Under the magnifying glass: youth trends when choosing a career

Young people have never been as diverse as they are today. Almost every third person aged 15 to 30 has a migration background. And never have they been as opinionated, value-conscious and well-informed as they are today.
Nevertheless, this enlightened generation finds it difficult to choose a career; and that applies across the board. The German technology and business location is urgently looking for qualified young people.

zdi, an important building block in career and study orientation in North Rhine-Westphalia, has already achieved a lot in this context. The zdi networks and zdi school labs in particular make an important contribution. Nevertheless, the zdi community is constantly working to support even more young people in their career and study orientation. Among other things, zdi founded the youth advisory board.

The following text would like to give a brief overview of current trends among young people in terms of career and study choices.

zdi youth advisory board

The Youth Advisory Board is a body made up of MINT-enthusiastic young people from all over North Rhine-Westphalia. They work as consultants and can be consulted by all zdi actors on various issues or projects. They also develop their own projects, which they implement together with zdi.NRW. With your participation, the offer of the zdi community should become even more youth-friendly. All young people from NRW from the age of 13 who are enthusiastic about MINT can take part.

What do young people expect from working life?

Striving for a balanced and safe workplace

Many young people no longer strive for a career at any price. A good work-life balance is more important to them. Salary expectations have also changed. In 2015, income was still the number one career aspect, but in 2018 it slipped to third place. A secure job comes first, followed by a good work-life balance. Furthermore, the image of a profession and the associated social recognition are important.
Young people also have mature opinions on the subject of mobility. When they start training or studying, most of them want to stay close to their family and friends. Only 12 percent of 15 to 24-year-olds in Germany would like to leave their familiar environment for secondary education.

A new criterion for a good job for young people is the criterion of self-determination, i.e. the opportunity for personal time off or attractive further training offers.

More self-determination and additional qualifications

The attitude of young people to leadership responsibility has also changed. Generation Z (born between 1997 and 2012) is considered to be one who is critical of a position with a lot of responsibility and the associated constant availability. The acquisition of additional qualifications is more important than a career and management positions. This makes it easier to change employers.

Voices from the zdi youth advisory board

The student Anna-Marie knows exactly which subject she wants to study: chemistry with a specialization in computer science. She has informed herself about courses in various courses and workshops at universities and colleges. Her career aspirations were then consolidated in zdi competitions and courses. "I am particularly grateful to zdi, because I found my fascination for computer science in a school laboratory," explains Anna-Marie. She also has a clear idea of ​​her job: "For my future job, it is important to me that my employer allows me to continue my education so that I can develop further and always stay up to date with the latest research. My job should give me the opportunity to get to know many institutes and to take part in excellent research.”

Schoolgirl Brishnan is not yet sure what career she would like to pursue. But it should definitely have something to do with STEM. She imagines her future workplace like this:
“It is definitely important to me that I do something that I like, that interests me and that I really enjoy. I would also like my employer to accept it if I can no longer work (temporarily) or would like to work fewer hours. Regardless of that, I would also think it would be pretty good if I could work from home or more digitally overall: Less paperwork, more tablets! "

Meaningful work and good job opportunities

Recent studies also state that career starters are looking for meaningful work. Young graduates in particular are looking for a job that suits them. In doing so, they pay less attention to the requirements that the world of work demands of them. This can be explained, among other things, by the fact that the parents of the younger generation placed great value on their children's self-development.
Another interesting aspect is the reduced prestige of high educational qualifications. The young generation observed that his siblings did not always find jobs that were appropriate for their qualifications. According to a globally representative survey of 16 to 19-year-olds, the choice of university is based on very pragmatic motives: job opportunities, wage levels and measures taken by the university to encourage students to persevere with their studies.

Where do young people get information?

Many young people find it difficult to choose a career. The condition could be described as "lost in multiple options". That's at about 20.000 courses and 330 apprenticeships With hundreds of opportunities for advancement, it's no wonder.

Internet is the central medium

The Internet is the central medium for young people. About 89 percent are online every day. The smartphone is even referred to as the "third hand". According to their self-assessment, they spend an average of four hours a day online.

Parents are career advisors No. 1

And although the Internet is the central medium of the young generation, it is not the first port of call when choosing a career or degree. The first career advisors are still the parents. About 70 percent of young people do research on the Internet, but less than half found it really helpful. About half find internships in companies useful. Offers such as job fairs, brochures, exchange in social networks, information days by companies or universities fare particularly badly. Young people feel least well advised by the job center. After all, every fourth person feels well advised when talking to a teaching staff.



Parents are therefore perceived by far as the greatest help. Because often the parents are the ones who know their offspring best. This is also illustrated by the 18th Shell youth study from 2019, according to which family and social relationships are by far the most important value orientations. And even before personal responsibility and independence.

To think about

But who do young people turn to when their parents are busy with their own problems and the relationship of trust between the child and the parents is not the best?
Young people from the lowest class of origin feel significantly more disadvantaged and determined by others. And this despite the fact that the high performance ethic among the young people extends across all social classes. Ambition is not a typical behavior of the middle class, but is a leitmotif for the top and bottom classes as well.

What are the most important issues for young people?

Young people find education for sustainable development very important. According to the study “Future? Ask young people!” by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) from 2018, educational opportunities on sustainability issues should be further expanded. In this study, over 1.000 young people between the ages of 14 and 22 were interviewed.

Almost three out of four young people regard environmental awareness as one of the most important values ​​in their lives. In 2002 it was still 60 percent of the young people questioned. Apart from political commitment, no other value has gained so much relevance among young people.
In addition to environmental protection, social justice, social responsibility and sustainable living are very popular with young people when it comes to social issues. Commitment is very important to them.

If we look at what is relevant to young people for their personal happiness, many express (self-)awareness, health, inclusivity and diversity. Young people also insist more on acting at eye level. Traditional hierarchies are rejected by many young people.

Let's use the knowledge about the needs of young people!

The pronounced environmental awareness of the younger generation and their canon of values ​​are important levers when addressing young professionals. Career and study orientation could have thematic priorities such as:
• Environmental and health-conscious nutrition
• Sustainability in economy and technology
• Health for All / Fitness
• How can digitization be used?


The entire range of zdi courses can be found on the zdi community platform.

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