Work-Life Ruminations from a Gen Z Undergrad

I sat in the Zoom waiting room anxious for my interview to begin. I had just rushed over from my friend’s apartment, wearing a borrowed shirt and tie. My interview was for LLUNA, a Human Resources technology company. A week prior I didn’t even know what “HR” meant, but thankfully the interview went well, and soon I was starting my first day as a Marketing Intern. By the end of my time at LLUNA, I had gleaned valuable information about the world of Human Resources and how myself and other Gen Z’s might prefer to be employed in the future.

I dove headfirst into the world of Human Resources. Days spent combing through different company policies and benefits was a quick education into the vast differences in employment options across companies. . Flexible schedule options, compensation packages, perks, and paid-time-off are just a few of the employment dimensions that vary drastically across organizations. Almost by accident, I began to think about what I might like from my future employers. One night, while hanging out with my roommates, I asked them what they thought about it all. I discovered one common denominator: Flexibility. All for very different reasons, we want to have flexibility in our work, and a way for our personal preferences to be considered.

LLUNA is unlike any place I have worked in my short career. As a start-up, where I am one of six employees (as opposed to one of hundreds – or more!), each of us has an important role to play in the growth of the business! While LLUNA is a young company, the workplace culture is highly collaborative, inclusive, and thrives on the unique strengths of each person. This was incredibly apparent the first time I entered the company conference room.

Jess, the CEO, had covered the walls in frantic writing in a combination of scheduling and brainstorming. Aaron, the CTO, calmly and meticulously offering opinions and suggestions. Another teammate, Michelle, had labeled her notebook in perfect handwriting while angling her fully charged laptop to align with her. Jodie, a data engineer, is dialed-in on Zoom from Seattle, contributing as if she’s in the room. I set out my laptop, minutes away from having a dead battery (thankfully, I had remembered my charger), and shared my thoughts on the topic at hand. When I spoke, each and every head rotated to look and listen to my input. It was so rewarding to work in an environment where I had both a voice and the freedom to execute my work. I had no manager looking over my shoulder. No time clock to calculate my hours.

This freedom allowed me to work where I want, when I want, and how I want. This freedom empowered me to work better, smarter, and more efficiently.

As I look out into my future career path, I see a future where I decide what flexibility means to me and how it may change  as my career evolves. Without my experience as a LLUNA intern, I may have never been aware of the vast landscape of flexible work schedules, paid-time-off options, perks, and other benefits. I may have ended up with a decent job without flexibility or the ability to personalize my work, disengaged and unfulfilled. Disaster avoided because now I know!

For employers looking to attract the next generation of workers, here are three priority areas to focus on:

  1. Flexibility. Everybody is different! Different preferences for unique individuals are a cornerstone in Gen Z’s workplace priorities.
  2. Engaging Work and Appreciation. This might mean something different to everybody , but when workers feel truly appreciated and important, it enhances their work experience dramatically. If you aren’t sure about what this means for someone on your team – just ask!
  3. Balance > Stress. We will prioritize the opportunity for meaningful work and flexibility over a high-paying-high-stress job every time.

The world is changing and Gen Z is here with different preferences than the other four generations currently in the workplace. Employers can evolve to capitalize on the opportunity to attract and retain Gen Z talent by meeting us where we are.

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Matthew Zwilgmeyer is a rising senior at West Chester University with a major in Business Management and a double minor in Entrepreneurship and Philosophy. Matthew also is a student-athlete and a two-time conference champion with the WCU Swimming & Diving Team.