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The Evolution of the Workforce

Ophelia Clark-Wade, Grade 10, Staff Writer


Teenagers often face the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” The question asks them to boil down their dreams and passions into a singular career that will not only sustain but define their lives. However, the workplace narrative that one’s occupation represents who they are has become increasingly false. 

According to John Hopkins University, Generation Z, those born in the late 1990s to 2010, in just seven years, will make up 30% of the workforce. They are bringing with them a new definition of what defines a successful career, a work life balance, and workplace values.

Choosing a career path has always involved finding a balance between financial stability, personal interests, and accessibility. A dream profession, though, may not be realistic or achievable. Ms. Peterson, a tenth grade AP World History teacher at the High School of American Studies, highlights this: “When [my] mom went to her state college, women could only go into the school of education or nursing.”

Today, the prominence of such barriers that specifically target people of marginalized races, genders, and sexualities is at an all time low. Ms. Peterson attributed this to a new “age of technology and globalization.” 

Ultimately, these changes have enabled more youth to proclaim, like HSAS senior Nathalia Dominguez, “I want to be a lawyer” and give them the ability to make that dream a reality. 

However, discovering a person’s career takes time, as it requires one to fit themself in a box that often fails to encapsulate both their passions and needs. Ms. Peterson explains her story of becoming a world history teacher after years of working as a trial lawyer: “I always thought I was going to be a writer [and] when I graduated college I didn’t want to go back into higher education.” 

Eventually, she discovered that she both “really loved” teaching and could work without compromising her family life. Ms. Peterson illuminates how “there is no career you do that you should feel you can’t change to do something else.” This is the essential mindset in the modern workforce. 

The University of Queensland predicts that Generation Z will have between six to 17 jobs across five to seven fields in their lifetime. HSAS senior Carmela Suozzi was not surprised by this statistic.

 “I am not that surprised, I definitely feel like it is more common now to change jobs and careers.” Suozzi’s particular interests are in the arts, but she conceded that “it’s unrealistic” for her to maintain one job her entire life while still making enough money to sustain the life she wants. 

This desire to balance lifestyle and passion is representative of Generation Z as a whole. The generation is disillusioned with the saying “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” These new workers are prioritizing their mental health, personal goals, and a workplace that aligns with their morals.

Although the idea of frequently changing occupations might “[sound] like a lot of work,” as expressed by Dominguez, it is rooted in a search for greater freedom in designing one’s own life. 

For much of Western society’s history, identity has been defined by occupation, irrespective of the working conditions. Now, workers are beginning to demand improved working conditions as they seek a lifestyle beyond just their day jobs. The question we should be asking is who, not what, do you want to be when you grow up. 

HSAS students considering their future.

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