Technology   //   January 27, 2023

Can ChatGPT fill in mentorship gaps for Gen Z workers?

As a young professional looking for a job, you might not know exactly how to land an interview, what questions to ask during it or how to construct the perfect follow-up email. And once you get a job, more questions could follow on how to navigate the workforce.

Enter ChatGPT. Launched at the end of 2022, it piqued the interest of desk-based workers across all industries. It’s clear that it can be a helpful assistant and workers are already brainstorming more ways to use the open AI tool to their advantage. However, it’s also shaping up that this could make a world of difference in addressing mentorship or guidance gaps among new workers who have questions but no one to go to yet for answers. 

“I’ve been in both private and public universities, and private has so many more high-tech resources for interview coaching, virtual AI and resume review,” said Sruti Bharat, the founder of FutureMap, a company that helps facilitate the college-to-career journey. “Public and community colleges may not have access to these tools and it shouldn’t be gated knowledge.”

ChatGPT can help newbies navigate their industry 

Let’s take the media industry, for example, to show you how it could work. You know you want to interview someone for an article, but you’re not sure what the perfect words are to ask for an interview if you’re brand new in the sector. Or, you might not know how to nail the art of the follow-up question during that interview. It’s something that someone might otherwise learn from a mentor. I asked ChatGPT these exact questions, and the answers didn’t disappoint.

Q: How do I ask someone for an interview?

A: When asking someone for an interview, it’s important to be clear and direct about the purpose of the interview and the format it will take. Here’s an example of how you might ask someone for an interview:

“Hi [Name], I hope you’re doing well. My name is [Your Name] and I am currently working on a project related to [topic], and I think your insights and experience would be incredibly valuable. I would like to set up an interview with you to discuss [topic]. The interview will take approximately [time] and can be conducted over the phone, via video call, or in person, whichever is most convenient for you. Please let me know if this is something you would be interested in and a good time for us to schedule the interview.”

It’s also important to be respectful of their time, and to give them the option to decline the interview if they are not able to participate.

Q: How do I come up with the perfect follow-up question during an interview?

A: Coming up with the perfect follow-up question can depend on the context of the interview and the information that was shared during the initial conversation. Here are some tips to help you come up with effective follow-up questions:

Listen actively: Pay attention to the details of the person’s responses and take note of any key points they mention.

Clarify any unclear points: If the person’s response is unclear or incomplete, ask a follow-up question to clarify their point.

Probe deeper: Use open-ended questions to delve deeper into the person’s thoughts, feelings, or experiences.

Use the information you know: You may also use the information you know about the person or the topic you are discussing to ask follow-up questions.

Be prepared: It’s always a good idea to have a list of follow-up questions prepared in advance in case the conversation takes a different direction.

Be respectful: Be respectful of the person’s time and experiences, and avoid asking overly personal or sensitive questions.

Remember, the goal of the follow-up question should be to gain more information, context or clarity on the topic you are discussing.

Sure, it’s information that someone who is a veteran in the industry might not think twice about. However, when you’re new to the world of journalism and don’t have a mentor to ask ahead of time, it’s a pretty solid tool.

“Instead of going through a lot of internet searches on Google and trying to find the right content out there based on your specific experience, ChatGPT can provide a fairly good source of information.”
Balkrishna Heroor, CEO and president of Mactores. 

“Instead of going through a lot of internet searches on Google and trying to find the right content out there based on your specific experience, ChatGPT can provide a fairly good source of information,” said Balkrishna Heroor, CEO and president of data analytics solutions and services company Mactores. 

Tips on workplace etiquette, brought to you by AI

Last week, WorkLife reported that Gen Z’s lack of in-office experience shows they don’t know how to behave at work. Could ChatGPT be an answer to that too? 

A London-based banking consultant told WorkLife that one of her Gen Z employees told her 10 minutes before a meeting that they couldn’t attend because they had a therapy session. If these younger professionals are not sure whether or not they need to inform their boss about things like this, they could take to ChatGPT for an answer (again, it may seem obvious for veterans, but if someone is new to the workforce they might not know how to go about it.)

I asked ChatGPT: “How far in advance should I tell my boss that I need to miss a meeting for a therapy appointment?” to which it replied: “It’s generally best to inform your boss about any planned absences, including therapy appointments, as soon as you know the date and time of the appointment. This allows your boss to plan accordingly and ensure that the necessary work is covered in your absence.” It then gave tips including checking your work policies around therapy and having open communication with your boss. ChatGPT could also answer questions like how to ask for a raise or how to tell your boss you’re feeling overwhelmed.

It’s decent advice. However, Heroor encourages young professionals to not rely on it too much, because a lot of the best learning comes from making mistakes. “It could essentially stop your personal growth,” said Heroor. “The reason you have built adaptability to understand how to communicate is from being in the situation. The way you learn how to communicate is by making mistakes.”

He supports using it for some guidance on workplace challenges, but that “the young crowd should be in the position of adversity to understand how to challenge themselves and grow.”

Alexandria Brown, a human resources consultant and founder of The HR Hacker, agrees and also acknowledges that ChatGPT largely offers binary answers and isn’t capable of nuance or personalization that having a mentor can give you. That’s why it isn’t supposed to replace a mentor entirely, but just fill in gaps for folks who don’t yet have one.

“[ChatGPT] will give generic advice. It will not be advice customized to that person’s unique positioning.”
Alexandria Brown, a human resources consultant and founder of The HR Hacker.

“It will give generic advice,” said Brown. “It will not be advice customized to that person’s unique positioning.”

She wonders how people might convert what they learn in ChatGPT to something real and actionable without a mentor. At the same time, it helps workers ask questions that they might not otherwise in fear of it being a “stupid question.”

“It does create this safe environment to ask anything,” said Brown.

How two Gen Zers are building a brand around AI

Rachel Woods, a 26-year old former research data scientist at Facebook, and her 24-year-old sister founded the AI Exchange, a media and education company, in 2022, to help educate others on the most important things to know about what’s happening in AI. While they’re not aiming to only help Gen Z, they’re using TikTok to help educate folks on how to use this technology with their short videos. Woods has nearly 70,000 followers. 

The sister duo believes that giving Gen Zers the tools they need to see everything they can do on ChatGPT can make all the difference to how they enter the workforce.

“There will no doubt be college classes in either ChatGPT or just AI in general,” said Woods, who sends out a newsletter twice a week with tips. 

The Woods use ChatGPT themselves to get faster answers than Google, sift through research quickly, brainstorm ideas, and more. They believe more young professionals should learn this tool as well.

“If you ask what makes a good cover letter, it tells you, and then maybe it can draft a cover letter for you,” said Woods. “You now have a lot more judgment that you can apply because you’ve learned a little bit about what makes a good cover letter first.”

Above all, for those who have landed a job, she said using this new tool can help professionals understand how to delegate work.

“That’s kind of what you’re doing when you use ChatGPT,” said Woods.