Post-Pandemic Youth: Tired But Hopeful

By Shlomo Maital  

    A great many hard words have been said and written about GenY and GenZ, the young generations – who are tired of lockdown and perhaps spread virus to vulnerable elderly. 

     Here is a different take, based on a survey of 1,300 full-time college students in the US, UK and Canada, published in Harvard Business Review.*

  • A. Whillans, L.M.Giurga, L. Macchia and A. Yemisoigil, “Why a Covid-19 World Feels Both Tiring and Hopeful for College Students”.  Harvard Business Review, August 3, 2020.

The main finding, is this:

“Many students also demonstrated a heightened concern for helping others and hoped to find work that fulfilled a greater purpose. Specifically, students reported a heightened interest in pursuing careers that were useful to society and that helped other people. The single highest job priority for the college students we studied was “to have a job that allowed them to help other people.” In light of the economic recession, perhaps unsurprisingly, students’ desire to have a purposeful career was followed closely by “having a job that resulted in high income” and “job security.” Perhaps most interesting was the fact that prosocial and economic-based career motivations were stronger in this student sample than opportunities for advancement, job flexibility, and free time: three motivations which typically dominate career interests among this age group.

The pandemic has taken a terrible of lives and sickness, among millions.  But in a way, it has also been a global alarm clock, a wake-up call.  And perhaps, according to this Harvard study, it has resonated especially with younger people.  This is crucial, because it is they who will “Build Back Better”.    Older generations sometimes teach the younger ones – but perhaps, today, it is the elderly who can learn from the young.

  The authors conclude:

We are all exhausted and stressed. Perhaps more than any other group, students are especially concerned with what the future holds. Yet, we can all learn something from our data and this moment. Using this present as a chance to reflect about life’s meaning, and our own desired legacy, can increase our resilience in facing our unknown challenges. In becoming more resilient and reflective, we will not only reduce our own personal stress, but also become more focused on helping our families, our communities, and our country.