Gen Z-AI Workforce   //   October 18, 2023

Gen Z workers speak out on AI ethics, data security, career disruption

This article is part of WorkLife’s special edition, which examines how the jobs and careers of Generation Z professionals will be reshaped and evolve in the AI-informed era. More from the series →

Gen Z is the newest generation in the workforce. They’re also digital natives and therefore accustomed to constant change. That means they’re bringing their generative AI chops to work, and are excited at how the tech can help enhance their jobs, rather than replace them.

Some have recently taken AI classes at college before graduating and joining the workforce, while others are playing around with the tools on their own time and even inventing AI-powered startups. But they are savvy to AI’s current pitfalls too.

We asked five Gen Z workers to share their thoughts around AI, including how they use it, what their biggest concerns are, what excites them, how it might influence their career, and more. 

Answers have been edited for clarity and flow.

Maya Bingaman, 25, communications and content officer at social entrepreneurship marketplace MIT Solve

What do you use AI for?

I use AI for lower-lift content, or things that are already fairly templatized within my own arsenal of materials. So, for example, cover letters. If I have to submit a cover letter, and I already have 20 versions, which I have had, and I just want to refresh it, I may just tweak it with a prompt like ‘can you update this mentioning XYZ here, or make it shorter?’ ChatGPT is really good at cutting words and taking stuff that you’ve already created down to what you’re hoping for it to be. I personally feel like it sounds like a robot, but maybe it’s because I’m a writer. I can say pretty confidently that there’s never been a single thing that ChatGPT has produced that I haven’t had to retool and rework myself. It’s just a starting block. 

Do you think AI will lead to less human connection amongst coworkers or supervisors?

No, not really. I think AI is just a tool that we’re using to make our lives a little more efficient and easier. And if anything that should allow for more space for that communication, for that planning, for those in-person meetings and conversations about things that maybe a robot can’t spit out, where they don’t understand the nuances of your organization. So I wouldn’t say that it’s going to take things away. It’s just giving us the time and space to make meaningful connections on the side now that we have a little more time back. 

Do you have any ethical concerns around AI?

From a writing standpoint, as someone working in PR, I’m really used to people taking my work and claiming it as their own with their name on a byline. That’s just the name of the game, and I’ll say it’s ethical because I give them the permission to do that. But the fact that no one has ever paused and said, ‘Well, should we give PR people credit for when they draft commentary or bylines or blogs,’ but now people are stopping and saying should we give robots and AI and ChatGPT and the engineers credit? I would say no, because we haven’t stopped and thought about the humans that have been doing this for decades and decades before ChatGPT and stuff like that even existed. So that’s my take on the ethical side, looking at plagiarism specifically.

Dillon Bernard, 23, creative strategist and founder of creative agency Team DB 

How important is ensuring AI is ethical and unbiased to you?

Because much of my work is focused on fairness and justice, it’s something I always think about. There’s also a piece of me that’s maybe become a bit of a cynic around the fact data is everywhere. So I’m like, what’s another thing? I’m not sure that’s a really great way to think about it, but I think it is a piece of it, especially if it’s supporting me to do the work. 

I’m still mindful about what I’m putting into ChatGPT, especially if it’s confidential. It’s much better to be safe than sorry. All the tools I’m using are with the assumption that it can get out. That’s kind of how I’m filtering. If somebody will be hurt in terms of information if this comes out, I won’t be putting it in any tool. That’s just my general rule of thumb. 

Do you get resumes that are ChatGPT-generated and do you care?

We’ve gotten some recently that are a bit standard, but it’s hard to say if they are generated by AI. It’s a great starting point, but I think you can always tell. I’m coming from a space where I think a lot of this work is about human connection. We can’t be overly reliant on these tools. If it’s something you really want, don’t use ChatGPT for that one. Really spend some time and do some research and practice storytelling. It makes a difference.

Sometimes what I see missing in the context of all of this is that folks are really going full steam ahead and ultimately, AI doesn’t have the empathetic, human touch. 

Are you worried about whether or not AI will disrupt your career path?

For me, it’s just another tool supporting me through my work. The need for the work is still there. As someone who does content, you’re always going to need content. ChatGPT doesn’t have that expertise. It’s important to learn all the tools. But who will be editing the content, approving the content, coming up with the overarching strategy? I’m not worried about it. My suggestion is to just make sure we understand what’s out there. Be willing to learn about it or aware of it. There’s something to understanding the nuances of the work. If we can do our work better to reach more people, it’s worth considering. 

Jake Weintraub, 23, account executive at communications company Ditto PR

How do you use AI?

ChatGPT was definitely the forerunner when the AI revolution started the end of last year. Initially, I was using it in whatever capacity I could think of, from having it write random stories with famous celebrities to conducting research. As it’s become more normalized over time, I have figured out a tried and true approach to incorporate it into my workflow. It almost acts as a background intern in conducting research or looking at what’s trending with articles and news cycles, especially now with it having a true online search.

I’ve also used it for completely random personal reasons like creating grocery shopping lists or identifying meal plans. I really use it in a variety of ways of whatever fits my need in the moment.

Do you think AI will change your career path?

It’s obviously going to cause a reorientation within certain industries about what jobs are actually needed for people or sourced out to machines. I think if anything it opens up opportunities for critical thinking and using our own capabilities to their fullest extent. There’s been a lot of doom and gloom perspectives – I don’t ascribe to that. I’m also not like AI is fairies, clouds and rainbows. I’m somewhere in the middle.

In terms of future job prospects, if anything, it gets me excited because it opens up so many new possibilities. I’ve seen so many people become entrepreneurs with simply an idea, whereas in the past, coding and knowledge requirements prohibited people from accessing that. We’re able to acquire knowledge faster than normal and then use the remaining time to engage in conversations and brainstorm.

Are you thinking a lot about data confidentiality?

I’m not the biggest fan of social media because of the data collection side. But I also understand that in the age of technology, protecting yourself from it is nearly impossible. If you want to be operating within a business, you need to be online at some point. It isn’t at the forefront of my mind because it’s stuff I’m voluntarily putting in and I’m cognizant of what I’m contributing.

The whole way these AI models are able to function is because of all the data they’re trained on. They’re going to need more and more proof points to define their models. So I try to think of it as contributing to a better form of AI rather than it being something that is invasive or that I’m not aware of. That’s what it boils down to.

Daniele Servadei, 20, co-founder and CEO of e-commerce platform Sellix

You’re also a computer science student. How are you using AI?

The main thing is for summarizing, both at work and university. It simplifies day-to-day tasks. Instead of asking how to do X, Y, Z, I paste hundreds of lines of code and ask ChatGPT what is happening here. It gives me a much cleaner, well prepared explanation than what the professors could do. My professor is good with broad subjects, but having something else to really understand minor parts is helpful. The university does not allow us to use it for creating code for at-home tests, but other than that, they pretty much allow it. 

Do you have any concerns around data privacy and security with AI?

It’s a pretty major concern. I think the major concern is about what data the model is being trained on. What if it’s copyrighted or private content? It’s not so much what we are putting in ChatGPT, but what it’s been trained on in the past. Companies should look into improving and being better. 

Will AI disrupt your career path?

I don’t think it will disrupt mine much compared to jobs that are more replaceable, such as someone who is a translator, for example, or even customer service. Those things will be more impacted by AI. As a CEO, what you need to worry about is the vision for a company. It’s really important to take into account the fact that we as a company will have to introduce and use AI systems going forward, not just because others are doing it, but because it improves the user experience. 

Zoe Hamilton, 25, manager at PR agency BLASTmedia

How has AI changed your career so far?

When ChatGPT came out back in November, everybody was talking about it. But I brushed it off to be honest. I don’t like change. I stick to ways that I know work. But it was in February, early March, when I had a peer encourage me to try it for pitches or subject lines. I thought it was cool to hear how peers are using it. So then I started asking it questions. I’m a naturally curious person, but I’m very anxious and it’s hard for me to ask people questions. I like that I can ask all my “dumb” questions, or questions I’m afraid to ask. I quickly realized from there that there were other ways to use it. If I’m looking for synonyms, subject-line help, brainstorming sessions, summaries, I use it.

A lot of our clients are in tech, but I didn’t go to school for that. I went for PR. That side of my brain takes longer to operate than the creative side. I don’t always understand what my clients do, so it’s great to plug it into ChatGPT to get more context and ask it to explain to me like a fifth grader. It helps me understand my clients better and then in turn serve them better. And when I’ve had clients for over a year and I’ve exhausted all my creative ideas, ChatGPT can help me think of new things.

I use it every single day, it’s always a tab at the top of my browser. I never expected it to become such an essential part of my workday.

Are you worried about how much information you’re sharing with ChatGPT?

We have a client-facing policy that says not to share sensitive company information. So I make sure not to insert things like funding announcements or to write a pitch about confidential information. Even entering biographies, I want to be cautious as well. It’s the same with anything on the internet. If you put it out, it can be traced and found forever. We spent some time testing the waters first and looked at how much the agency was using it. We make sure not to plagiarize or take information directly as well as to fact check and ensure the information isn’t outdated. I’m not overly worried about any of that, but we have things in place to protect our clients.

Do you think AI could replace you?

I personally am not worried. It’s just another tool I can use to be better at my job, not replace me. I think you have to learn and take the time to use it correctly for it to be an enhancement rather than a set back. I can see how it would take away things for an entry-level employee because it’s easier to give those tasks to ChatGPT, but I haven’t seen that personally. Our leadership is really good at showing us how to use it to enhance our work rather than set us back.