The top concern soon-to-be-grads have about entering the current job market has nothing to do with money, according to a new survey of 500 incoming college graduates from A.Team, a tech hiring platform.
Instead, when asked about their top concern about the work landscape, 21% said they were most worried about finding a role that affords them work-life balance. Not far behind, 19% of new grads are concerned about not finding a job they're passionate about, while another 18% say potential layoffs are their biggest worry.
Reports of academic burnout from college students got worse during the pandemic and remains a problem: As of 2022, 2 in 5 undergrads say they frequently feel stress while attending school, according to research from Gallup and the Lumina Foundation. More than 40% said they considered dropping out in the previous six months, up from 34% during the first year of the pandemic, with most citing emotional stress and mental health concerns as their top reason above financial strain and difficult coursework.
And U.S. workers experience some of the highest rates of work burnout in the world — it's especially bad for Gen Z, millennials and women — so it's not a stretch to see how the labor force's newest hires are concerned about working a job while still maintaining a personal life.
It's possible young workers see burned out senior colleagues, or even their own parents, as a warning sign of what they don't want in a career, says Angelique Bellmer Krembs, CMO-in-Residence at A.Team who's served in executive roles at BlackRock, PepsiCo, and News Corp.
She points to recent data from LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Company that shows women leaders are leaving their organizations at the highest rate ever, widening the quitting gap between women and men in senior roles.
Gen Z's calls for work-life balance could reshape workplace culture
Others see the focus on work-life balance as a good thing, though.
"I credit social media with normalizing people's mental health challenges," says Jenny Dearborn, who's held chief HR roles at companies like Hewlett-Packard, SuccessFactors and SAP.
An openness among Gen Z and young millennials could have a positive impact on work cultures that want to bring in and support this talent.
"On a collective basis, it's very healthy how comfortable people are about saying, 'I need more sleep. I am lonely. I need time to be with friends. I need to focus on my mental health,'" Dearborn says.
Young professionals may also see work-life balance as something more holistic than setting boundaries around a 9-to-5 from Monday through Friday, adds Christine Cruzvergara, the chief education strategy officer at Handshake, the college student and new-grad career site.
In other words, do they have policies and support for employees' overall wellbeing? Do they have employee assistance programs around mental health? Are mental health days offered?
"This generation wants employers that will actually walk the talk and will be consistent about what they care about," Cruzvergara says.
The class of 2023 prizes job stability and financial security most of all, according to recent Handshake reports, though they still want to work for companies that do good.
A majority, 65% would choose a job with slightly lower pay if it meant working at a company whose mission aligns with their personal values, according to the A.Team survey. But it's still not their top desire in a new job: 33% of new grads say the option to work remotely is their most important factor in their job search, compared with 25% who say alignment with a company's values is their top priority.
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