What will the world of job search and work will be like when the next generation of workers (sometimes called Generation Z) ventures out in search of their first job in the next decade? I've been observing how integral technology is to a teen's everyday life and trying to make predictions for how technology will affect the job search process and the way employers market themselves to candidates.
Here are my observations on 10 electronic influencers and my predictions for how they will continue to change job search as we know it.
Whenever I ask my kids a question about something or someone, they immediately go online to find the answer. Want to know a movie star's age? Google him or her and you will quickly find it on IMDb. Need to know where the nearest Starbucks is? Hop onto Mapquest. So it seems pretty logical that by the time my kids begin their first job search, their online presence will be checked out by every decision-maker. Everyone will have an online identity and everyone will need to take their online identity seriously.
2. Multiple instant messaging platforms
So you think you are hip because you have synched your Facebook and Twitter status updates? Most teens are on Facebook, 10+ IM screens, a video chat, and their first electronic account for school assignments. They may also be playing a video game while simultaneously listening to iTunes, watching TV and possibly even doing their homework. They are tapped into multiple communities, participating fully in all of them, and still finding time for themselves! Tomorrow's employee won't work in a linear fashion. They will need to work on projects concurrently while incorporating feedback from colleagues. Their process may look different from generations past, but they will get the job done.
3. Information banks
When I was a kid you got a little notepad at the beginning of the year to write down your homework assignments. Today, kids can retrieve their homework assignments from a number of sources including a school website, teacher blog, a moodle (a tool used to augment face-to-face learning and foster discussion), or from general emails from their teachers. And they are expected to monitor all modes of communication at all times. My prediction is that tomorrow's job-seeker will easily assimilate information from many different sources and will combine all possible resources to find quality information related to their job search. They won't become frustrated by the information overload that most of us feel when dealing with constant emails, status updates, etc. They will figure out ways to pay attention to all incoming information and filter out unnecessary or redundant messages.
From my observations, kids don't spend that much time on the phone. And if they are on the phone, it's to berate their friend or parent for not responding to their text message. Most kids view texting as a much faster method of communication and will chose text over a phone call any day. So one could draw the conclusion that more and more job opportunities will be pitched via text messages and I will be so bold as to predict that rejection letters will come in the form of text messages as well. That may sound cold to us, but I don't think tomorrow's job seeker will see it that way, and they might even prefer that to a phone call. No scientific evidence here -- just a hunch.
Job seekers often ask me if it is better to send a typed or handwritten thank you note and if it should be emailed or sent by snail mail? I think that question finallywill be put to rest with the next generation of job seekers. Many kids can barely write in cursive. They learned it in the third grade and never used it, because since that time they typed assignments on a computer. It looks like script is going the way of cuneiform and emails and texts will be the only accepted form for a thank you letter. And as for snail mail, I can count the number of times my kids have mailed a letter on one hand, so I really doubt that tradition is going to be around for much longer.
6. Social networking
I have to believe that by the time Gen Z enters the world of work, all of a company's employees will be connected via some sort of electronic networking platform. But they won't only be used for idle banter. Instead, they will be used to create work teams, work collaboratively on projects, and build consensus. Kids already are using social networking platforms and video chat to work on school projects and study for tests. Using these same tools for work seems like a natural progression.
7. Reality TV
Is there any other kind of TV anymore? With reality TV, everything's a test, a challenge, a comparison to others. There is a lot of subjectivity in the process and the outcome is not always fair. Hmm. Sounds a lot like interviewing. And maybe interview practices will begin to mirror reality TV. Want to interview 10 people for a position? Why not bring them in at the same time and give them job-specific tasks to complete independently and as part of a team? What better way to determine how they will fit in with a company's corporate culture?
8. Computer simulations
The Sims, a popular teen computer game, simulates life situations and the objective of the game is to organize the characters' lives to help them reach their personal goals. Guitar Hero puts the player in the role of rock star and World of Warcraft lets players combat each other, fight monsters, or complete quests. Companies such as Deloitte & Touche already are using simulations to teach kids how to solve the types of problems that accountants face and to get kids interested in the field. I predict that more companies will create simulation tools so that candidates can truly experience a day in the life of an employee at their company. And perhaps such simulations will help weed out inappropriate candidates and streamline the hiring process. It could happen
9. Video chat
As I mentioned earlier, video chat is a big part of the communications circle for many teens. As these kids start interviewing for positions down the road, video interviews probably will become more mainstream as well.
10. The wild card
There's probably some other technology on the horizon that will greatly influence job search in the years to come. Maybe it's a leading-edge resume parsing tool, a new online community that revolutionizes the way job seekers connect with decision makers, or a humanoid robot programmed to ask and record candidate responses to interview questions. Who knows?