Know the 4 types of Generation Z freelancers and their secret weapon

Kelly MonahanPh.D., is the CEO and head of the Upwork Research Institute and author of How behavioral economics influences managerial decision making: A new paradigm.

Generation Z is poised to overtake baby boomers in the workforce, signaling a seismic shift in today’s job market. They are the fastest-growing generation of workers: 17.1 million will enter the workforce in 2023. By 2030, Generation Z is expected to make up 30% of the American workforce, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Generation Z has developed a different worldview shaped by their shared experiences, but brings a rich tapestry of perspectives and values ​​to the workforce. Our latest research of nearly 1,100 Gen Z workers in the U.S. shows a critical and widespread shift as Gen Z abandons conventional nine-to-five jobs for more diverse and flexible careers as freelancers.

What really sets Generation Z apart is a shift away from conventional career paths. 53% of Gen Z professionals surveyed said they would choose to be self-employed, and more than half (53%) of Gen Z freelancers do freelance work for at least 40 hours per week. This significant inclination can be attributed to several factors, including a broader ambition for freedom, control and autonomy in your professional life.

A more diversified and dynamic modern career

With so many people opting for more independent career opportunities, it’s no surprise that Generation Z values ​​flexibility and inclusivity in their work environments: 70% favor flexible schedules and 64% seek environments free from the constraints of job expectations. age, race or gender. The shift toward freelancing among members of Generation Z reflects not only their pragmatic approach to career fulfillment, but also their embrace of new, distributed ways of working that resonate with their values.

However, Generation Z is not a monolith. In fact, the different types of independent careers among Generation Z, uncovered by the research, highlight a rich mosaic of career motivations and aspirations that go beyond mere financial stability.

Portfolio careerists: As the predominant group (comprising 39% of Gen Z freelancers), portfolio professionals leverage their specialized skills across diverse clients and sectors, seeking both autonomy and deeper purpose in their work.

Independent consultants: This group, which represents 26%, values ​​the flexibility that freelancing offers, as it allows them to adapt their work schedules to their personal lives.

Temporary workers: Although fewer (7%), this group uses self-employment to balance caregiving duties while maintaining authenticity in their professional roles.

moonlighting: 24% of our respondents see freelancing primarily as a means to supplement their income.

Founders of the Generation Z company: They are the smallest group, at 3%, and are driven by the desire to have complete control over their careers and financial independence.

Understanding these various motivations is crucial for companies looking to innovate and remain competitive. By aligning their organizational structures and recruiting strategies with the unique values ​​and expectations of each type of freelancer, companies can not only attract top talent but also foster a work environment that maximizes productivity and satisfaction. This strategic alignment becomes a key driver for building a resilient and adaptable workforce model, which is particularly important in the context of a constantly changing labor market.

Generation Z is embracing the AI ​​generation

The research results uncovered another crucial insight about Gen Z’s freelance talent: their growing adoption of generative AI. A substantial 61% of Gen Z freelancers incorporate AI into their workflows, demonstrating a higher rate of technology integration than their full-time counterparts, of which only 41% do. This preference also highlights Generation Z’s proactive approach to leveraging cutting-edge technologies, not only to increase their own productivity and competitiveness in the market, but also to differentiate themselves in a crowded field.

Additionally, this trend presents a unique advantage for companies. Engaging with Gen Z freelancers who are proficient in AI allows companies to avoid the long and often costly process of training existing employees. Notably, 39% of these freelancers have already earned AI certifications, providing them with skills that are immediately beneficial for projects requiring advanced technological applications. Access to these up-to-date, AI-competent freelancers provides businesses with a flexible and efficient means to accelerate their own adoption of new technologies.

The shift toward freelancing among Generation Z presents undeniable implications for organizations seeking to thrive in an evolving labor market. With the Baby Boomer generation set to retire at a faster rate than new members of Generation Z, to remain competitive, companies must understand where the next generation of talent is concentrated and reform their structures accordingly. To attract the best talent, employers will need to adapt to new distributed ways of working, encouraging adaptability and innovation.

Creating an inclusive culture is also imperative to attracting and retaining Gen Z talent. When companies create environments where talent can show up as themselves, both freelancers and full-time employees have the freedom to bring a diversity of thoughts to the table. and experiences to their work. Organizations that embrace openness and authenticity create environments where diverse perspectives flourish, enriching the quality of work and driving innovation. In this way, business leaders can position their organizations to thrive in an era defined by the changing preferences and behaviors of Generation Z.

It is clear that there is a paradigm shift in the modern workforce, characterized by a move away from traditional employment models towards more flexible and autonomous career paths. From the various forms of freelancing adopted by Generation Z to the adoption of cutting-edge technologies such as AI, it is evident that this generation is reshaping the dynamics of work in profound ways.

By embracing the talents and preferences of what could aptly be called the “independent generation,” organizations can position themselves for success in an era defined by innovation, flexibility and inclusion.

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