Jay Richards: The Gen Z talent opportunity

Jay Richards, NDA’s monthly columnist, is the Co-Founder of Imagen (previously DivInc), an agency helping brands collaborate with Gen Z through its pool of over 200,000 Gen Z individuals.

The beginning of all articles, emails and video calls sound very similar at the moment “Hope you’re well in these dark, turbulent, unprecedented, unpredictable, shocking, terrifying times.”

It’s true, COVID-19 has brought so much heartache and uncertainty and we shouldn’t forget that. But now more than ever, there is a need for hope and with hope comes opportunity. 

Unemployment is on the rise everywhere, 16 million in the US and nearly a 1 million here in the UK, it’s not something any of us expected but it’s wreaking havoc in homes globally.

This is Gen Z’s first experience of a global crisis as adults, they are experiencing the loss of jobs, finances and so much more.

Over the last few weeks, the sign ups by 16 to 25-year olds to our community have increased by 45%, Gen Z are looking for new ways to earn, learn and contribute. As a start-up business we’re able to offer opportunities to thousands of Gen Z to provide their brutally honest insights for agencies and brands but we can only do so much. 

With many Gen Z recently graduating university or securing their first jobs and apprenticeships, COVID-19 couldn’t have come at a worse time for them. We receive emails daily from 16-25-year olds who were the last hires for companies and the first to have to leave, they’re panicked and unsure what to do during this time.

On the other hand, I’m seeing businesses like Tesco recording record profits, paying their shareholders huge dividends and startups raising millions of dollars, which in itself isn’t inherently bad, the question is, what will they do with all of that money?

The talent opportunity

This is where an opportunity lies, Gen Z are arguably the hardest working generation in history, they understand the odds are against them, older generations are living longer meaning that there are less senior roles to be promoted into, the housing market is, well, the housing market! They will need to perform nothing short of miracles to achieve what their families did before them.

As senior leaders, business owners and human beings, I believe it is our duty to keep Gen Z working. I completely understand that we’re all going through a season of tightening our belts, potentially even having to make employees redundant, but I truly believe this is the time to double down on excellent talent.

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying let go of all your older staff and hire in younger, cheaper team members. I’m saying that if you have junior roles you were potentially looking to hire for before the world imploded, now is a great time to begin filling those roles with talented PAID interns.

Be honest with your new hires, explain that you can’t afford to pay a full-time salary right now, but if they’re willing to graft with you during this time, you will have a full-time role waiting for them after this is all over. 

We aren’t a recruiter; I’m not going to make any money from you hiring Gen Z interns. This isn’t me pitching for your business, I just want as many of us to come out of this in a better, more hopeful position. 

The future

One amazing thing that I’ve seen from COVID-19 is that we’re a global community, everything we do affects others, I’m loving seeing stories of heroism and good old-fashioned kindness. 

This is our opportunity to make a difference to a generation that just wants to get started on their working journey, we’ve all been there and we would have appreciated the helping hand.

I hope to see you all in real life soon, if not let’s do a video call.

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