Zoe Kaplan
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Staff Writer & Content Strategist @ Fairygodboss

Young employees are more productive than ever, but they’re falling into a mentorship gap.

As a Gen Z remote employee who graduated on Zoom in 2020 — and then hopped onto Zoom to onboard for my first full-time role a month later — this is a trend I’ve seen firsthand among my peers. Remote work has given us autonomy, flexibility and independence to get our work done, but it’s left us feeling left behind when it comes to career development.

The problem isn’t just that we’re feeling left behind and left out — we don’t really know what we’re missing.

Unlike other professionals who had experience in the office before working remotely, our generation doesn’t know exactly what we’re missing out on. I know I’m missing out on mentorship, but I can’t actually put my finger on what that mentorship can and should look like. I don’t always have interactions with leaders, but I don’t know how and when I would have those interactions were I to be in person. 

Is this holding us back in our careers, as many of us fear? I think it’s more of a question of how it’s evolving our professional lives — and how we all can remedy it.

Let’s start with (what I think is) the good: We’re still getting our work done. For many of us, starting our careers remotely meant a lot of figuring it out on our own to get things done. We also had more time to focus on getting the work done rather than dealing with office logistics, politics and relationships. 

At the same time, so many of us still crave socialization — 7 in 10 Gen Z employees think in-person socialization is necessary for career growth. But we’re also a generation that doesn’t want to go into the office full-time. We know that work connection is important, but we’re not willing to sacrifice remote work for it. 

The answer isn’t to bring everyone back to the office full-time. It’s about using what we do know — remote work — to build connections. While it takes more work, the virtual world has opened up what formal and informal mentorship can look like (hint: it’s not just office watercooler talks!) and it’s time for worried Gen Z’ers to use technology to our advantage.

Of course, building relationships is a two-way street — we need the right older coworkers and leaders to help us. 

Other generations don’t need more on their plate, but mentoring can help their career, too, and even reverse mentorship — where younger workers mentor older ones — can benefit employees of every generation.

Older coworkers can help guide us, but only if Gen Z’ers ask for directions.

In Worklife’s article “Young remote workers have mentoring and career development FOMO,” one young remote worker was recently promoted after her second year of remote work — and said it was because of strong, empathetic leadership.

“Estefani credited this success to her supervisor and his ability to give advice — career or life — despite the distance of remote work. Estefani said that her supervisor’s guidance and open-door communication style ‘make me feel supported and secure even though we’re many miles apart.’”

Support and mentorship isn’t impossible when we work remotely, but it has to be intentional, from both sides. The cliché that communication is a two-way street is right — we need to speak up about what we’re missing out on at work and hope our older coworkers can help us fill the gaps.

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This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

What’s your no. 1 piece of advice for Gen Z’ers who feel like they’re falling behind due to remote work?