It’s a difficult time for soon-to-be college graduates entering the workforce. Not only have many been forced home from college early as plans to celebrate graduation disappear, but now they are entering into an economy that has been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Health concerns and government restrictions have led to millions of job losses and business closures. Those with internships and entry-level job offers have seen these prospects delayed, altered, or even rescinded.

Goldman Sachs Group and Morgan Stanley are the latest employers to alter their prestigious internship programs, after other global firms announced plans to delay or shorten upcoming intern programs. Goldman Sachs will delay all summer internships to begin on July 6, shortening the program to just five weeks. However, they will compensate interns as though they worked a full-length program. Morgan Stanley plans to have the majority of work done virtually with in-person components as needed.

Of course, many others expecting to begin their careers with a valuable internship or apprenticeship have seen these jobs completely vanish. At Yelp and the National Institutes of Health, summer programs were cancelled entirely. Disney abruptly ended internship programs in March 2020. Those who haven’t had their programs cancelled yet are still waiting to see what their employers will be doing, as many regions are still unclear on how the reopening process will pan out.

All of these changes will impact the start of these young adults’ careers, leaving them without valuable experience or opportunities to earn the income they might have been expecting.

Lessons From The Great Recession

In 2008, the Great Recession left many millennials in a similarly difficult spot as they attempted to begin their career. Many lost jobs or internships just as they were graduating college, forcing them home to live with their parents.

Since then, there has been speculation that, for the first time, a younger generation would not be better off than previous generations. Millennials would not be able to earn as much over their lifetime than their parents. Salaries earned at the beginning of a career tend to have substantial weight over what one will earn over their lifetime. Combined with staggering student loan debt, it made a challenging start for them.

This experience changed the way millennials think about their careers. Many were left with a lasting anxiety over finances and feelings of insecurity; retirement accounts were never started, and debt piled up. Several struggled to find careers in the field they had studied for, after entry-level jobs could not be found, leading them to settle for unfulfilling work. Big life changes, such as starting a family, had to be delayed.

How COVID-19 Will Shape The Generation Z Workforce

While generations are shaped by more than a singular event, there’s no doubt that COVID-19 will also leave a lasting impression on the young adults that are just now starting their careers. The ways in which this crisis has shaped the economy and daily life has the potential to inform what these workers, ultimately, want out of their careers and lives.

Similar to what millennials faced, these young workers may struggle with getting out of student loan debt as job prospects disappear. Financial wellness programs that help these workers get back on track with managing debt, creating budgets, meeting goals, and setting up a plan for retirement will continue to be highly valuable.

Remote work was already growing in popularity, but younger workers may consider it more than just a common work style. To them, it could become more standard than working from an office. These employees may seek even more flexibility with remote or off-site options. If they do have to come to an office, they may demand even more from on-site facilities.

Job security could easily become more of a priority than compensation. Watching “non-essential” workers lose jobs and struggle financially has many reconsidering the value of their chosen path. While people often consider how relevant a career field will be in the future, rarely do they evaluate how “essential” the services or products they provide might be during a time of crisis.

During these months of uncertainty, workers have had their family responsibilities, mental stress, and physical health concerns grow. Knowing that an employer can do more to support employees’ wellness outside of work—including health, social, and financial needs—during difficult periods will only be a more attractive to prospective employees.

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