A new survey found that instead of shying away from traditional, career-oriented values, millennials are actually more gung-ho about the idea of a steady career than baby-boomers.

42% of Americans answered that they'd want to help others--as a nurse, social worker, human rights worker, or philanthropist. Another 15% answered that they'd work as teachers, and 13% as artists and musicians.

A majority of both baby boomers and millennials also agreed that careers required college education and training.

2013-08-29

Co.Exist

Millennials Are Actually Optimistic About The Prospect Of Careers

Despite the economy, young people today aren't totally turned off by work. They're actually excited about getting fulfillment from their careers—especially if they can help others.

We're not exactly willing to turn on, tune in, and drop out. We came of age as deregulated financial institutions stumbled and took housing, bank accounts, and jobs with them. The bailout helped those industries bounce back, but what about a generation's collective sense of security and purpose?

On an individual level, it's useless to try and guess. But aggregate data can give us a glimpse into the conventional wisdom of our times. In the past, large surveys have shown that millennials are optimistic when it comes to improving their communities, and want meaningful jobs that fix social injustices. A new phone survey from GfK's OMNITEL and Monster.com shows us another side of that—instead of shying away from traditional, career-oriented values, millennials are actually more gung-ho about the idea of a steady career than baby-boomers.

Out of a representative sample size of a little over 1,000, 62% of 18- to 30-year-olds answered that they still considered a career very much a part of today's working reality. Only 48% of boomers felt the same. Furthermore, 37% of millennials felt that a career could provide a sense of accomplishment, while only 26% of boomers agreed.

Another part of the survey asked what kind of career respondents would want if money didn't matter. Some 42% of Americans answered that they'd want to help others—as a nurse, social worker, human rights worker, or philanthropist. Another 15% answered that they'd work as teachers, and 13% as artists and musicians.

Meanwhile, boomers and millennials generally agreed that singular jobs weren't likely to provide a sense of accomplishment or lifelong earning potential. Economic data supports that belief. The types of jobs—not careers—that are growing happen to be low-wage ones. Compared to total U.S. employment growth over the past few years, the food services, hospitality, and retail industries have soared ahead. And while executive profits in those industries have increased by as much as 130% (like in McDonald's case), wages at the bottom have remained stagnant.

A majority of both baby boomers and millennials also agreed that careers required college education and training. Still, teachers' wages over the last decade have stagnated, then tumbled in the recession. It's great that us youngs have a sense of optimism about what's to come, but perhaps the most revealing aspect of the study showed a different kind of disconnect: The jobs that pay well don't appear to line up with the jobs most Americans would want—nor are they jobs that help others.

[Image: Students via Shutterstock]

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6 Comments

  • Paul Chittenden

    The concept of a carer isn't a lost notion.  I could have easily stayed with a Fortune 10 company, and slowly worked my way up the corporate ladder.  I would have had a long lasting career in a great organization.  I would have had a pension, a 401K, and plenty of vacation time.  This is what most people want. 

    I did move on though.  I'm not one for delayed gratification.  I knew I could make more money elsewhere.  I really didn't want my boss's job.  I really didn't know where I wanted to go next within the organization. 

    So I made a move.  I got a major increase in salary.  I enjoy my job much more than my previous one.  I could have made a career out of my first two companies, but I wanted more.  It's my fault.  Not the corporation.

  • Eric Chester

     Being optimistic about the prospects of a career and being prepared for a career are two entirely different things.

    Just sayin'

  • DifferentStripes

    Millennials will do just fine. I'd be more worried about the YOLO SWAGGER generation currently coming up through middle and high school.

  • Crispin Garden-Webster

    We really need to exercise more judgment on this issue. If ever there was a subject to shove the HR profession's agenda back a decade or two this is it. Much of the commentary on Generational dynamics, particularly that coming out of the US has been overcooked by the media, the consulting and conferencing industries. There is an increasing body of empirical research that challenges these marketing friendly stereotypes. Its been good coin for a while, but the boring truth is now making its way to the surface. SHL ran a reasonably serious study of gen-x - gen-y differences about 7yrs ago, they found as many or more differences within the gen's as they did between them, suggesting, as any informed person would expect, that each gen possesses the full span of personality traits & it's the social/workplace environment that drives the behavior. A New Zealand Study http://apj.sagepub.com/content... found that the evidence for Gen differences is largely anecdotal and that there were more similarities than differences and only 8 of the 69 constructs provided a reasonable level of discrimination between generational cohorts. The authentic research on this suggests that the key moderator or variable is not the date born but the events in play during a person's child, teen and early twenties.

  • More Than A Resume

    As a Baby Boomer I raised two Millennials ---I admire their values, how they think, their goals and
    what they have accomplished.  I think we did a great job and simply don't get Millennial bashing.

  • Suleman Ali

    Millennials seem to want life to be interesting and meaningful, and so are able to sacrifice the money aspect of a career. I think they'll be much more flexible than previous generations, and are much more likely to have planet-wide concerns. They won't accept the existing cultures and hierarchies and so are better placed to change things for the better.