Agile intern, Susan Miller is a student at University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

When a student can visualize and pitch their own internship, we like to hear about it. After all, we’re in the business of helping companies select the best matched talent based on interpersonal skills and motivational match.

Susan Miller, a rising sophomore at the University of North Carolina, impressed us with her proposal and we’ve enjoyed the benefit of her fresh eyes and self-starter spirit this summer. It’s been good in two ways:

1) There’s always a bonus to have eager, conscientious help with all the behind-the-scenes tasks of our work, and

2) There’s no better way to learn about the next wave of job candidates than to hang out with a Gen Z student who plans to enter the workplace in a few years.

Susan has participated in our Women in Leadership workshops and given us valuable feedback as a future woman in leadership herself. She’s a business major with a double minor in Advertising/Public Relations and Spanish. Her ideal job after college would be internationally focused so she can use her language skills to make an impact.

Eager to make an impact

“Impact” is one of the keywords you find in many articles you read on the emerging workforce. Young people consistently cite having a chance to make an impact ­– on the brand or on society ­– as a career requirement. Susan is the same.

“Being able to make an impact is important,” says Susan. “I’d be happiest working directly with people for positive impact, even in a non-profit charity.”

We think another attribute of this generation is agility.

The 911 attacks and the country’s response helped shape the Millennial generation. For Generation Z it’s the Pandemic which caused upheaval and massive uncertainty for everyone.

Susan’s senior year in high school was disrupted by the lockdown and public health restrictions. No prom or graduation for the class of 2020. Who expected that?

Add to this, going off to Chapel Hill wearing a mask. Nobody knows what to expect when they start college. Add to that the unknown of the Pandemic and its continuing restrictions and you have even more vexing ambiguity. But also, in Susan’s experience, there has been a lot of improvisation and collaboration to make the best of what you imagine university study should be.

“After our high school skipped graduation and prom,” says Susan, “I got tired of being disappointed, but it’s made learn to be more adaptable.”

As a UNC freshman, Susan moved on campus for about two weeks before being kicked out of the dormitory when Covid clusters started appearing.

“I was lucky enough to get an off-campus apartment with one roommate,” says Susan. “That way I stayed near the college environment, but had virtual classrooms, and I was able to be away from my home. I thought that was an important part of the experience. It was probably more like having a job that what I imagined college would be – get up and work and not have much interaction with other students.”

As a business major, she wonders what form the workplace will take in three years and, also, reflects what some current surveys indicate: the workplace may never be what it was pre-pandemic.

“The hybrid model is appealing,” says Susan. “I’ve come to appreciate the convenience of working at home, but there’s also the longing for group work. I would lean toward a hybrid model with guaranteed connection.”

Talking with Susan you can get the impression that prospective employers and the larger workplace are more top-of-mind with Generation Z students than with older generations.

Today’s students might be more aware of your company than you realize

Students are thinking about specific companies and what their policies are in order to consider which companies are the ones where they want to work. As with Millennials, Gen Z cares a great deal about diversity and inclusion as they live it in today’s university environments.

“I know students are very aware of what companies are doing with diversity and inclusion, but I don’t know whether or not you would take a job based on that,” says Susan. “I’m not sure. But companies I’ve seen are working to adapt in this area.”

Susan Miller is a mature and highly motivated student – a sample of one. But as she describes her classmates and peers, you get a picture in which even freshmen and sophomores today are serious about careers and, specifically, where they want to end up.

“Students are very aware of what’s going in the workforce,” Susan says. “We’re three steps ahead looking at jobs in the future and how to get into the company you want.”

Hiring managers take note. Gen Z might become the most agile generation yet.