Gen Z may need to adjust salary expectations

Have you started interviewing newly minted graduates from the Class of 2019? Get ready for either a rude awakening or a good laugh. A recent survey suggests that the average Gen Z graduate has seriously unrealistic expectations for both their early and mid-career salaries.

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, the average undergraduates of Generation Z—people born roughly between 1995 and 2015—expects to make $57,964 one year out of college.

For perspective, the national median salary is considerably lower: $47,000 for holders of bachelor’s degrees with up to five years of real-world, on-the-job experience.

The survey of 7,000 students, conducted by real estate investment firm Clever, found that the average undergraduate overestimates how much they’ll be making 10 years out of college. They think they will make $95,400—an overshoot of about $15,000.

Gen Z priorities aren’t the same

The survey also found Generation Z prioritizes different employee benefits than millennials. They rank tangible, money-based incentives—like competitive salaries and excellent insurance plans—above a fun work environment, flex time and unlimited PTO. Going to college to earn more money throughout their careers is the number one reason Gen Zers are getting degrees.

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Inexperienced youngsters make up more of workforce

A surging economy has brought more young people into the workforce. The percentage of workers ages 20 or older who had one year or less of tenure with their current employer increased from 17.4% in 2010 to 20.5% in 2018, according to research by the nonprofit Employee Benefit Research Institute.

The rise coincides with a historically low unemployment rate.

4 insights into Gen Z

So, what do you need to know about this group? Workplace coaching provider InsideOut Development conducted a survey of 1,000 respondents ages 18–23, and offers this insight into your youngest employees:

1. They expect to get paid. They want good pay—but just as important for you to know, they want promotions and fast. Seventy-five percent expect promotions within a year of working, and 32% expect one in just 6 months. They may be quick to hop to another job if advancement opportunities don’t exist within your organization.

2. They want a boss who is a strong coach. Seventy-five percent say a boss’s ability to coach is important—with one in four saying it’s the most important attribute of a manager.

3. They worry about not being “good enough.” Twenty-six percent worry that they won’t meet the expectations of the job. Make sure they know what they are doing well, and how they can improve. They crave both constructive feedback and encouragement.

4. They are gunning for your job or at least a management job. Sixty percent aspire to management positions of their own. Find ways to develop them into leaders.

For more on the study, you can read the e-book The Ultimate Guide to Generation Z in the Workplace at