How tech lost Gen Z



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This month, the era of the highly coveted tech job is graduating alongside the class of 2024. These software engineer roles were what Millennial dreams were made of, representing a more relaxed or fun style of work as well as a pathway to financial stability and comfort. But the other shoe—a business casual sneaker—has dropped on Silicon Valley and Gen Zers are picking up the pieces. 

The graduating class is less focused on nabbing that shiny tech gig, and instead looking to the ol’ trusty field of of government jobs. So shows a recent survey of more than 2,600 students from Handshake, an undergraduate recruitment company. As tech jobs dwindle, interest is waning for Gen Zers who seek less chaos in their career prospects. And government jobs are known for being one of the more consistently hiring and recession-proof fields.  

Young adults are slowly but surely turning their heads. Only 21% of applications from the class of 2024 were submitted to a tech company this year, compared to 23% in 2023. Location interest also points to a changing of the tides. While New York City and Washington, D.C. reportedly are becoming more popular destinations, interest in jobs in the famed tech hubs of California and Texas has significantly decreased. 

It’s no coincidence that the Capitol is trending more. Instead of looking west, Gen Zers are seeking more government jobs. Handshake finds that the number of job applications submitted to this sector went from 5.5% in 2023, to 7.4% in 2024. A previous Handshake report from February found that it’s actually prospective techies who are turning to this sector, as the number of tech majors’ applying to government employers more than doubled between 2021 and 2023.

As the first generation to lack memories of a world without the internet, Gen Z came of age alongside a burgeoning tech community. “The class of 2024 really grew up with the tech industry, watching companies rapidly scale, innovate, and introduce products that transformed their day-to-day lives,” Christine Cruzvergara, chief education strategy officer at Handshake, tells Fortune. Naturally, that informed their career goals, granting a sense of esteem and “a special allure,” to the tech world, she adds.

New grads are simply taking a hint from recent headlines. Layoffs, hiring freezes, and a change in the purported more 2010s era of laidback and collaborative Silicon Valley culture, all push Gen Zers towards other fields.  The upheaval of the past couple of years meant “that attraction really began to fade for a lot of students,” explains Cruzvergara, adding that many looked to more stable jobs within government, manufacturing, and healthcare as a result. 

Informed by economic volatility, the pandemic, and rounds of recent layoffs in the tech world—the class of 2024 is prioritizing consistency. Job stability is the top consideration for these Gen Zers when applying for work, among 76% of Handshake respondents. Their desire for a stable paycheck is further fueled by their financial vulnerability, as more than a third of students are reportedly concerned about paying down their student loans, and half of students are worried about affording basic necessities post-graduation. Debt is a marker of this class;how much this group was impacted by their loans was striking to Cruzvergara. That all means the tides are shifting from the Pacific, as students can’t afford to weather the instability of a California tech gig

While many are confident in their ability to find a job, a growing number of graduates are feeling pessimistic about the economy they’re entering. Noting that “the class of 2024 has proven to be an incredibly resilient group,” Cruzvergara says that they’re still trying to stick to their values. She describes these young adults as “cautiously optimistic.”

It is a little surprising that the generation famously distrustful of the man is looking to join politics. Of the institutions surveyed, young adults have the lowest level of faith in the president, Congress, and news and tech companies, according to a 2023 Gallup poll. 

Called the “bummer generation,” by Axios, the class of 2024 has gone through cycles of instability within just four years. Of course, their experience was capped off by on-campus protests regarding the call to divest from Israel amidst a war in Palestine that has carried on for eight months and killed 35,000 Palestinians and 1,500 Israelis.  Tensions mounted, as Columbia University took center-stage when the school called the New York Police Department on its student body to remove peaceful protestors from encampments on campus, in violation of the school’s own shared governance agreement with students and faculty. 

As a voting block, they’re marked by disillusionment more than prior generations, per the Wall Street Journal. As studies show they’re a more liberal-leaning group, Gen Zers have started to back away from the Democratic Party candidate, President Biden, due to his stance on Israel and Palestine. 

Perhaps Gen Z is entering local politics or this disenchantment has motivated them to push the system from within. Those pursuing government jobs might not even be the ones who are feeling so blue about current affairs.  Either way, it seems as if tech jobs and Google ball pits are long gone for Gen Z and in its place is the Oval Office.



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