Aspirational employment

Posted by Flux on 

30 May 2024

What we learnt:

We expected there to be more interviewees in the technology sector. Marketing and presenting are popular among this group. There are a variety of jobs that this cohort is aspiring to. 

“Google because definitely benefits, salary. I look long term now because I would want to work for a company with medical aid and a company where I can grow much higher in my role and experience things I couldn’t have imagined of. So Google is just a big dream, big company.” – Gabrielle (21, Mixed race, female)

“And remote would be the dream or hybrid. Because I am going to the office every day now. Gosh, it’s so exhausting. But at least I get to dress up for work. So that makes me happy.” – Balekane (28, Black, female)

For some, their dream job differs from what they are currently doing or studying. Lerato is a financial accountant whose dream is to be a sports presenter. She plans to bridge the gap between accountancy and sports presenting.

“So, what I do on the side is that I’m taking these short courses. I’m doing a short course on being a sports analyst. I watch soccer a lot so that I can actually see what I’m learning and what it’s like in reality. I attend a whole lot of sports events. Especially soccer, because that’s my core focus because there aren’t many women in soccer who do that. So I’m also trying to break through this niche market as well. So yeah, there’s a lot of networking with the right people as well. That goes into all of this. Yeah. So that’s what I’m doing on the side” 

What does the research/experts say:

The appeal of influencing as a career path is strong, driven by the desire for popularity and financial independence. According to a September 2023 report by decision intelligence company Morning Consult, 57% of US Gen Zers said they would be influencers if given the opportunity. Platforms like TikTok have democratised fame, allowing ordinary individuals to become big influencers. 

In October 2023, according to a new report from Samsung and Morning Consult, Media and entertainment is the top industry Gen Z in the US wants to work in, beating tech, healthcare and education. “Media and entertainment is a creative industry that offers flexibility and self-expression, two of the most important attributes younger workers want in a job,” says Ann Woo, the Head of Corporate Citizenship at Samsung. 

The situation with Australian youth is slightly different. Recent (November 2023) research indicates that the next generation of job seekers is aiming for careers in traditional occupations. The most popular career choice was a mental health therapist at 17%, followed by teaching (15%), medical doctor (14%), digital marketing (13%) and engineering (13%). Youth support platform – Year13’s co-founder Saxon Phipps says, “Compare that to new-age jobs like AI specialists, cybersecurity specialists and sustainability consultants, in which many young people would struggle to understand what exactly it is they do, the skills they need to be successful or what a day in the life of the job looks like. Just knowing about and understanding a job goes a long way to young people considering them as a career themselves because you can’t be what you can’t see, and at the moment, many modern jobs are just not known about.”

A UK study found that only 29% of young people cite STEM jobs as their first career choices, despite 75% expressing interest in the subjects academically. The study found that the lack of exposure to STEM subjects and opportunities – particularly among female Gen Z students – is partly to blame for this disconnect and that students who get exposure to a higher number of STEM topics in middle and high school are more than twice as likely to pursue a STEM job or STEM major in college.

What can businesses and policymakers do about this?

Generating interest in STEM is crucial for primary and secondary education learners to build the tech talent pipeline. This can be achieved by including this in the school’s curricula and arranging workforce development partnerships between tech companies and schools. Schools, policymakers and the tech industry must work together to expose students to STEM opportunities. Low-income, non-white and female demographics remain underrepresented in the talent pipeline at present. “Creating access to equitable and hands-on STEM experiences is key to helping inspire and prepare today’s youth to claim their positions among the next generation of innovators and ultimately fuel a more skilled and inclusive future workforce,” said Dawn Jones, vice president of social impact and chief diversity and inclusion officer at the tech company Intel

The prevalence of young people studying something other than what they are passionate about should be interrogated. It is understandable under the climate of high unemployment and racial inequity that still prevails. However, they waste time and money if they abandon their original field of study. Deploy qualified career counsellors at schools and give youth opportunities for job shadowing made available. 

Another solution could be designing the first year of tertiary education to be more generalist than it presently is. 

Media and entertainment is the most popular career choice in the US. We see a glimpse of this within our cohort, with three interviewees wanting to be presenters. These roles are often glamorised, but the reality is that a small percentage of the population achieves financial success, independence and security from such a pathway. It is crucial to conscientise youth to this reality without crushing their dreams. 

Giving our youth the best chance at financial independence and job satisfaction requires a joint effort between schools, policymakers and industry. 

*ECD – Early childhood development.

The data and quotes mentioned above refer to a project that we are in the midst of, in conjunction with Student Village called “The 30/30/30 Project” whereby we collected insights from 30 South Africans, under the age of 30, 30 years into our new democracy.

By Flux Trends 


Share this and many more insights from the 30/30/30 Project Report with your team, by booking a private briefing/keynote/salon to unpack these insights. 

Turn the insights from 30/30/30 Project into strategic action to engineer the future YOU and your team and nation need – with hope, agency, and optimism.

Contact Bethea Clayton at  or +27764539405, if you are interested in exploring any of these options with your team or clients.

Image credit: Randy Tarampi

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