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For Gen Y Workers, #TheStruggleIsReal


The world of work is a mix of contradictions for Gen Y. The youngest working generation is at once challenged by the economy and empowered by technology. Inspired to innovate, Millennials are also occasionally hampered by expectations that exceed the reality (and budgets) of their employers. If you’re a Gen Y worker looking for insight into your situation — or a Gen X or Baby Boomer hoping to better understand your younger colleagues — PayScale’s latest data package, Gen Y on the Job, will help.


(Photo Credit: peasap/Flickr)

First of all, it’s useful to know whom we’re talking about, when we talk about Gen Y. For the purposes of this report, Gen Y is defined as people who were born between the years 1982 and 2002. Gen X is people born between 1965 and 1981, and Baby Boomers are people born between 1946 and 1964. A further note on methodology: PayScale’s data comes from its employee survey, and were collected over a two year period from October 2012 to October 2014. Over 1 million completed surveys were used to compile the data.

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With this information, PayScale was able to draw the following insights:

What the 2015 Workforce Will Look Like

By next year, Gen Y will make up 45 percent of the workforce — the single largest segment. Gen X, their immediate elders, only make up 21 percent, in part because they’re the generation currently most likely to be engaged in childrearing, and thus more prone to dipping out of the labor force for periods of time. Baby Boomers are still going strong at 31 percent of the workforce — a fact Gen Xers and Millennials might have reason to rue, considering that Boomers’ reluctance (or inability) to retire makes it less likely that prime management positions will open up.

Attitudes and Values

Job hopping is A-OK, according to Gen Y. In fact, 26 percent of those surveyed said that it was OK to stay in a job for one year or less, compared to 14 percent of Baby Boomers. Boomers were more likely to think workers should stay at a job for five years or more — 41 percent, compared to 13 percent of Millennials.

Of course, it’s hard to blame Gen Y for wanting to get a move on. The oldest Gen Y workers are 32 years old, and have worked almost their entire careers during a recession or its immediate aftermath. According to a recent report from the Society for Human Resource Management, only 24 percent of employers currently offer pension plans, with more companies shifting toward defined contribution savings plans like Roth 401(k)s each year. In addition, employees now bear more of the cost of their health insurance coverage, and are less likely to be offered dependent care flexible spending accounts, tuition assistance, or bonus plans.

Then there’s the ever-present threat of layoffs. In 2012, according to Gallup, two-thirds of American workers knew someone who had been laid off.

In short, employers are doing less for workers: why should workers be loyal to employers?

What Gen Y Has to Offer

Millennials tend to be more comfortable with technology than previous generations. PayScale measured a few significant top skills in terms of how common they were for each generation. Here’s how much more likely Gen Y is to have these skills, compared to older workers:

  • Autodesk Sketchbook: 2.57x
  • Google Analytics: 2.30x
  • Social Media Optimization: 2.22x
  • Blogging: 2.22x
  • Django: 2.21x

Challenges Millennials Face

Unsurprisingly, Gen Y workers were most likely to have to move back in with their parents after starting their careers: 24 percent logged at least some time with mom and dad, as adults, compared to 10 percent of Gen X and 5 percent of Baby Boomers.

Gen Y workers were also most likely to have gone to college and spent more time furthering their education — but not necessarily to good effect, in terms of achieving security or a high salary. In fact, 16 percent of Millennial M.D.s wound up back at home after earning their degree.

Finally, no investigation of the Gen Y work experience would be complete without mention of the internal struggle: namely, Gen Y workers sometimes think that their technical expertise and enthusiasm should secure them a better-paying job than the market will bear. The lesson here? No matter what your age, it pays to do your research before deciding how much a job should pay, whether you’re interviewing for a new gig or asking for a raise.

Tell Us What You Think

Are you a Gen Y worker? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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