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At 25, Kimi Kaneshina isn’t where she thought she would be in her career. After a year working as a product manager in Southern California, she was laid off in June. The job was great, but the experience of getting axed shifted her priorities. Now, on the job hunt, she isn’t messing around.

Instead of worrying about company culture or whether the job sounds exciting, the first thing Kaneshina looks for when job searching is the salary. “Right now there’s this whole salary-transparency movement. So a lot of the roles I apply to I know about the pay right off the bat,” she said. Once satisfied with the pay range, Kaneshina digs into the company — are they doing work she has experience with? Then she checks whether the opening provides room for growth — how long until she could get a promotion? For her to apply, all three factors have to line up.

More young people are saying the same thing: Salary and career growth are the most important things about a job. And it could explain why Gen Z workers are so much more unsatisfied with their jobs than their older colleagues. Only 44% of workers under 30 told Pew Research that they were very satisfied with their job, compared with 67% of workers 65 and older.

Research has found that Gen Zers have different priorities from those of their boomer bosses. While pay and career progression are critical for the newest workers, older folks care more about whether the job itself is enjoyable. Age plays a role in explaining the gap, but Gen Z is also entering the workforce at a unique time. After witnessing millennials being sold on the false promise that landing a job and clocking in the hours would lead to a steady climb up the career ladder and pay scale, and all the chaos that wrought, Gen Zers are much less apt to entrust their futures to their employers.

“In the past, people were provided with really great jobs, pensions, and careers that they could grow at a company for 20 years. That’s not how it is today,” Kaneshina said. “I’ve just come to terms with what adulthood is actually like.”

By Eve Upton-Clark

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