19 FEB - 2023
“Influencer” has become one of the most aspirational jobs for kids and adults. What now?
Young millennials and members of Gen Z have developed a wealth of memes and pointed commentary about their generational detachment with work during the last two years. The jokes, which mirror the spread of anti-work mentality on the internet, vary from shallow and blatant "Rich housewife is the goal" to legitimate claims of “I just want to exist and avoid the rat race”.
Gen Z doesn't dream about labour. This famous statement, popularised on social media during the epidemic, rejects employment as a source of identity, instead portraying it as a financial necessity. It’s slightly worrying… Kids and teens aspire to be influencers as they spend hours each day watching their role models frolic with their gifted hauls and paid trips worldwide – and becoming an astronaut appears to be a lot more effort.
While I don't work directly in the corporate world, I am on #CorporateTok, which fuels a tonne of creators sharing their tips for work-life balance, how to stand up for yourselves and educating yo-pros on how to quit. While I can get behind shutting down toxic work cultures, threads like these are compelling and lead many viewers to quit their jobs without backup options.
Younger workers are leaving their occupations for two simple reasons: they’re suffering from pandemic burnout and want more work-life balance. People who work from home (of all ages) have, on average, logged an additional two hours of labour per day since the pandemic began. They answer messages from their co-workers at 10 pm and check emails all weekend long. According to The Finery Report, 83% of millennials said that working overtime was the norm, and over 70% worked on weekends regularly.
This always-on atmosphere is exhausting younger employees. According to the Adobe survey, 57% of Gen Z feel the most pressure to be ready at all times and characterise their jobs as repetitive and dull. Almost half of Gen Zers claim they frequently work in bed (in fairness, they also tend to live in smaller spaces). We must recognise that this isn’t normal.
Nobody wants to work these days, according to Kim Kardashian.
Nobody, especially young ones, wants to work in positions where they are underpaid, undervalued, and overworked. There is a clear disconnect between employers who expect unpaid and attentive work from juniors, as that is how they likely found their success. While in uni, I learnt the importance of internships to get your foot in the door. And yes, from there, I had a leg up and a bit of industry knowledge, which greatly benefited me. The starting-from-the-bottom hustle has been prevalent in industries for over 100 years. But times are changing.
Since the beginning of the epidemic, workers of all ages, industries, and income classes have reported increased levels of exhaustion, burnout, and general discontent with their occupations. The difference now is that more young people are venting their rage and jaded attitudes on the internet, usually to viral praise.
But will these online acts of employee resistance result in a long-term institutional change, or will Gen Z run out of work opportunities with all the bridges they are burning?
Also with the hovering pressures of the recession and inflation, young workers and uni students are not financially able to work for free or low-paying roles for long periods.
Today's youth are not the first to face economic difficulties, but they are the first to publicise their plight in ways that would have absolutely discouraged potential employers just a decade ago. Even though these attitudes may fade with time, New Zealand's youngest workers, who have a lifetime of work ahead of them, are not afraid to quit openly or criticise their bosses. But will these online acts of employee resistance result in a long-term institutional change, or will Gen Z run out of work opportunities with all the bridges they are burning?