Generation Balance: IU survey shows what Gen Z expects from their first job

82.1 per cent of respondents consider the job important but place a lot of value on a healthy work-life balance


According to a recent survey by IU on the topic of "Expectations of the first job", Generation Z prefers one thing over everything else: a healthy balance. 

  • Flexibility and work-life balance are among the most important aspects of the job for many of the respondents.
  • Added value and meaning is important for Gen Z - but only if the salary is right.
  • 44.2 per cent want to commit to companies for several years or preferably forever.


Erfurt, Germany, 1 June 2023. According to a recent survey by IU International University of Applied Sciences (IU) on the topic of "Expectations of the first job", Generation Z prefers one thing over everything else: a healthy balance. 82.1 per cent of respondents say that while the job is important to them, they place a lot of value on a healthy work-life balance. Only for one in ten (9.5 per cent) the career is more important than the private life, which puts the private life on the back burner.

"Young people have a high awareness of their own needs. This is by no means an expression of a lack of willingness to perform, but rather an attempt to sustainably manage their physical and mental forces," explains Prof. Dr Anastasia Hermann, Professor of Human Resource Management and Prorector Quality of Teaching at IU International University of Applied Sciences.

IU, which is with 100,000 students the largest university in Germany, interviewed 475 IU students ages 18 to 26 for the survey. It was conducted from 15 to 22 May 2023. 

When asked about the meaning of a job the focus is on balance according to the respondents: 81.5 percent would like to have a job with meaning and added value - but only if the salary is also appropriate. For almost one in ten (12 per cent), the added value of the job is more important than the salary. And for just 6.5 per cent, a high salary is more important than the meaning and added value of a job. 

More important than salary: flexible working conditions 

Salary also remains an important issue for GenZ - but only a slight majority (56.2 per cent) rank it among the top 5 most important aspects of a job when it comes to the question of what is fundamentally important about a job. 

More important than salary is flexibility: for example, home office and flexible working hours are of the utmost importance to 62.9 per cent of the respondents. "Flexible working conditions" is by far the most desired job characteristic. The compatibility of family and work (47.6 per cent) is ranked third, closely followed by recognition/appreciation/praise (43.8 per cent), interest in responsibility (41.1 per cent) and a secure workplace (40.6 per cent). Classic employer branding topics, such as awareness of socially relevant issues (9.9 per cent), additional offers (8.0 per cent) or awareness of the company (3.2 per cent) are seen as rather secondary by future employees. "Today's working world is complex and characterised by many changes that can hardly be predicted. Professions are changing and new skills must be learned, and this does not remain hidden from students and explains the high value placed on flexibility”, says Hermann. 

Students in a good negotiating position

Overall, the surveyed IU students think they are well positioned for the job market: A quarter (25.7 per cent) consider themselves in a position to make demands and 47.8 per cent rate themselves as having a choice of jobs but having to make an effort when applying. Only about 10 percent expect difficulties in finding a job after graduation. They expect to have to write many applications and make a strong effort to get a job. 

Long-term commitment instead of a quick change

Almost half (44.2 per cent) of the respondents want something long-term for the job and would like to commit to the company for several years or even forever. The other half makes this dependent on the company: 52 percent decide depending on the job and employer. The classic job where you stay with the employer for a short time is very unpopular among Gen Z respondents: not even 1 percent would like to stay with the company for a short a time.

Reasonable wishes and an awareness of one's own value

For Dr Anastasia Hermann the results of the survey are not surprising: “Generation Z likes to be portrayed as spoiled, but actually they only want what the generations before them also desired: a fulfilled life. Today, this includes a healthy balance between work and leisure, but also a high degree of flexibility. What distinguishes Gen Z from Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers is that they know their own value and act accordingly with self-confidence.”

About the survey

A total of 475 students from IU's distance learning programme ages 18 to 26 were surveyed between 15 and 22 May 2023 for the "Expectations of First Job" questionnaire by IU International University of Applied Sciences (IU). 


With over 100,000 students, IU International University of Applied Sciences (IU) is the largest university in Germany. The private, state-recognised educational institution with its headquarters in Erfurt began operations in 2000 and is now represented in more than 35 German cities. Students from over 180 nations design their studies according to their needs: whether practice-integrated dual studies, flexible distance learning or individual “myStudium”, which combines online self-study and campus life. IU wants to give people worldwide access to personalised education for a fulfilled and self-determined life. In more than 150 German- and over 50 English-language study programmes in bachelor's, master's and MBA fields, IU teaches students key competencies relevant to the future. A digitally supported learning environment and the use of AI solutions help students to achieve optimal learning results and experiences. IU is one of the first universities in the world to have developed and deployed its own AI-supported learning buddy. IU cooperates with over 15,000 companies and supports them in the academic training of professionals. Partners include Motel One, Vodafone, AWO and Deutsche Bahn. Further information at: iu.org