Quiet Quitting or Loudly Advocating? A Gen Z’s Guide to Knowing Your Worth

Haley Moriarity

Communications Coordinator

Calling all young people! Welcome to this (non-exhaustive) guide of facts, stats, and tips to help you navigate entering and being in the workforce during these unprecedented times, from a fellow tired Gen Z. Grab a friend and hold on for the ride, I think it’s about time we made some changes around here. 

Entry level position, 5 years’ experience, post-secondary education required: $15/hour – what? As a young person looking to enter the workforce, this is an all-too-common sight. It can feel discouraging and like you’ve somehow fallen behind before you’ve even had a chance to start. Did you know young people are less likely to be members of a union and less likely to stay in one job for their entire career? And though the labour market is rapidly changing, this can make building seniority, employability, and having consistent access to things like benefits challenging.  

Young people are not staying in jobs where they are treated poorly, undervalued, and overworked – and as the future of the workforce, this is a crucial attitude shift! However, given the circumstances, it can also result in precarious employment situations where people feel trapped or struggle to find jobs that meet the cost-of-living demands. So how can we be more prepared to ask for what you deserve. 

TLDR; You’re Worthy of it All

When it comes to advocating for myself or helping others, at 24 with a two-year-old bachelor’s degree, I have (somehow) accumulated quite a bit of experience. Whether that be asking for my own cost of living adjustment, helping equip a friend to successfully negotiate a $10,000 raise, asking for benefits to start immediately, leaving a job where I was mistreated by my supervisor and gaslit, addressing racism and misogyny amongst leadership, or just starting more open conversations on pay transparency with my team.  

As someone early in a career, it can feel daunting and like you’re powerless. But sometimes it just takes someone willing to point out where things could look different. These conversations can be hard to have and sometimes it isn’t even possible to speak up without potentially risking your job or opening yourself up to possible discrimination. I recognize I am very privileged in my ability to feel as though I can (for the most part) safely advocate for myself without fear of repercussions. I know this is not always the case for everyone. However, the more people that speak up, the more things can start to change. And as the number of young people entering the workforce grows, instilling these values and practicing these skills will help shape what the new status quo can look like – which is a powerful thing.  

Myth Busting like it’s my Day Job

Sometimes it’s not that people don’t want things to change, but they feel as though they just don’t have the ability to make things change. Often times, organizations will bank on employees not being willing to ask for more to help them save more money and keep their salary expenditures low. If you’re new to the workforce, sometimes it can be a challenge to combat assumptions you may hold – so hopefully busting a few myths will empower you to feel more confident. 

Myth 1. I can’t apply, I don’t meet 100% of the qualifications.

Did you know that men are more likely to apply to jobs that they don’t fit the qualifications for while women often do not apply unless they meet 100% of the qualifications? 

I remember the first time I heard this fact when I was in university. I was so mad and vowed to tell anyone who would listen not to sell themselves short. “Required” qualifications like experience, education, and seniority are rooted in colonial structures and act like boxes to filter people out. But, lived experience is valuable and it’s not uncommon for organizations to consider a mix of both. It is also unlikely that someone will come along and magically fit their wish list – ever hear the myth about the perfect candidate? So, if you think you’d be a good candidate, don’t let something like a check box stop you. Apply anyway. Please. 

Myth 2: They’ll think poorly of me if I ask.

It is not rude to ask for a salary increase. Full stop. If you have done your research and have information to support your ask (such as market rates, cost of living in your area, or differences in role tasks since you started your job) then it is not only reasonable, but completely normal to ask for salary adjustments.

These are conversations employers expect to have with employees – and when you’re at the point where an adjustment is needed to make ends meet, it is especially not rude. If this is the case, I also recommend framing it as a cost-of-living adjustment. Raises tend to be associated with performance or output, but a cost-of-living adjustment is to help maintain a rate of pay to offset inflation. Remember, if your salary is not being adjusted to at least match inflation, your salary is decreasing every year.  

Myth 3: It’s selfish to ask for more – your passion should be enough. 

When my passion can pay my grocery bill, I’ll certainly reconsider. 

In the Community Impact Sector, there can be assumptions that people find fulfilment in their work – and that should be enough. These types of attitudes can be used as an excuse for lower wages and to guilt people into not asking for more. The average salary is in the sector is 37% less compared to other industries, and the wages in the Nova Scotia are roughly 20% lower than other areas of the country. It is also a fact that for racialized employees in the Community Impact Sector make 10% less than their white counterparts. These barriers are systemic and cannot be outweighed by the type of work being done.

Of course, sometimes there isn’t an ability to increase salaries – but in those cases, there are other ways to increase your total compensation (that we will get into shortly). The sector is a resilient one, because it has no choice. But if everyone is squeezed and no longer able to afford to work for less, and risk putting themselves in harm’s way, passion no longer matters. 

Myth 4: “We can’t do anything – this is just how it is.

Okay, yes, we can’t always move mountains. But we are creative people! 

There is no denying that the sector is under-funded and under-resourced. However, there are other ways to increase your total compensation, which goes beyond just salary. There are cost effective ways organizations can help increase quality of life and support work-life balance. Things like flexible work schedules, additional leave, work from home, and 4-day work weeks are some examples – which all come with a ton of research to back up the link between improved productivity and quality of life!

It might take some creativity, but we can approach this with an abundant mindset. We often try and find ways to cut and divide the “pie”, when in reality, we can just make more pie, or slightly different pie. I mean, I’ll take a nice pastry too.

5 Ways to Advocate for Yourself

Okay, now that we’re aware of the myths, let’s talk about what to do about it. I know it can be scary and sometimes it feels way easier to just let it happen, but I promise you, you’re worth doing the scary thing! Entering the workforce is intimidating and sometimes it can feel like a miracle just to get a job. But there are things you can do to help equip yourself to enter the workforce while also making sure you have your own back. 

1. Stay Informed

The best thing you can be is informed. Make sure you research the industry average wages in your sector and for the position you are looking at – look at different job boards with similar positions. Compare this to any offer of your total compensation and the cost of living in your area. It can be a very helpful tool to advocate for more if you need. This is also important to keep up with even if you have been at an organization for a while. Check in and see if your salary is still competitive. Here are a few tools to start your research: Living Wages in Nova Scotia 2023 Update; Compare Wages – Government of Canada Job Bank; and Consumer Price Index Nova Scotia. 

2. Learn about Pay Transparency 

Wage transparency is a topic that most organizations and even employees find incredibly taboo and frightening to talk about. However, this air of secrecy is advantageous for organizations and actively harms employees – specifically marginalized employees who already face additional barriers in the workplace. Opening conversations on pay transparency is a crucial step in achieving pay equity. It can be incredibly powerful to name when there are imbalances and can have a big impact. IONS isnt always perfect at this, but we’ve come a long way and now have our pay scales published to encourage pay transparency in the sector. We also host a job board for sector opportunities within Nova Scotia with the only requirement for free promotion being to include the salary range. 

3. Increasing Total Compensation

Last Fall, IONS released a Possibility Brief focused on the importance of “Improving Total Compensation in the Community Impact Sector”. The makeup of your total compensation includes salary and additional perks and benefits offered to employees. Some common things include vacation time, sick leave, health benefits, and professional development – but there are a lot more ways total compensation can be leveraged. Here are just a few examples of things you could ask for to help boost your total compensation if a salary increase is not feasible (PS. click the links for additional resources to help support your case). 

There are so many options, and it can be a huge tool for retention as well! You can’t do everything, but there are ways organizations can help you even if it takes a nudge. 

4. Practice talking about it 

There can sometimes be a disconnect between older employees in leadership roles and younger people freshly entering the workforce. Things look different than they did even 10 years agoelevated levels of student debt (averaging 28K), inability to buy a house (in HRM, it’ll be about $512K), skyrocketing inflation, and increasingly outrageous rent prices ($2,000 for a 1BR).  Share articles, talk about cool and exciting ways other organizations are working, bridge knowledge gaps, and help other young people get more comfortable with these topics as well! 

5. Quit your job

Hear me out, I know not everyone is able to quit their job. But it is not normal for a job to have devastating impacts on your mental and physical health. It is not normal for your supervisor to belittle you. Or to be treated like you are less than or be subjected to microaggressions. And if it’s your first time in the workforce, it can be easy to assume that everyone goes through this, and they just put up with it (like I used to think). Young people can be scapegoats for poor leadership and organizational deficiencies. You have permission to take care of yourself first. I believe in you. 

Stay Loud and Take the Leap

There is a lot of stigmas surrounding the viability of employment in the Community Impact Sector, but like the private and public sectors, there are going to be pros and cons. As a young person starting your career, the sector provides opportunities to develop as a leader. You can gain new skills in a variety of areas, be heard, fast track your career development, and be an integral part of some pretty cool projects.  

This sector is filled with skilled, passionate, educated, and innovative people dedicating their careers to meaningful and impactful work. And we have the ability to start changing what is acceptable. Have the conversations that make leadership uncomfy, start naming the things that are unfair, and talk to coworkers about how they can also do these things. The results might surprise you – we might just make a new status quo. 

Written by:

Haley Moriarity

Communications Coordinator

Haley supports a wide variety of IONS’ external and internal communications – including social media, program and event promotion, website development, writing, and e-marketing.

1 Comment

  1. So appreciated this post…I’m 66, it absolutely applied and applies to me. Lately ageism is a particularly difficult pill to try to swallow. Thank you Haley.