New research from integrated communications agency Canvas Blue, in partnership with research firm Propeller Insights, titled Gen Z Gets To Work, reveals a generation that is pragmatic and savvy, yet who are optimistic and who desire work/life balance.

Gen Z is defined as those born between 1996 and 2010, making the oldest cohort 22 years old and among college seniors who are graduating this May and June. For the first time, Gen Z—which is now the largest generation at approx. 60 million, thus surpassing the Millennial generation—is entering the workforce.

“We conducted this study because we noticed that there’s not much research in the marketplace about Gen Z, especially what they’re looking for in their careers,” said Samantha Sackin, managing director at Canvas Blue, in a news release. “As we begin to hire Gen Zers and market to them on behalf of our clients, we embarked on this study to shed some light into their attitudes and what the future of work looks like. Whether you’re an employer, employee or Gen Zer, the findings are important for everyone who wants to adapt the workplace to embrace this important generation.”

Welcome to the salt mines! Gen Z prepares for its workplace debut

Key findings of the study include:

Safety high, diversity low

Surprisingly, 77 percent of respondents reported that “feeling safe/security provided” was their top office environment quality. Feeling safe is likely the number one priority due to the frequent public shootings and other public safety threats this generation has grown up watching or experiencing firsthand. In contrast, when asked to rank what they look for in a future employer, the lowest priority was diversity.

One reason for the low ranking may be that Gen Z is considered the most diverse generation, so they may see diversity in the workplace as a given.

Show me the money

Salary significantly outranked all other benefits when applying to a job and 61 percent chose “earning a high salary” as how they define success.

But don’t sacrifice fun

After salary, work hours and opportunity for personal happiness made the list of their top three priorities when considering a job. Once in a job, 72 percent chose “fun” as a top office environment quality. Also, Gen Zers do not believe they need to work long hours to get ahead. In fact, 40 percent believe they can get ahead by only working 9 to 5. Also, 53 percent said they would prefer to be a freelancer if the salary was the same as an office job.

Glass half full approach

Gen Zers believe in the American Dream (50 percent agree or strongly agree) and think they will be better off than their parents (52 percent agree or strongly agree). Interestingly, this generation was virtually untouched by the Recession with 76 percent reporting that their parents did not lose their jobs. When asked if college was worth the investment, 59 percent agreed or strongly agreed and 54 percent believe college has prepared them well for the workforce.

The study was based on a survey completed by 400 American college students ranging from freshman to seniors at four year universities across the nation.

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