Gen Z on The Great Resignation

Even though a housing price crash is often reported on as a crisis, it benefits first time homebuyers. Do the college seniors in 2021, likewise, see this “labor shortage” as a wonderful opportunity and stroke of luck for them personally? They overwhelmingly think of themselves as sellers of labor, not employers.*

Sometimes Samford students write for EWED if I felt like there was something that I and readers could learn from their perspective. This is accounting major Rachel Brinkley:

As a 21-year-old senior in college, the workforce is a confusing place. On the one hand, “The Great Resignation” is creating millions of jobs across America. It is a very encouraging time to be graduating college, as it appears that most of my peers and I will have no issues finding employment. Employers are currently struggling to compete in terms of compensation and benefits offered. I am majoring in accounting, and everyone that I have spoken to in my major has had at least one compensation increase since accepting their position. None of us have worked even one day on the job. This competition between employers creates favorable bargaining power for those entering the workforce, while putting a strain on employers.

While I may have confidence in my employment status after graduation, I will be starting at an entry level position for a firm that has a relatively structured promotional process. Like most large accounting firms, the promotions within the firm are based on the number of years spent working at the firm. There may be a few exceptions to the standard promotional pace, but I am not very optimistic about climbing the corporate ladder any faster than I would under more typical economic conditions. This is due, in part, to the fact that the best jobs are hard to come by. At a large accounting firm, the structured promotional process limits the number of the most sought-after jobs.

This circumstance leads me to ask how it is possible to obtain a top job when competition for those positions seems to be increasing. We read “Deep Work” for class, and I think about the author’s advice. We will need to continue learning new skills to make it into top positions.

Are my students running through the halls celebrating the current state of the labor market? Maybe they should be, but they are not, especially if their focus is on what Rachel called “top jobs”. Some jobs, almost by definition, are limited because they are top-of-the-pyramid or “tournament” positions.

My current Fall students pointed out that they feel better than the last two batches of students graduating into a closed-down Covid world. Many of our previous students got hired virtually and I don’t know at what point if at all they have had in-person interactions with work colleagues.

*The truth is more complex in a large diverse economy. Even though I don’t think of myself as en employer, I am concerned that there will be no one to operate my upcoming flight to a conference. The airline I rely on has had to cancel hundereds of flights in the past week over labor issues.