Salary Reality Check: Gen Z Is in for a Big Surprise

As Generation Z enters the workplace, they’re learning about the disconnect between their salary expectations and the reality of making a living in 2019. At the same time, we’re learning how to recruit, manage, and satisfy them as employees.

Here at Clever Real Estate, we have to appeal to Gen Z as both potential home buyers and potential employees. So we surveyed 1,000 undergraduates to learn about their attitudes towards money, work, career goals, and much more. What we learned might take you by surprise.

The misconceptions start early for Gen Z: The average Gen Z undergraduate expects to make $57,964 one year out of college, but the national median salary for recent grads with bachelor’s degrees with between zero and five years of on-the-job experience is only $47,000. This holds true across most majors. That reality sets up the typical Gen Z grad for disappointment which, unfortunately, often lingers into mid-career.

That’s because those same undergraduates overestimates how much they’ll be making by mid-career (defined as 10 years out of college) by about $15,000. Troublingly, the gap between reality and their expectations actually widens as they progress in the workplace.

So how do you appeal to and retain Gen Z employees? Well, as you might imagine from a generation that’s experiencing perpetual financial disappointment, Gen Z employees are most motivated by tangible, money-based incentives. Unlike their millennial predecessors, who wanted soft incentives like a fun, casual work environment, flex time, and unlimited PTO, Gen Z employees want money-based incentives like competitive salaries and excellent insurance plans.

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Gen Z employees also want a certain amount of personal privacy in the workplace; 45% of them say they work better while wearing headphones, and 46% want to personalize their work area. But although they have a reputation for being reliant on technology, a majority of Gen Z employees (53%) believe talking in person is the best way to communicate with their manager.

They have high expectations in general for their managers; 69% of them want their manager to mentor them, and the same percentage also wants their manager to solicit their opinions. Clearly, communication is a major priority from Gen Z. Another very high priority for them is that their employer give back to the community; a whopping 72% said this was important to them. Finally, only 16% of Gen Z respondents aspire to work in a corporate office; most of them would prefer to freelance.

When you look at these findings together, a portrait emerges of the Gen Z workforce: self-contained but communicative, realistic but also idealistic, essentially two-sided. Considering that they’re entering an economy in serious transition, can you blame them?


Ben Mizes

Ben Mizes
Ben Mizes is the CEO of Clever Real Estate.

Ben Mizes

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