Engaging Gen Z on the College-to-Career Pathway

By Alicia Monroe posted 09-11-2018 08:26

by Alicia Monroe and Altonia Bryant

According to Nielsen data, Gen Z makes up 26 percent of the U.S. population. This population is challenged in their personal framework to “trust their internal voice, build their internal foundation, and secure their internal commitments” (Magolda, 2008). In order to build self-efficacy and sustained self-esteem of post-Millennials in their career competencies, it is the daunting mission of career services professionals to meet students where they are on their career journey, assist with their self-identification in the process, develop strong career coach/student relationships as they partner, and act as a guide and mentor as students navigate their journey toward career attainment. As an extension of this approach, Gen Z'ers will actively engage and blossom in the career readiness process if they are surrounded by a community of care.

We are frequently asked about our research and for insight on best practices for engaging Gen Z students. As a natural default, our response always associates with the human condition. Organically, humans are made to come into community with others in order to co-create processes. So, it makes sense to start here. With this said, one of the initial questions we ask as we create college to career pathway programs is “Who do we serve?”

The ability of post-Millennials to define themselves and create a space for acceptance in the workplace with others rests on the capacity of career services professionals to build genuine relationships with them, provide them with meaningful mentoring experiences, and create a community of care that inspires and supports their career readiness journey. Once we tap into the whole student, there is a natural tipping point where students feel comfortable owning their story and sharing it within their community of care. The community of care continues to mentor, coach, and counsel students as they develop their own narrative and interpretation of the world.

In successful college-to-career pathway programs, theory-based approaches and equity and access frameworks are critical learning foundations. Assessment and evaluation tools that integrate and reflect the voices of students, their community of care, and employers provides the insight and feedback that sustains a healthy and productive process.

In order for students to self-actualize and attain the success they have authored for themselves, we must get to know and respect who they are, authentically engage with them on their career journey, and provide them with the support and experiential learning opportunities that inspire career attainment.

Dill, K. (6 November 2015). "7 Things Employers Should Know About The Gen Z Workforce". Forbes. Retrieved 25 August 2018.
Magolda, M. B., (2008). Three Elements of Self-Authorship. Journal of Student Development. 49(4), 269-284.
Monroe. A., (2018) Real Talk, All Voices, Our Truth: Moving the Needle through Transformational Dialogue. The Reformer. 1 (1), 71-76.