Workplace experts, sick of office exploitation, are taking to TikTok to encourage employees to demand more—and giving them the tools to do it.
Think back to your first interview, your first salary negotiation, your first run-in with HR—did you know what to expect? Not likely. No one really teaches you how to navigate those moments, so you learn through experience and morsels of whispered advice until you know enough to know what you want and a better idea of how to get it. Until then, it’s easy to make mistakes that could cost you for years to come.
It used to be that paying your dues meant working without overtime pay, vacation time, even healthcare, and—in the worst instances—accepting less-than-acceptable treatment from colleagues or managers.
Compounding the fact that no one really teaches these important aspects of the working world is the ongoing isolation of the pandemic, and, for those who started their careers from home, a lack of access to critical mentorship. Fortunately, Gen Z has many places to turn when seeking answers, and they’re not too shy to ask for help. Browse TikTok and you’ll find helpful tips on everything from plant care to dog training, so it’s no surprise corporate lessons are being learned here, too. It’s on TikTok that a wealth of creators—from recruitment pros, to career coaches, to employment attorneys—are dismantling the old ways one video at a time.
Gen Z is values-driven, focused on equity and inclusion, and not shy about transparency—particularly around money.
Enter creators like @MissBot, @icuwatchen, and @Emily.the.recruiter and their endlessly scrollable accounts that are chock-full of frank career advice. They’re just some of the many contributing to an ever-expanding digital conversation about the changing world of work—one that’s only getting more interesting as remote work cements itself as the new gold standard for many desk workers. And it’s giving younger generations the tools they need to demand more.
Search on the platform and you’ll find job search tips, interview dos and don’ts, scripted conversations of how to ask for more money, signs you should quit, signs your employee is going to quit, and more. This information is all the more powerful in a globally-altered work culture, and one where those outside an organization are given an opportunity to weigh in on the culture without fear of reprisal.
We know employees would rather quit than stay at a job that no longer meets their needs—they just need either the confidence to leave, or the know-how to help them change their circumstances. Among other features, TikTok encourages replying to videos with ones of your own, or stitching, which creates a natural, conversational dynamic between users—it builds trust in an area where uncertainty reigns. Objective call-outs from strangers who know what they’re talking about may just be the push we all needed.
“We’re in a new age of hiring here, guys,” said advisor and employee advocate @MissBot in a December 2021 video responding to a comment asking if it was OK to talk about compensation at the beginning of the interview process. “Don’t let anyone tell you your basic human instincts when exchanging your services for money are a faux-pas. We don’t want to work for companies like that.”
It’s OK to break the rules when the whole game is changing
Turns out most people don’t want to work for companies like that—least of all Gen Z. According to Forbes, “Data shows that by 2025, Gen Z workers will make up 27% of the workforce.” What they bring to that workforce is a whole new set of expectations: Born between 1997 and 2012, Gen Z is values-driven, focused on equity and inclusion, and not shy about transparency—particularly around money.
Importantly, 50% of TikTok’s one billion monthly users are under the age of 34—meaning the majority are either entering the job market for the first time or only just entering more serious levels of their careers. Throw in the fact that many young people started their first jobs from home, possibly still never having met a coworker face-to-face, and you’ve got a recipe for disruption. TikTok career advice is telling this slice of the workforce they are right to be skeptical and are handing them the tools to undo some of the bad habits from the inside.
Many of the TikTok coaches are millennials who remember all too well the days of “that’s how it’s always been done.” You can see solidarity in the back and forth of the comments. “When a recruiter asks if you’re interviewing anywhere else, say yes. Every single time,” cautions @Emily.the.recruiter in a January 2022 video. “Did this and they upped their offer 15k to compete!” says a commenter, to which Emily replies “QUEEN.”
39% of Gen Z employees working fully remotely listed “finding a mentor” as a top challenge
Even in this small exchange we can see an unraveling of long-held narratives like, “there’s only room for a few women at the top.” Career strategist and former WNBA Executive @icuwatchen delves into issues of race at work with videos reminding viewers it’s OK, even necessary, to push back when coworkers won’t learn to correctly pronounce your name. Seeing someone who looks like you—an older, more business-savvy version—tell you that you should stand up for yourself? That’s permission, or even encouragement.
Reminders like these—that you should be fairly compensated for your work, that you should be treated with respect—don’t just help the youngest viewers, though. In fact, so much of these lessons are ingrained in employees just one generation above that it’s a breath of fresh air for anyone who’s ever been told to stay quiet, fall in line, and just be happy you have a job at all.
The new digital mentors
The loss of mentorship was lamented by many of old-school industries, like the financial sector, that were first to head back to the office. Though it may have been a thin excuse at the time, it’s true that mentorship has been more difficult to come by since going remote.
A SkyNova study found that 39% of Gen Z employees working fully remotely listed “finding a mentor” as a top challenge. This, along with making new friends, is enough of a challenge that almost half are eager to look for in-person jobs as soon as possible, while 22% are interested in hybrid roles going forward.
That might explain the popularity of some of these TikTok accounts. At over 310,000 followers, @MissBot is mentorship democratized. She’s the fun, older-than-you-but-still-young colleague who’d show you the ropes on your first day and invite you out after work to celebrate. Those milestones are currently morphing as the working world continues to shift, but the desire for fellowship is not.
Shining light on the shadowy corners of workplace processes is the first step to ensuring this next era of work is more equitable and that the revelations made during the pandemic aren’t erased in an attempt to bend to the old ways. TikTok accounts like these are proof that we can still give each other hope, teach each other lessons, and make the workplace better no matter where we’re working from.