2020 Thesis

1. Transitioning into the modern workforce

Most students go to college for the chance of better employment.

But the bar set for entry-level employees is getting higher every day. Most professional entry-level jobs are requiring at least a few years of experience. On average, they need 1-3 years. Traditional internships last three months. So the average college student would need to take four total internships.

In reality, 60% of students take an internship while they are in college. 27% take two and 13% take three.

Internships in 2020:

  • 43% of internships at for-profit companies were still unpaid
  • One of every two internships was canceled
  • Three out of four students said losing their internship has caused significant disruption to their future
  • 42% of employers said they were moving their internship programs to a virtual format
  • Internship hiring fell over 50% on Glassdoor

In short, they’re burnt out. More than half of 18-to 25-year-olds are considered quitting their jobs in the almost-entirely virtual workforce. They also hate traditional remote work. Instead, they’ve decided to become half of the freelancing economy. Opting for better pay and flexible hours.

Still, according to The Workforce Institute, despite the boom in the freelance economy, Gen Zers still hesitate to go all-in on untraditional workplaces (full-time freelance work), with top reasons including unwillingness to give up the stability (47%), predictable pay (46%), workplace structure (26%) and health benefits (26%) associated with “traditional” work.

This leads us to believe that there are still multiple factors up in the air on how long it will take for a young person to decide on planning for a fully gig-driven career, since traditional paths and the cultures that come with them need significant improvement in order to retain Gen Z talent. One company I’m excited about that is looking to optimize workforce development programs is Symba (a platform engaging and tracking temporary and new early-career hires.)


3. What they’re doing about it

What they are doing about it: There are a few ways that GenZ are taking matters into their own hands to tackle an unhappy and forever-changing work environment:

  • Experiential learning: With a rapidly evolving job market, students feel as if colleges aren't keeping up with real-time education at the same rate as their student loan debt, especially for those with underrepresented backgrounds. To combat this, students have taken it into their own hands to gain experience through:
    • Co-ops: Searching for colleges with a work-study integrated college experience, or co-op models; 58% of employers made full time offers to their co-op students
    • “Taking time off”: Pursuing gigs or short-term employment (apprenticeships, freelance work, gigs, etc.) or trying out their startup ideas with programs like Contrary Capital’s Gap Year program
  • Dropping out: Programs like The Thiel Fellowship reward $100k to individuals willing to drop out or stop their schooling to work on their startup. Note: this is a very rare situation debated by many; if normalized or glamorized, it could put unnecessary pressure on underrepresented or first-generation students
  • Supercharged Communities: Pre-professional, college-aged, early-career talent are joining programming-heavy professional communities that allow for peer-based learning/mentorship and share the promise of potential future funding:
    • On Deck Catalyst debuted earlier this year as an early-career-friendly pipeline to the greater On Deck network, allowing for early-career individuals to join multiple networks and toolkits
    • Contrary Capital, Dorm Room Fund, Pear VC, and Rough Draft Ventures are examples of “venture-backing communities,” or funds that source mostly from fellows or venture partners in this demographic.
    • Ladder.to is a community platform connecting pre-professional individuals for sharing questions and job opportunities
  • Content creation: Gen Z is creating content to promote change in, or contribute thought-leadership to, the fields they are entering. Perfect examples in the VC space are Gaby Goldberg’s Medium and Jonathan Chang’s TikTok. Spaces to showcase content and social influence are key for integrating Gen Z into the professional world (TikTok is already on it). Although Gen Z favors more established platforms like Youtube, TikTok, and Instagram, there is still room for subscription-based content (Substack) or untraditional and community/social-proof driven content (Poparazzi and Mirror).
  • Professional brand ownership/development: URLs, personal microsites, storytelling, and other forms of branding help Gen Z feel ownership over their own narratives and act as a window to present oneself to the online community. Companies that contribute to storytelling ownership include OnUniverse (a mobile-focused micro-site builder), Home From College (a gig-driven micro-site tailored to showcase content and brand alignment) and Pineapple (a storytelling platform for visually sharing your experiences with employers).

These practices can be valuable to both the company and the employee by helping the company understand whether an individual is uniquely suited for the job, while also ensuring the hiring process is tailored to Gen Z through digitally-native experiences.