Generation Z: What Do I Do With My Life?

Generation Z is flooding the workforce. Many young people are coming up for air and feeling like something is missing. Because of this, I get questions all the time from Generation Z’s asking for career advice. Let’s talk about it….

Generation Z: What Do I Do With My Life?

“What do I do with my life?” I hear that all the time from Generation Z employees. When I’m asked to weigh in, I consistently offer these points and today I want to share those with you.

Maintain Your Integrity

First, while you are questioning what your next move should be, don’t jeopardize your current opportunity. To Generation Z and all other employees, you need to show up every day, give your employer your very best performance, and focus on learning everything you can right where you are. 


Well, through the whole process of trying to figure out what it is you really want to do, you may realize you actually want to stay where you are! If you slack off, then you risk losing what you already have.

Secondly, you are currently being paid to do a job —  so do it! Your integrity is at stake, and truly successful professionals maintain their integrity at all times, no matter what.

Finally, don’t negatively impact your coworkers. Just because you are questioning what you want, doesn’t mean that anyone else is. As you interact with your coworkers, focus on having conversations that will build them up and encourage them to excel in their positions. Also, if you are tasked with training new employees during this time where you are wondering if this is where you want to be, focus on showing them the best parts of your job because this may be their dream job–even if it’s not yours! Don’t ruin their opportunity. If you let your doubts and questions infect your coworkers, then you can singlehandedly be the disease that brings down the morale of the entire organization. That’s not good for you or for them.

Ultimately, maintain your integrity by focusing on creating an environment where even if you do decide to leave, you will be leaving it in a better place. That’s a win for everyone.

Get Real

I continue to meet Generation Z employees who are searching for the dream job that is going to make them rich and keep life easy. In every conversation, their idea of what work should look like or do for them is stemming from someone they’ve seen or heard on social media, YouTube, or in pop culture some way.  I hate that so many people have such an inaccurate picture of what work looks like now. Here is what I say to those dreaming of a job that doesn’t exist in the real world…

What you see on the internet is most often just a person’s highlight reel. You see the best moments of what a person does with three photo filters on top. What you don’t see is every time they have to:

  • Get their hands dirty
  • Work extremely long hours
  • Miss important moments with their family and friends
  • The hundreds of times they’ve had to deal with angry customers
  • All the years they worked for low wages — sometimes for free — just so they could learn more
  • Long days where they showed up even though they felt horrible
  • The years they spent paying off debt or saving up to invest in the business…

The list could go on and on! Why? Because THAT is the real world. That is what you don’t see on social but what you will experience in real life.

Work is called work for a reason. Yes, there are jobs out there with really great perks, but even jobs with awesome perks have aspects that are grueling. No matter what you decide to do, you will not love every aspect of your job every day. However, you will still have to work and go all in every day if you want to be successful. How do you make the grind worth it? You make sure the work you are doing feeds your “why”.

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Find Your “Why”

“When you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Have you heard that quote before? I couldn’t find the original source for this quote but I’ve seen, heard, and disagreed with this quote for years.

I absolutely love what I do and there are still days that it feels like work. You may be asking yourself, “Why would you irrevocably pursue a career that feels like work sometimes? First, every job will feel like work at one point or another so don’t follow a lie that would make you believe otherwise. Second, my work 100% feeds my “why”.

Your why is the reason you do what you do. Some of the most common why’s I’ve heard over the years when it comes to people in their jobs:

  • Make an impact
  • Control of schedule
  • Financial freedom

Do you know what your why is? If not, take time to ask yourself the question of what it is that you ultimately want to accomplish. Incredible value lies within understanding and naming your reason for doing what you do. Your why will  keep you grounded on the best days at work and keep you motivated on the inevitable dull or tough days at work. Having a meaningful why makes all the work worth it!

Take Action

Let’s do a quick recap. We discussed working really hard where you are right now. Then we talked about work taking real effort and not being Instagram worthy all the time. Then we talked about defining your reason for doing what you do. Lastly, it’s now time to take action to make your success happen. 

Whether you are staying where you are, working your way up in the organization, or changing careers altogether…if you’re going to be successful you can’t sit back and hope for a better future, you have to make moves to make it happen.

Your action might be to level up your performance at your current job. Maybe your next move might be to schedule a conversation with a successful person in the industry you think you want to be in so you can pick their brain. The options are endless. Whatever the action is, make sure it is a move forward and in the right direction.

Learn, Grow, Work Your Butt Off

To Generation Z and all other professionals in the workplace today wondering what to do with your life, don’t quit your job without another one in place. Don’t dive headfirst into something without doing all the research…and I don’t just mean on Google. Take action to figure out your why and which career is going to help you achieve that.

(Do you have emerging leaders who need leadership or professional development training? Let’s talk about some options.)

You have to know that in some cases, your job can be your dream. In many cases, your job may not be your dream but it does allow you to live your dream outside of work. Wherever you are, focus on learning, growing and working your butt off. You never know what opportunities may come your way because of it!

#GenZ #GenerationZ #GenZEmployees #GenZMotivation #WhatDoIDoWithMyLife #ProfessionalDevelopment #SuccessMindset

Hey Generation Z (or those on-boarding them), you might like this post on a success strategy for your first day. 

Alyson Van Hooser

Alyson Van Hooser, Pres & CEO, Van Hooser Leadership. With the grit that only comes from tough experiences, Alyson has learned a thing or two about personal and professional success. From her management experience with Walmart, as an elected city council member, bank manager — all before the age of 30 — Alyson has wisdom well beyond her years! Her podcast, Stake: The Leadership Podcast, offers a fresh perspective on leadership and helps multiple generations successfully work together! Connect with Alyson on LinkedIn.


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