Embracing the Freelance Economy: How Gen Z’s Vision of Success Aligns with Jewish Values

As the world continues to transform, so too does the way we view education, work, and career paths. The rise of the freelance economy and shifting attitudes towards traditional pathways to success amongst Generation Z (those born between 1996 and 2010) seem to be converging in a manner strikingly reminiscent of age-old Jewish teachings. While many academics and professionals may lament these new-age career trajectories, perhaps they offer a unique opportunity for the Jewish community to reassess and re-emphasize the values we hold dear.

A recent Fiverr survey of 7,121 Gen Zers provides insight into their views on professional aspirations and goals. This generation stands out, with a whopping 40% not considering a university degree as essential for success. Moreover, 70% view freelancing as a viable career path, and 71% prioritize flexible working hours and personal autonomy in their job searches. In an uncertain economy, many Gen Zers are exploring alternative ways of earning their livelihood.

These findings suggest that the adage “find a good job and cling to it for dear life” may well be a thing of the past. Instead, this generation is challenging the notion of traditional success – and opening the door for a broader understanding of fulfillment and achievement.

From a Jewish perspective, this shift can be seen as both inspiring and validating. For millennia, Jews have upheld the principle of lifelong learning and the pursuit of Torah knowledge as the pinnacle of success. Many traditional Jewish communities even prioritize Torah scholarship over material wealth or professional achievement.

The Talmud puts it succinctly: “If you have acquired knowledge, what do you lack? And if you lack knowledge, what have you acquired?” (Ethics of the Fathers 2:6). This statement serves as a reminder that the acquisition of wisdom and personal growth should be at the forefront of an individual’s priorities.

The trend towards freelancing and alternative career paths may help Gen Z find a balance between their faith and their work. By de-emphasizing the need for a university degree and the pursuit of a traditional career, Gen Z is creating space for other goals and aspirations – including religious and spiritual development. The ability to pursue freelancing and flexible work options can allow more time for community service, prayer, Torah study, and participation in communal and religious activities, all essential aspects of Jewish life.

Additionally, the strong work ethic demonstrated by the 25% of Gen Zers willing to work hard for increased salaries aligns well with Jewish values. The Torah stresses the importance of hard work and productivity: “When you eat the fruit of your labor, you shall be happy and you shall be well off” (Psalms 128:2).

The economic uncertainty and inflation that have driven 41% of Gen Zers surveyed to consider freelancing as a means of supplemental income align with Jewish teachings about resourcefulness, adaptability, and resilience. Throughout our history, the Jewish people have had to adapt to changing circumstances and leverage their skills in various ways. Freelancing presents a modern-day opportunity for the Jewish community to embody these qualities.

Undeniably, the job market is changing, and the Gen Z desire to redefine what success looks like may ultimately benefit the Jewish community – by allowing us to reconsider our priorities and emphasize the importance of Torah study, community, and personal growth. While the younger generation’s preference for freelancing may worry some, we should remember Judaism’s core values and rejoice in the unique opportunity it provides for this new generation to lead a life that is both fulfilling and aligned with its beliefs.