How TikTok became Gen Z’s favorite career coach

December 16, 2021, 8:34 PM UTC

Wendolyne Sabrozo didn’t join TikTok to find a job. Like most people weathering the early days of the pandemic, she downloaded the app as a distraction from the lull of everyday quarantine life. A 28-year-old who had spent the past five years in book publishing, Sabrozo was itching for a change. Then, in January, she came across a familiar name on the app—Jonathan Javier, the cofounder of Wonsulting, a career advice and consulting company aimed at helping people from underrepresented communities get their dream jobs. She had seen his LinkedIn posts, where he shared networking tips and stories of landing job interviews at companies like Snap and Google without formally applying, and figured, why not check out his TikTok account as well?

Today she credits that decision for helping her land her new job—associate content editor at Spotify. Sabrozo says she was inspired to switch careers and was guided through the process, from application to interview to offer acceptance, by the dozens of how-to videos Javier and his cofounder, Jerry Lee, posted to their account. Their advice prompted her to reach out to recruiters about nontechnical roles and set up networking chats with current employees, which she says were essential steps toward landing the Spotify gig—the kind of tech-centric job she says seemed out of her reach even a year earlier.

Wonsulting, which is a combination of the words “winning” and “consulting,” has over 835,000 followers and 8 million likes on TikTok, where its videos range from reviews of users’ résumés to tips for how to better network on LinkedIn. For followers who want more personal attention, Wonsulting also offers résumé, cover letter, and job search packages that range from $147 to $1,497.

“Jerry and I give very simple yet effective tips and people can implement them in less than 30 seconds,” said Javier, who frequently responds to users’ videos and gives them advice on their next career move. 

After navigating the job process on their own, Jonathan Javier and Jerry Lee decided they wanted to help others find their dream jobs too.
Courtesy of Jonathan Javier and Jerry Lee

It probably shouldn’t be surprising that the college students and recent grads of Gen Z (usually defined as those born in 1997 or later) and the “young millennials” that make up the rest of twentysomethings are turning to social media—and specifically TikTok—for career advice. A recent Pew Research study found that 84% of those ages 18 to 29 use social media, more than any other age group, and nearly half said they’re TikTok users. Job advice has becoming an increasingly large part of the mix on the app, with the hashtag #careertiktok racking up almost half a billion views.  

One of the most frequent users of that hashtag is NYC-based documentary maker Erin McGoff, who started making TikToks after seeing just how many people were looking for career advice online, and realizing she had tips to share. Her most popular videos help users ask for a raise and answer classic interview questions like “Tell me about yourself” and “Why should we hire you?” She says now she receives over 10 comments every hour from viewers who say they’ve applied her tips and finally secured a long-awaited promotion or a new job.

“I think my videos give people a sense of confidence,” McGoff said. “​​I’m giving people the tools to make them look as qualified as they feel, and that’s really meaningful to me.” After gaining over 1.2 million followers on TikTok in six months, McGoff also began to make a small amount of money from the platform’s Creator Fund.

Erin McGoff’s TikTok account has helped users land promotions, progress through interview rounds, and become more confident in the skills they have to offer.
Courtesy of Erin McGoff

Some creators are more specific with their advice. Theresa Sue, a technology project manager at Major League Baseball, said she started making videos because she wanted to show other women, especially those without a traditional technical background, that they could find roles in tech and make up to six figures. She currently has over 140,000 followers on TikTok and recently launched an app to help connect entrepreneurs and creatives like herself. 

“A lot of people nowadays overcomplicate it,” Sue said about the job process. “I hire all the time, and I can tell you right now what I look for and an easier route to get there.”

McGoff and Sue are not professional career experts, but they believe that’s part of the appeal to users on TikTok. 

“I think my content resonates with so many people because I’m coming at it as a normal person,” McGoff said. “I pass down life lessons that I’ve just learned for myself from being an ambitious person and wanting to be successful in interviews and in my own career.”

For students and new grads, the traditional place to turn for advice has been college career-services centers. And while many Gen Zers are still going that route, it’s easy to see why some have looked for alternatives. At the City University of New York, there’s a median 1,100-to-1 ratio of students to professional staff. For the almost 30,000 undergraduates who attend San Francisco State University, there are only three career professionals on the career services team. (Neither school responded to Fortune’s request for comment on these student-to-adviser ratios.)

Although many schools are focused on creating career opportunities for students—the better to flaunt postgrad employment statistics, for one—ratios like that can “definitely be a roadblock,” according to Brittany Bond, an associate professor of organizational behavior at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations. And with limited resources, not all students are likely to get the same attention, added her colleague Christopher Collins.

“The students who are most comfortable speaking up for themselves and seeking out help are the ones that probably get the bulk of the attention,” said Collins. “Those who are a little less comfortable asking for help probably go with none.”

Sabrozo, who worked with Wonsulting on her job search, said she was underwhelmed by her experience turning to the alumni relations office at Sarah Lawrence College, her alma mater, for advice. She says the office advised her to tweak her résumé and cover letter, steps she had already taken. (Sarah Lawrence did not respond to Fortune’s request for comment about Sabrozo’s experience). In contrast, Sabrozo says she picked up unconventional tips from Wonsulting that had never occurred to her before. One that she credits for helping her land interviews at Netflix, Facebook, and Spotify: Find the employees on LinkedIn at your dream company who share the same first name as you, and reach out for a phone call—a quirky and, she says, effective way to get attention.

“The biggest gap in the market was that people generally would talk about jobs or strategy at a high level,” said Lee. “The hope is that we drive action in people. All the strategies don’t work for everybody, which is why we share so many.”

Career coaches like Jill Tipograph are more wary about using social media as the be-all and end-all source for career advice. Given that influencers are often speaking to large, diverse audiences and aim to create content that generates the most clicks or likes, she said that the content on platforms like TikTok might not be able to cater to users in a specific way. Her company, Early Stage Careers, is composed of a team of interview skills specialists, human resources experts, and former recruiters who she says can cater to individuals’ specific needs and career goals.

“We can find everything on the internet, but you need to marry the information you’re gathering with real qualified advice so that you can move forward,” Tipograph said.

And because social media can be so fast-paced, added Tipograph, there’s an expectation that the job process should be the same. For students who are seeing a highlight reel of successes on platforms like TikTok and LinkedIn, there can be a detrimental impact on mental health.

But TikTok users like Sabrozo say that having a community on TikTok among job applicants like herself was uplifting, and sometimes necessary to keep pushing forward.

“In a process that can be so daunting and long and arduous, doing it through TikTok felt less of a burden. It felt fun,” she said. “Just seeing other people look for jobs and seeing other people reacting to the advice from the videos, I thought, ‘Okay, I’m not alone.’”

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