There has been a constant stream of new and trending career buzzwords in recent years, from ‘quiet quitting’ to ‘loud laboring’ and more. The latest entry, the TikTok-based trend of ‘lazy girl jobs,’ took social media by storm in mid-2023 – but even once the trending discourse moved on, its underlying ideas revealed significant things about what to expect from the workforce in 2024 and beyond.
What Is a ‘Lazy Girl Job’?
Although the ‘lazy girl job’ is more of a ‘vibe’ than a specific set of requirements, the Wall Street Journal offers a concise description of the concept. “The ideal lazy-girl job can be done from home, comes with a chill boss, ends at 5 p.m. sharp, and earns between $60,000 and $80,000 a year— enough to afford the basic comforts of young-adult life, yet not enough to feel compelled to work overtime.” In many ways, it was less a unique trend and more a simple rebrand of a long-running movement toward work-life balance and avoiding making work one’s entire identity.
This approach to work is not actually about being lazy but rather a backlash against the exhausting cycle of ‘hustle’ culture. It’s about pushing back on the idea of overwork and the expectation that everything must always be about growth and productivity. It’s also a pushback, like the recent ‘quiet quitting,’ against companies raising expectations without similarly raising compensation.
Like many other buzzwords and trends today, ‘lazy girl job’ was coined on social media – TikTok, to be specific – where creator Gabrielle Judge is credited with labeling the term. In an August interview with NBC News, Judge explained that the term is not meant to glorify laziness but rather that it’s satirical, meant to highlight the idea that hustle culture has reached the point where even a healthy work-life balance may get labeled as ‘lazy.’
Other interviewed professionals had similar comments. Tech recruiter Bonnie Dilber shared how she views the term on her TikTok.
“There’s nothing lazy about expecting a job that pays you well, gives you good work-life balance, and doesn’t overwork you. No one in a ‘lazy girl job’ is actually lazy,” she said in a video.
Meanwhile, ‘anti-career’ coach Danielle Roberts told NBC News that the trend is part of a larger re-evaluation of what work means.
“People are spending many hours per day doing something that drains them and doesn’t necessarily enhance their quality of life,” said Roberts. “And rather than calling the people who are divesting from that system lazy and telling them they just need to work harder, we need to talk about why it’s a trend in the first place and go one level deeper.”
Intersecting with Stereotypes
Despite the tongue-in-cheek nature of the ‘lazy girl’ trend, it also runs the risk of playing into stereotypes about certain groups in the working world. Younger women are most likely to embrace the trend (often with a heavy dose of irony/satire), which raises issues of gender and age stereotypes.
The ‘lazy girl’ label plays into stereotypes about Millennials and Gen Z not wanting to work as hard as their predecessors when they actually want to work smarter. For instance, a report from Forbes reveals that only 29% of Millennials say they’re truly engaged at work, but they want to be engaged and collaborative. “Their ideal workplace is mission-driven and collaborative, one where people feel inspired and motivated, where mentorship is encouraged, and where coworkers are more than just blank faces in gray cubicles. That’s right: Millennials do not want to be a cog in a faceless company.” Gen Z is similar; they want more interesting jobs that align with their values and greater personalization throughout their career journeys. They’re searching for meaning, not just a paycheck.
It’s also worth noting that this trend wasn’t called ‘lazy boy jobs’ but rather ‘lazy girl.’ Although obviously, this is traced back to the term’s originators, it’s worth considering how its ubiquity might now intersect with stereotypes about women not advancing because they simply don’t want to work hard. It may not be as prevalent today, but plenty of stereotypes suggest women are more concerned with talking about work and raising their profiles than actually doing work. There’s also the risk of falsely linking visibility and/or social action with underperformance for women in executive roles. Depending on the viewer, the humor and sarcasm of the term ‘lazy girl job’ may be interpreted as a critique of these stereotypes or as confirmation.
A More Balanced Future – and What It Means for Higher Ed
For some, the ‘lazy girl job’ trend is a reaction against the dichotomy of work-life balance, which may be criticized for suggesting the two are in tension. In reality, Roberts says, a more balanced and enjoyable life can benefit work performance – after all, a well-rested, energetic, and happy employee is much more likely to perform well.
It’s definitely not ‘just a girl thing,’ either. Gallup reports that nearly six in ten global employees, inclusive of all genders, are ‘quiet quitters’ – but they also know what would make them more engaged. Forty-one percent want better engagement or culture, 28% cite pay and benefits, 16% would like improved attention to well-being, and a scattering would ask for more recognition, opportunities to learn, fair treatment, clearer goals, and better managers.
For higher ed, people looking for remote work is nothing new, but the emergence of trends like ‘quiet quitting’ and ‘lazy girl jobs,’ even if they seem flash-in-the-pan, is a good reminder to continually self-evaluate your employee value proposition and ensure you’re offering what people want most (a positive and supportive culture, competitive pay, useful benefits, career development, and flexibility/balance). These trends are simply new names for trends we’ve seen before. This will be even more apparent in entry-level jobs where recent graduates have always taken the helm, including admission counselors, residence life coordinators, athletic assistants, and entry-level fundraising staffers.
Beyond our own hiring practices, we have an opportunity as educators to incorporate these concepts into career centers and other ways of educating students about real expectations for work-life balance as we move into 2024 and beyond. In particular, such a strategy will need to consider generational differences, especially as younger employees are far likelier to prioritize things like flexibility and balance. Education goes both ways: young, early-career employees may need to learn where to temper expectations, while companies and more established leaders may want education on adjusting benefits and expectations to fill positions with emerging talent. Dialogues between these perspectives (and generations) can lead to a more successful overall strategy. Of all the sectors grappling with these evolving nuances, surely higher education has an advantage since collegiality and debate run in our bloodstreams. After all, when we open our minds and learn from each other, we all win.
About the Author
Dr. Elliott is a Higher Education subject matter expert across multiple functions, including Strategic Enrollment Management, Faculty, Financial Aid, Institutional Advancement, and Student and Academic Affairs. Dr. Elliott brings to the table a unique understanding of an institution’s need for specialized talent and the candidate’s desire to affect positive change. She has worked with more than 200 schools across the globe in a consulting capacity and has coached countless cabinet-level executives on strategy, job placement, meeting enrollment, net tuition, and fundraising goals.