Generation Y is unlike any other group of Americans who’ve grown up in this country. They’re always communicating, always mobile and as a group overall, they’re pretty tech-savvy. Gen Y, also known as the Millennial Generation, has built a reputation that’s far different from previous generations, and for a lot of Americans today, the identity of Gen Y is still a bit of a mystery.
Where they came from
Life for young adults in America is nothing like what it was for their parents. They grow up in a completely different world that revolves around technology and constant contact with their friends. A new survey by compensation research firm PayScale, together with Gen Y research group Millennial Branding, analyzed Gen Y workers to find out some facts about this new generation of young professionals. PayScale and Millennial Branding surveyed some 500,000 workers born between 1982 and 1993 about their jobs.
Gen Y is made up of 18 to 29 year olds, and there’s no doubt the identity of this age group has changed significantly over time, possibly with each and every decade. Developing into adults in an ever-changing and technology-driven world has given young people a new set of skills and interests, and really a different life experience growing up.
Every August since 1998, Beloit College has released its Mindset List, which looks at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college this year. And the America they’ve grown up in is nothing like the America their parents grew up in.
To give you an idea of how life has changed, kids entering college this year have never needed an actual airline “ticket,” just a printed version of an online confirmation. They don’t know how to be separated from contact with friends and prefer to watch television on any device except a television.
What they study
Members of this generation are taking new paths, as they are more likely than any other U.S. group to major in entrepreneurial studies and Chinese. More professional, full-time Gen Y workers have an MBA than have no higher education at all. Overall, this generation is on track to become the most educated in U.S. history. About 63% of Gen Y employees have at least a bachelor’s degree, while 12.8% have a master’s degree.
Millennials are also more likely than any other U.S. group to major in neuroscience, bioengineering, sports management, digital media and communication studies. So it’s really no surprise that popular job titles for Gen Y men are software developer, mechanical engineer and web developer.
There are traditional industries that are hiring, though, and some members of Gen Y are going after them. The health-care industry took initiative regarding job growth and tackled the nursing shortage last decade by offering scholarships and tuition reimbursement programs to encourage people to enter the profession. State budget cuts have left students with a higher share of the bill for school, keeping a lot of people from enrolling. So is it just a coincidence that one of the most popular job titles for Gen Y women is registered nurse? Other popular titles for Gen Y women are office manager and administrative assistant.
A new kind of professional
Developing into adults in a technologically advanced world has molded a lot of America’s young people into a new kind of young professional. Gen Y workers are three times more likely than any other U.S. worker to list blogging as a skill. And although that might not be the skill that seals the deal, these well-educated young workers have the expertise employers are looking for in today’s mobile and tech savvy marketplace.
For the boomer who’s been with the same company for 35 years, the typical Gen Y professional is a bit of an anomaly. Gen Y workers aren’t lifers at the companies they’re going to work for. The median tenure of a Gen Y worker with one company is two years, compared with seven years for the typical baby boomer.
And Gen Y workers aren’t going to work for big companies. In fact, 47% of the Gen Y workforce works for companies with fewer than 100 employees, while 30% work for companies with 100 to 1,500 employees and only 23% work for companies that have more than 1,500 employees.
What pays the Gen Y bills
Something all American professionals can relate to is the fact that in order to make the big bucks, Gen Y workers also have to pursue math and science careers. The best-paid job for Gen Y is petroleum engineer with a median salary of $98,100.
In fact, all of the most lucrative bachelor’s level majors for Gen Y involve engineering: chemical engineering, systems engineering, nuclear engineering and computer engineering also made the list.
Sure, a lot of them may want to work for tech companies, but right now Gen Y workers are more likely to be fixing your computer than they are to be in a corner office of a major tech company. Other common jobs for Gen Y are merchandise displayer, clothing sales representative and cell phone sales representative. They’re nearly 3.5 times more likely than any other U.S. group to be a PC maintenance technician.
Best cities for Millennials
Some U.S. metropolitan areas have a much more appealing employment record for Millennials than other U.S. groups. To identify the best places for this group, PayScale considered data including median pay for Gen Y workers, wage growth over the past three years and commute times for Gen Y workers.
According to the survey, the No. 1 city for Gen Y workers is Seattle, with wage growth of 4.4% since 2009, a median pay of $44,000 and an average commute time of only 24 minutes. PayScale’s lead economist said Seattle is known for being a top city for technology, including biotech and engineering. These types of technology fields often hire students right out of school, and on top of that, the pay usually isn’t too shabby.
Just a bad rap?
The way Millennials grew up clearly made them more technologically savvy than previous generations, but has it discredited them as professionals? For a variety reasons, they have a reputation as entitled and often discontent. They want to apply for jobs that allow them to use Facebook on the clock, they’d rather wear jeans than a suit to work and many of these young people are moving home to Mom and Dad to take advantage of free rent. But is that reputation as indulged just a bad rap?
The economic conditions under which these young people are transitioning into adulthood are the worst they’ve been for this age group in a very long time. Young people today are facing unprecedented barriers to financial, professional and personal success and they aren’t stemming from an obsession with Facebook. Of course, that path to success has never been an easy one, but young people today aren’t doing the things their parents were at this age. So are they really slackers, or have they just been dealt a really bad hand?
There’s no question this group has been hit hard -- arguably the hardest -- by the Great Recession and its aftermath of economic-related issues. The national unemployment rate is 13.5% among people aged 20 to 24 and 9.3% for those aged 25 to 29. As a group, the national unemployment rate for Generation Y (ages 18-29) is 12.7% and the unemployment rate for 18- to 29-year-old African Americans in the U.S. is 22.3%.
Economic Impact on Gen Y
The unemployment rate among Millennials has been significantly higher than the national rate over the past few years, and the economy has hit them hard. They’re cutting back on entertainment and vacations and they’re delaying significant life events because they just can’t afford them. And they aren’t just sitting back complaining, but they’re engaged in the effort to improve the state of our economy. About 76% of Millennials plan to vote in the presidential election this year.
Generation Opportunity reaches out to Millennials and advocates for issues that affect them, so the group polled young people to find out just how much the poor state of the economy impacts their daily lives. About 89% of those polled say the economy impacts their day-to-day life. And of those who’ve been impacted, 51% have cut back on their entertainment budget, 43% have been forced to reduce their food and grocery budget and 32% are looking for an additional job. They’re also finding ways to reduce energy costs and they’re selling personal items to bring in extra cash.
On top of that, 84% of those surveyed have had to delay a major life event, since they just aren’t ready financially. According to the survey, 38% of Millennials put off buying a home, 32% delayed going back to school, and 31% are now waiting to start a family.
It’s no secret this generation of young people is different than previous generations, but if they do come out in big numbers to get informed and vote in the upcoming presidential election, they may be able to prove they’re willing to do their part in changing the crummy hand they’ve been dealt.