Published on February 11, 2019, at 4:15 p.m.
by Gabby DiCarlo.
Industries are feeling a generational shift as Generation Z enters the workforce. According to Pew Research Center, Generation Z, or Gen Z, encompasses any individual born after 1997. As one of the most socially connected and vocal generations, Gen Z is demanding more from its employers.
“Poised as the most diverse, most-educated generation yet,” it’s no wonder that more Gen Z individuals are pursuing careers in public relations. The PR industry is set to gain 22,900 more professionals by 2026, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Emily Graham, director of public relations for PRSSA at Eastern Connecticut State University, believes that “Generation Z offers immense creativity and is not afraid to step up and state their ideas, allowing for workspaces to be more collaborative and transparent.”
Diversity lingered as a trending topic in 2018 and remains a pressing issue, especially to the PR industry. Katrina Waelchli, University of Alabama Capstone Agency senior media coordinator, said she believes PR workplaces should keep diversity in mind based on “the nature of the PR industry requiring diverse perspectives due to the mission to serve the public through messaging. If PR agencies do not have a diverse employee base that can provide those diverse perspectives, then inclusive messaging suffers as a result.” Strategic messaging, a key part of PR, requires an all-encompassing and diversified perspective to be effective. With limited diversity in the industry, PR hasn’t reached its full potential.
Another competitive aspect of Gen Z is the desire to self-educate and grow professionally. Caitlyn Love, vice president of public relations for Temple University’s Panhellenic Council, is driven by “constant learning and a workplace that pushes me to work hard with people who genuinely care about the end product. Too often I feel like my work will have no meaning, and my superiors don’t care about me, which makes me lose my passion.”
In Gen Z’s case, much of the development is not only professional. UA PRSSA Publications Committee member Will Bradley is encouraged by “employers that place importance on work-life balance and a structured workplace with competitive pay.”
Emily Hillhouse, UA PRSSA Bateman Competition team member, knows “approximately 82 percent of PR specialists are white,” and she says “I don’t think many workplaces are diverse because company leadership is not diverse. It is crucial for company leadership to be diverse and even in some diverse workplaces, there is still a lack of representation in upper-level management.” Coincidentally, research by Dr. Nilanjana R. Bardhan, supported by The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations, concluded that “leadership and leaders need to step it up.”
Gen Z public relations professionals are looking for inclusive, mindful employers to help them grow personally and professionally. Employers get ready — here they come!