Unlocking the Purpose Generation: How Gen Z Can Choose Careers that Matter
In today’s ever-shifting world, the way secondary school students perceive themselves and envision their futures is attracting more and more attention – and rightly so. More than any other generation in the last 100 years, today’s teenagers are grappling with seismic societal and environmental shifts. At times, these shifts can seem like insurmountable challenges, so it’s paramount that we support young people in gaining clarity, and maintaining optimism, as they look to their futures.
Here at OxBright, we’re working to support parents and educators in empowering young people to explore their options and gain confidence in their future career path. Our inaugural proprietary Career Test Report, based on more than 3,000 student responses, showed that teenagers today care more about the impact their career has than any other factor, rating it 4.23 out of 5 on average.
Is Gen Z the Most Empowered Generation Yet?
Gen Z are ripping up the rule book in all sorts of ways – last year, the Stanford News reported a study which summarised them as “self-driver[s] who deeply care about others, strive for a diverse community, … [with] a pragmatic attitude about the work that has to be done to address [current] issues”.
They are also the first generation not to know a world without the internet, which could be one of the factors galvanising them to work for positive change. They have always been connected to a global community, and they’re keen to work towards positive outcomes on a global scale.
Not only are young people today concerned about social justice – they’re determined to use their careers to affect positive change. So, how can we as educators and parents work to support them in achieving this?
Offering Guidance, Not Answers
Older generations are likely to remember schools or family members telling them which careers to pursue – “oh, you like [favourite subject], so you should go into [generic field],” or “not so keen on academics? You’ll enjoy [generic job]” sounding familiar?
As we guide the next generation, this kind of heavy-handed careers advice isn’t going to cut it. Instead, we should be listening to young people’s values, and offering them resources to discover their own, personal career aspirations. It’s also worth remembering that Gen Z are likely to switch careers more times in their working life than any other generation so far – asking students to take a three-question quiz and suggesting a role just won’t work anymore.
Here at OxBright, we’ve put together a Career Test with a difference, that we hope can be a helpful first step in that journey. We take into account students’ values, priorities and interests, and suggest highly personalised roles that might be of interest. We then offer resource recommendations to help students gain a better idea of what a career in that field might look like.
Directing students towards work experience, shadowing opportunities and even online “Ask Me Anythings” will also aid them to gain a better understanding of the fields they’re interested in.
Looking Beyond Grades
We know this one’s far easier said than done, with exam results remaining one of the key marks of attainment for schools, parents and universities. But perhaps, as we see some independent schools in the UK moving away from GCSEs, it seems more important than ever to emphasise meaning and values over grades and school credit.
This could be as simple as changing the focus of assembly programmes or form sessions – rather than basing careers advice on grades, we can switch the focus to enjoyment and identity.
It would be naïve to suggest that schools worldwide can enter some kind of teaching utopia overnight, but the small first steps are often the most important, and OxBright’s data can support you in prioritising information and resources that really matter to your students.
What Might the Tone of this Support Look Like?
Empowering young people to make their own decisions and forge their own paths involves a continual discussion where no path is written off as incorrect – they are simply more avenues to explore. This requires a delicate equilibrium from educators, where we offer guidance while allowing space for independence. After all, our goal is to support our students in becoming self-sufficient adults, rather than clones.
We should also maintain a long-term focus when considering the careers guidance we offer in schools. While Gen Z are likely to switch careers and protect their work-life balance to a greater degree than Millennials and Gen X, the decisions they are making now will still likely impact a solid chunk of their lives over the next decade. The focus should be on where they see themselves at the end of those ten years – what will matter to their older selves?
Careers support, put simply, matters. Perhaps more now than it ever has in the past. This can seem intimidating to educators, but we see it as an opportunity.
Here at OxBright, we’re working to build a network of educators who are passionate about supporting their students to drive positive change and fulfil their true potential. We’re sharing news, resources and our own proprietary data-based findings to make this happen.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the ways we can support you, please get in touch with Jo, our Head of Schools, who will be more than happy to help.
By Sophie Parker
Our Head of Content, Sophie, is responsible for our blog and our resources. She graduated from University College London, where she read English. In addition to her content work, Sophie volunteers with several charities, supporting children’s literacy with 1-12 year olds, and representation in schools for students aged 11-18.
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