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What do Gen Z Fresh Graduates Do After Graduation: A Psychological Perspective

Graduation is a significant milestone, and for Gen Z, it marks the beginning of a journey filled with diverse and non-traditional paths. Unlike previous generations, stability might not be the top priority for Gen Z. Fresh graduates of this generation are redefining what it means to step into adulthood and the workforce. Here are some of the popular choices they make after donning their caps and gowns.

Gen Z talent

Taking a Gap Year: A Quest for Self-Discovery

One notable trend among Gen Z graduates is taking a gap year. This period is often used for personal growth, travel, learning new skills, or volunteering. A gap year provides the time and space for Gen Z graduates to explore their identities outside the structured environment of academia.

It’s an opportunity to gain life experiences that can be valuable both personally and professionally.

  • Erikson’s Identity vs. Role Confusion: During this stage, young adults explore different roles and ideas to form a cohesive identity. A gap year serves as an ideal period for this exploration.
  • Self-Determination Theory (SDT): This theory posits that people have basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. A gap year often satisfies these needs by providing autonomy in decision-making, opportunities to develop new skills (competence), and chances to build meaningful relationships (relatedness).

Benefits of a Gap Year

  • Cultural Exposure: Traveling exposes graduates to different cultures and perspectives in the modern multicultural community.
  • Skill Acquisition: Engaging in various activities can help in acquiring soft and hard skills.
  • Exploration and Experimentation: Gen Z are giving themselves a ‘trial-and-error’ time to engage in diverse activities, which fosters personal growth and helps in identifying passions and interests.

The Rise of Slashers: Balancing Multiple Identities

The concept of “slashers” refers to individuals who juggle multiple careers or side hustles simultaneously (e.g., graphic designer/dancer/influencer). As there are more and more up-and-coming career fields, this trend is gaining popularity among Gen Z graduates who seek variety and multiple income streams. Moreover, under the encouragement of the ‘all-rounded development’ of the education system, Gen Z is often versatile with non-academic hobbies and skills. Slash careers allow them to explore multiple facets of their identity simultaneously.

Multifaceted Identity and Fulfillment

  • Jung’s Individuation Process: Slash careers allow individuals to integrate various aspects of their personality, leading to a more cohesive and authentic self.
  • Flow Theory: Proposed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, this theory suggests that people are happiest when they are in a state of flow—fully immersed and involved in activities. Slashers often experience flow by engaging in diverse and fulfilling activities.

 

Why Slash?

  • Diversification: Reduces dependency on a single income source. Engaging in multiple careers satisfies the need for creative and professional self-expression.
  • Flexibility and Autonomy: Offers control over working hours and environments. Control over work schedules and environments enhances job satisfaction.
  • Resilience and Adaptability: Managing multiple roles develops adaptability and resilience in the face of changing circumstances.

Entering the 9-6 Workforce: Seeking Stability and Growth

Despite the allure of alternative paths, many Gen Z graduates still opt for the traditional 9-6 job. However, their approach to these roles often differs from previous generations. Stability, professional development, and work-life balance are key factors in their job selection. Securing a job fulfills basic physiological and safety needs, allowing individuals to focus on higher-order aspirations such as belongingness, esteem, and self-actualization.

  • Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: By securing a job, graduates fulfill their basic needs for safety and financial security, which then allows them to focus on social relationships, esteem, and self-actualization.
  • Transactional Analysis (TA): This model helps in understanding workplace interactions. Gen Z employees often look for environments where they can engage in ‘Adult-Adult’ transactions, emphasizing mutual respect, collaboration, and growth.

Key Psychological Factors

  • Security and Predictability: A stable job provides financial security and a predictable routine, reducing anxiety and stress.
  • Professional Identity: Joining the workforce helps in building a professional identity and gaining a sense of purpose.
  • Achievement and Growth: Career advancement opportunities fulfill the need for achievement and personal growth.

Pursuing Further Education: Deepening Knowledge and Expertise

While some jump straight into the workforce, others choose to continue their education. Investing in further education aligns with long-term career goals and aspirations. Pursuing a master’s degree, diploma courses, or certifications in specialized fields can enhance job prospects and provide deeper knowledge in their chosen area of study.


Mastery and Long-Term Goals

  • Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD): Further education often places individuals in their ZPD, where they can achieve higher levels of understanding with the guidance of instructors and peers.
  • Self-Determination Theory (SDT): Advanced education satisfies the need for competence and relatedness, as individuals work towards mastery in their chosen fields alongside like-minded peers.

Why Further Education?

  • Specialisation: Gaining expertise in a specific field.
  • Competitive Edge: Standing out in a crowded job market.
  • Academic Passion: Continuing to explore subjects of interest.

Entrepreneurship: Innovating and Leading


The entrepreneurial spirit is strong among Gen Z, with many graduates aiming to start their own businesses. The accessibility of digital tools and platforms has made it easier than ever to launch startups and entrepreneurial ventures.

Psychologically, this choice reflects traits such as high self-efficacy, risk-taking, and a strong internal locus of control. Entrepreneurs often possess a growth mindset, which enables them to view challenges as opportunities for growth.

Psychological Traits

  • High Self-Efficacy: Belief in one’s ability to achieve goals fuels entrepreneurial endeavours.
  • Autonomy and Control: Desire for independence and control over one’s career drives entrepreneurial pursuits.
  • Innovative Thinking: Openness to new ideas and solutions is a hallmark of successful entrepreneurs.

Conclusion

Gen Z graduates are not confined to a single path after graduation. This generation is not just entering adulthood; they are actively shaping what it means to live a fulfilling and balanced life in the modern world. Their choices reflect a blend of personal growth, professional ambition, and a desire to make impactful contributions to society. In doing so, Gen Z is not only adapting to the future—they are creating it.

 

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