Every time a generation rises into the workforce, there’s a negative stereotype that goes with them. Baby boomers, for example, were authority-questioning, free-loving hippies. The latchkey kids of Generation X, on the other hand, were a bunch of cynical loners. Then came the babies of the 1980s…
Millennials, or Gen Y, the newest generation to enter the workforce, are no different. As “60 Minutes” once put it: “[Millennials] were raised by doting parents who told them they are special, played in little leagues with no winners or losers, or all winners. They are laden with trophies just for participating, and they think your business-as-usual ethic is for the birds. And if you persist in that belief, you can take your job and shove it.”
As a result of their “coddled” existence, when it comes to their careers, the common perception is that Millennials are needlessly impatient, demanding and fickle, and that they come to the workforce with unrealistic expectations for salary, advancement opportunity and flexibility.
Though generational stereotypes are typically exaggerated, they also don’t appear out of thin air. Given the following attitudes expressed by Millennials in various surveys, for example, it’s not hard to see where the perception of the Gen Y groupthink came from:
- According to a report by technology company Johnson Controls, 34 percent of Millennials expect to stay in a job between one and two years. Fifty-seven percent expect to stay between two and three years.
- The same study reported that 56 percent of Millennials prefer to work flexibly and choose when to work.
- According to a survey by marketing agency Mr. Youth, Millennials said the No. 1 reason for switching jobs was, “I just needed a change.”
- Seventy-three percent say that a good workplace is one in which managers give “continuous, ongoing and informal feedback,” according to a 2010 study by recruiting firm Career Edge.
While all of the above certainly emphasize the Millennial “it’s all about me” stereotype, there may soon be a shift in this way of thinking, since thus far the job market hasn’t really lived up to Gen Y’s rosy expectations.
According to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, 37 percent of Millennials are unemployed, the largest percentage in this age group in more than 30 years; 10 percent have recently lost a job; and, while 79 percent of Millennials have completed at least some college to date, 41 percent are employed in jobs unrelated to their fields of study.
This reality check will certainly color the way Gen Y sees their respective career paths going forward, right?
According to a new study by DeVry University’s Career Advisory Board called “How the Recession Shaped Millennial and Hiring Manager Attitudes about Millennials’ Future Careers,” Millennials might think so, but managers don’t necessarily see a change. It seems there remains a discrepancy between Gen Y’s view and the way they’re viewed from the outside.
For example, while 71 percent of Millennials reported in the study that “meaningful work” was now one of the three most important factors in determining their career success, only 11 percent of managers said that they thought meaningful work was most important to Millennials. Managers overwhelmingly believed that Millennials were most concerned with money, followed by having a high level of responsibility.
The study also found that older managers tended to have the most skewed perception of Gen Y. For example, 32 percent of Millennials ranked “time spent at work” among their top three priorities when choosing a workplace. In comparison, 52 percent of managers over 50 said that “time spent at work” was most important to Millennials, but only 31 percent of managers under 39 said that.
The one area where the generation gap didn’t exist? Pointing out Gen Y’s flaws. Both managers and Millennials said their top three weaknesses were “inability to receive criticism from leaders,” “ impatience with established processes” and “ineffective communication.”
What do you think about Generation Y? Do they live up to stereotypes in the workplace? Has the recession changed their outlook?