but also open up a world of progress instead of withdrawal.

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