Career Discovery
Getting Hired
March 1, 2024

Career Advice for Young Adults: How Gen Z Can Navigate the Job Market

In such a chaotic environment, how do young job seekers in particular stand out from the crowd? Explore our career advice for young adults.

Young professionals in today’s job market often feel lost—and for good reason. The job market is in a frenzied state, from the Great Resignation to the rise of the digital nomad to pandemic-era changes and return-to-office policies. After a rush of cultural and economic shifts packed into just a few short years, it’s harder than ever to know which rules apply.

In such a chaotic environment, how do young jobseekers in particular stand out from the crowd? Let’s take a look at the factors that are within your control as you aim to build your career: mainly, how you choose to present yourself.

1. Identify & Hone Your Critical Job Skills

One of the hardest parts of starting a career as a young person is your relative lack of experience. You simply don’t have as many titles to list as a resume as older competitors. However, that doesn’t mean you don’t have the experience for the jobs and careers you want to pursue. Instead, it means you’ll need to creatively identify, explain, and continue to hone the job skills you do have that are critical to today’s job market.

Effective Communication

Take communication as an example. How well you communicate your thoughts, actions, and intentions captures the attention of prospective employers, no matter what your age or experience. An employer who experiences your strong, confident communication skills in an interview is less likely to dwell on a missing title on your resume. Utilize tools like career coaching, online courses, and your network to learn communication skills.

Positive Attitude

Another critical job skill is having a positive attitude. Even your dream job will have challenging tasks or projects that simply have to get done. One could argue that the job search and interview process is the perfect test of a potential candidate’s attitude in the face of frustrating circumstances.

Identify examples from your work or school experiences in which you were able to keep a cool head and maintain a hopeful perspective. Maybe you didn’t get the lead in your school play but still showed up every day to give your best as part of the ensemble. Perhaps you were unexpectedly short-staffed during a shift at your part-time job and had to improvise. Whatever your experience, talking about the frustration you faced and how you were able to rise above it will communicate a positive attitude to potential employers.

Learner’s Mindset

Being teachable is a critical skill in today’s job market—and many young people have an advantage over their more experienced counterparts. A job candidate who demonstrates an eagerness to learn can be a huge asset to companies looking for the right fit for their team.

Having a learner’s mindset involves more than just a positive attitude, though. It also requires some self-initiative to ask questions, try something new, be willing to fail, and receive and implement feedback.

Think of some examples from your school or work history in which your learner’s mindset helped you succeed. Maybe you sacrificed an easy A in a standard-level class to take a higher-level course for AP or college credit. Perhaps you started your part-time job at a restaurant as a busser but took the initiative to request training to be a host as well.

During the job search, demonstrate your commitment to curiosity by asking thoughtful questions throughout the process. Showing that you’ve achieved certifications or completed workshops can also demonstrate a learner’s mindset.

2. Build Deeper Connections Online

Before you can demonstrate your critical job skills in an interview, you need to be visible to hiring managers and potential employers. One of the most effective ways to do this in today’s job market is to create a professional online presence.

Many young professionals mistakenly believe that they don’t need to cultivate a professional online presence. After all, many people in Gen Z have been on the internet essentially their entire lives and see their online presence as an extension of their personal lives, for better or for worse. However, there are simple steps you can take to carve out a professional space for yourself online without compromising your personal digital activities.

Create a Professional Email Account

Despite the variety of apps and platforms available for job seekers, email is still often the preferred method of communication for companies once a candidate enters their hiring process. There’s nothing worse than having an outdated or embarrassing email address attached to your professional profiles.

Set up a professional email account using a simple username, such as a variation on your first and last name or your initials. Keep any numbers simple and easy to remember. Avoid using old email addresses, especially if you can’t access the inbox; you’ll need to be able to monitor your emails regularly so you can be responsive to potential employers.

If you don’t anticipate using this email past the job search, consider setting up email forwarding to forward job opportunities to the inbox you use more regularly. You can also consider downloading the email platform’s app and setting up notifications so you never miss an email.

Join LinkedIn

During the job search, you may have to create accounts on various platforms, such as Indeed or ZipRecruiter. However, LinkedIn creates a unique opportunity for young professionals because it is not only a job board, but also a social network. While busy applying for various jobs, you can also cultivate your professional presence by posting content or interacting with others’ posts.

Private Your Personal Profiles

Much of the internet is public, but what you do on the internet in your personal time should remain your private business. The best way to make sure your professional and personal online presences don’t mix is to set your personal profiles to private. Your professional profiles need to remain public so they remain discoverable by potential employers.

3. Explore Your Passions

When people think of careers for young people, they often still consider the traditional jobs of decades past: teachers, doctors, attorneys, hair stylists, etc. But non-traditional career paths have taken the economy by storm over the past 10–15 years, and they present unique employment opportunities for young adults in particular.

From social media managers to digital editors to content marketers to online gamers, you can explore and pursue your passions while planning your career. Don’t worry about starting a career and needing to make a change down the line. Every job opportunity will impart new skills, called transferable skills, that can be applied to different jobs. These opportunities will also teach you more about what you want out of a job and what you can offer as an employee, making you a more competitive candidate for future opportunities.

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