Millennials: Too optimistic about their careers?

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Millennials get a lot of attention these days. For some strange reason everyone seems to be fascinated with the current crop of young workers. Maybe we’re all taking Whitney Houston too seriously when she sings that the children are our future. Regardless, you can’t pick up a newspaper or blog (including this one) without reading about the exotic culture of the 18-29 crowd. These professional newcomers are revolutionizing the workplace … or so we’re told.

A new study from the Pew Research Center looks at what makes Millennials different from the 30 and older crowd. The study looks at all aspects of this generation’s characteristics, from their politics to their views on family responsibility. Although no study can define every member of a group, these results show a generational consensus on many issues.

According to the study, Millennials are experiencing economic hardships due to the recession, but their attitudes don’t reflect it.

About two-thirds of Millennials (68 percent) say they are not earning enough money to live the kind of life they want. However, within that group the vast majority (88 percent) say they expect to earn enough in the future to live the good life. That is significantly higher than the percentage of Gen Xers (76 percent) or Baby Boomers (46 percent) who share this hopeful view.

You might think that this optimism is curious, especially considering what they’re up against. After all, the economy hasn’t been great for anyone, much less for young people who haven’t had time to accumulate a financial safety net. Yet, the survey points out, the optimism might not be entirely unfounded:

Time is on their side. When the jobs return, the survey results suggest these young people will be prepared. Millennials appear to be on track to becoming the most educated generation in America’s history. Millennials have not yet matched the educational attainment of Gen Xers. So far, 19% are college graduates compared with 35 percent of Gen Xers.”

The study goes on to talk about a lot of stuff — and it’s interesting to see not only what Millennials say but how they compare to past generations. It’s worth a thorough reading.

We’ve mentioned here before and in articles that this generation loves technology, embraces collaboration and expects to climb the professional ladder faster than past generations. We know this (and the study goes into more detail). We are dealing with a group of professionals who have an impressive amount of education but many obstacles in their way, so no rules exist on what they should expect.

Looking at this study, do you think Millennials have a reason to be optimistic or would you caution them to be less hopeful? Are you one of these Millennials?