Generation Z, Your New Work Spouse (Part 2)

What you need to know about working with GenZ, straight from the horse’s mouth.

By Kate Shipley

We’re continuing our conversation with Jon Salmen—a GenZ student from the University of Louisville and Business Development Innovation Manager for FocalPoint Coaching and Training Excellence of Kentucky. If you missed the beginning of our conversation with Jon, you can read it here. This week he continues our conversation and touches on one of his personal passion points: mentorship.

Q: What was an assumption you previously made about work that you had to rethink or address?

A: That somehow I could do without it. We (Generation Z) rank happiness, relationships, and health above financial security, career, and faith. But those top three things come from working. I can’t add value or afford [the things I need] without financial security in my career.

Maybe it’s the cognitive dissonance in my head that I can somehow just not work and still have all these things. I think it’s something I share with my generation that I can be the random guy that gets away with this. That I could chase the results of hard work without the hard work.

Q: Previously, you mentioned that you’re working on a project that seems central to generational research. What topic have you been working on?

A: My Miss-America-world-peace speech would be about mentorship. I don’t think [my generation] even knows that mentorship is the answer to all the things we’re struggling with. But, really, it’s just a loose accountability that allows us to focus our education and passions and put it into something productive. 

Q: What is it about mentorship that is so important for your generation?

A: This generation has the most access [ever] to everything on the planet, and it gives us the illusion that wisdom is just knowledge. But there’s no correlation to success with knowledge alone. That concept should be inspiring, but I think it makes us apathetic to our work because knowledge is important to a degree, but it’s the application of it that is where success comes from.

I like comparing [mentoring] to racquetball. If you’ve never played before, how could you ever know where the ball is possibly going to go? Being able to play it all the time means you get used to it. You’ve seen it, you know the strategy, you know the hits, the spins, how to be, and that just comes from experience. No matter how strong, and fast, or well-read someone is in a sport, they’ll lose to someone who’s putting in the hours, and that’s where mentorship steps in. To have a good mentor is very important. As the DIY generation, we cannot YouTube how to add value to our organization. That takes someone who has done the legwork of experience. 

Jon’s comments echo what we see every day working with Generation Z students. Their access to technical knowledge is vast, but they are hungry for the mentorship that can get them to the next level—yes, career-wise, but also just in life. Not sure how to help them do that? Stay tuned for our September line-up of posts focused on role models and mentorship, featuring a guest post from Jon himself!

Until then, comment below, send Plaid a message, or reach Jon directly at

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