Posted August 16, 2021 by Mark Perna
‘Generation Resilient’ is entering a post-pandemic world with confidence—and a fresh look at what they want to do with their lives. Mark’s article, “How The Pandemic Is Inspiring Gen-Z To Rethink Their Education And Career,” published at Forbes.com on July 27, 2021.
It’s only natural that many of us are finding it hard to forget the tragedy and pain wrought by the pandemic. But perhaps, as the country continues on its reopening path, it’s time to look for the silver linings that now shine through the darkness of the past year and a half.
One such bright spot is how members of Generation-Z, or Gen-Z, have been able to overcome hurdles like massive job loss, a sudden shift to living and studying online and swiftly imposed social isolation. They haven’t earned the nickname ‘Generation Resilient’ for nothing.
“This generation has shown remarkable resilience in channeling their penchant for activism, creativity and motivation,” says Laura Howe, Senior Vice President, Global Corporate Communications, for Pearson. “Despite all their setbacks during the pandemic, they’re still eager to move forward with their education to drive change.”
In fact, according to a recent four-country survey conducted by Pearson of 6,000 college students and parents of school age children, 80% of college students say their generation has become more resilient because of the adversity they faced during the pandemic.
The survey results also reveal other changes in how Gen-Z views the world around them—and in their own education and career trajectory.
The pandemic has caused Gen-Z to take a fresh look at their educational goals. On one hand, according to the Pearson Global Learner Survey, 68% of college students see more value in their education than ever before while 72% of students reported a new sense of urgency for completing their education.
“Gen-Z recognizes that education is a tool to combine their personal passions with their careers,” says Howe. “Future generations can especially learn the power of fueling your personal interests with education in order to customize your career path.”
To that point, survey participants also say they are reconsidering their areas of study due to their experiences during the pandemic. Many members of Gen-Z are now thinking about entering critical STEM fields. The study found that 45% of college students today are being inspired to consider a career in healthcare and science. “This empathetic, socially conscious generation reacts swiftly and deeply to the needs of society,” says Howe. “Many are likely motivated by what they have seen and experienced during the pandemic.
“This means that an industry that has been stretched thin by Covid will soon see an influx of passionate individuals motivated through empathy to make an impact in their profession.”
The pandemic revealed the importance of communities working together to achieve a common goal. As witnesses to that, members of Gen-Z, as well as their parents, say that they have become more empathetic. Fully 85% of college students say they gained a new appreciation for the struggles of others as a result of the pandemic. “By their nature, members of Gen-Z are socially conscious, driven and highly engaged with the world around them,” says Howe. “Generations of all ages can learn from this and work to help strengthen their community, particularly after such an isolating year.”
At 21 years old, Gen-Zer Mykel Broady has already taken these lessons to heart. He told me: “Beyond anything, the pandemic influenced me to further discover and define myself. Amidst isolation, I faced a crossroad with my newfound free time: indulge in it or strategically use it to further understand and love the person I’ve seen in the mirror for two decades.”
Broady chose to use that time wisely. “After months of reading insightful books, fighting internal battles, and keeping an open mind to learn from others, I can genuinely say that I’ve never been more aware of who I am and my purpose.
“As a result, I’ve further learned how I can influence others for the better.”
One of the rising trends among Gen-Z is a desire to start their own business or pursue new career opportunities. “As the first digital native generation, many in Gen-Z have developed a wide array of skills such as technical expertise, adaptability and the ability to learn without much instruction,” says Howe.
That’s related to another shift prompted by the pandemic where employers and hiring managers are updating their recruitment practices and policies to take a new look at job seekers with non-traditional educational backgrounds. According to Pearson’s Currency of Learning Report, employers are expanding their view of who is qualified for work and are accepting more “modern” qualifications like certificates and digital badges in their recruitment efforts.
“We are seeing that companies don’t see a skills gap,” says Howe. “They see a skills opportunity and are willing to become the new ‘University’ for their employees. We believe that the upcoming workforce will be even more diverse as employees have opportunities to learn from both traditional and non-traditional sources.”
Broady added this perspective: “I found that relying solely on the information taught in school won’t allow me to reach my potential. For this reason, I’ve committed to endless learning which ensures personal growth as I gain more knowledge about the world around me, and more importantly, how I can positively change it one step at a time.”
We still mourn those lost to the pandemic and our hearts go out to those who continue to suffer mental health issues triggered by loss and upheaval. And yet, a component of rebounding from a crisis is to focus on the positive—those silver linings which can help fuel more positive steps into the future. Along those lines, it’s hard not to get excited at how resilient Gen-Zers like Broady have used the past year to rethink their approach to their education and careers in ways that promise to create more fulfilling lives for themselves and others, both today and into the future.
“Make no mistake, COVID-19 has certainly brought forth painful experiences for so many, and for that I’m sympathetic,” says Broady. “I take great caution in my words and feel that there comes a point when we reflect on how far we’ve come and how much we’ve overcome, with hope for a beautiful future ahead.”