Some Unsolicited Career Advice for Gen Z Graduates

The job market has changed quite a bit since I graduated in 2011. Even before the pandemic, the business world was aflutter about the rise of the gig economy. Now side hustles and working remotely have become the norm. But what hasn’t changed is the stress and anxiety that comes with entering the workforce.

Gen Z grads might not be looking for advice from a side-parting, skinny-jeans-wearing 30-something. But I’ve weathered booms and busts of the labor market, job-hopped around multiple companies, and ultimately struck out on my own to build a successful career.

Here are the questions I wish I’d known to ask at the start.

Should I find a job or make my own?

One of the first things to consider when strategizing your career is whether to pursue the traditional employer route or try to be your own boss. A 2020 survey by Girls With Impact found that 53% of Gen Z expects to be running their own companies. There are, however, many advantages to traditional employment early in your career.

Working full time for an employer in the U.S. often comes with health insurance, an employer-matched 401(k), and perhaps even life and disability insurance. A regular paycheck may also make those student loan payments feel less daunting and help you and your parents sleep easier at night. As far as your career goes, working for a company can teach you managerial skills, how to effectively communicate with coworkers and clients, and how to identify and improve your own weak spots.

Those who were entrepreneurial in college may be keen to launch into being their own boss. But to start something entirely from scratch without at least some cash flow often requires a Herculean effort and deep-pocketed, generous parents. Having some income while testing your business ideas is a shrewd move. Just make sure your employer can’t claim ownership over your intellectual property if you build a business on the side. Keep any outside work off company computers.