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As with all newcomers into the workforce, members of Gen Z areoften mislabeled and stereotyped long before they are able to trulyreveal their identity. As your clients try to predict what kind ofemployees Gen Z will produce, let's tune into what they're actuallysaying to us right now.

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The most educated (and debt concerned)generation

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Over last 50 years, we have observed increasing educationalstandards. High school students are taking more advanced courses,college enrollment rates have skyrocketed, and the higher-ordereducation attainment of the population has climbed from 24 percentin 1986 to 37 percent in 2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.Yet, it comes at a cost.

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More than half of young adults who attended college incurredsome debt for their education; and 1 in 5 with educational debt arebehind on their payments. Not surprisingly, 71 percent of youngadults (18 to 22 years) cite the cost of education as the topconcern of their generation.

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Passion or paycheck?

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Members of Gen Z graduate with a strong desire to make ameaningful impact on the world. As one of our focus groupparticipants put it: “I am not going to college for seven years andgoing thousands of dollars in debt just to do something I am notpassionate about.”

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This highlights the biggest challenge for Gen Z. How does theirvision of the ideal employment situation mesh with the realities ofadulthood and becoming financially secure and independent?

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Some even start to question the lifetime benefits of highereducation. For instance, only about half of Gen Z agreed that theirschool or college prepared them for work. Not only did some feelthat they didn't learn necessary skills, they also feel they didn'tget the necessary work experience that employers are seeking.

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Our research shows that over one third of Gen Z says that theywant to do passionate work, whether they are employed or not.However, an interesting trend in our research shows that this maytake a backseat to job stability as they become more involved inthe workforce. Almost half of Gen Z who are employed said jobstability was the top characteristic they were looking for inemployment. This could be a result of looming educational bills anda desire to live on their own.

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Choosing between gigs and traditionalearning

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Many misconceptions currently exist about the new generation.One is that Gen Z's goals in working are somehow different fromthat of previous generations. While superficially different, thesame problems and concerns that plagued earlier working generationshound those entering the workforce.

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Gen Z is yearning for financial stability the same way themillennials did. In fact, the practical aspects of money-earningmakes Gen Z unlikely candidates for the “gig” economy, consideringthat many young adults carry educational debt. While alternativework arrangements are widely popular, the majority of young adultswant full-time work.

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In fact, just 3 percent of current 18 to 22 year olds statedthat they are looking for a freelance/gig type job in the next fiveyears, which helps breaks down myths about Gen Z's unwillingness toaccept traditional employment.

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Approaching the new generation

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Just like many generations before them, Gen Z has someinteresting qualities that make them unique. But they may not be asdifferent as many of the stereotypes suggest. Here are threesuggestions we have for approaching this new group:

  1. While many people point to Gen Z's particular interest intechnology, our research shows that they actually preferface-to-face interaction over any other method of communication inthe workplace.
  2. Although this may fade with time, Gen Z is a deeply passionatebunch. Offering them positions that include things they care aboutwill likely garner more interest.
  3. Job stability will become important to Gen Z as they becomemore entrenched in the workforce. Offering them stable, long-termpositions that allow them to pay down their debts will attractthem.
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Yuliya Babushkina joined LIMRA in 2004. Her responsibilitiesinclude managing U.S. group dental surveys and various studies ingroup product research, such as the Conference Practices Survey,Broker Panel Surveys, and the Dental Metrics Survey. Her currentarea of concentration is health care reform and its effect onemployers, employees, carriers and brokers. She has a master'sdegree in history from Bowling Green State University and amaster's degree in survey research from the University ofConnecticut.

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