It’s Not All Fun and Selfies for Millennials in the Job Market

Young workers portrayed as self-absorbed and coddled are in fact grappling with a tough, rapidly changing world, a new survey suggests. And they need help.


A new generation of tech-wielding, social-media-savvy millennials is rising in workplaces around the globe, but some are having trouble navigating the job market.

This is a well-educated generation, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but many of its members are saddled with college debt and were delayed by the Great Recession in leaving home and pursuing careers.

“Older millennials in particular have experienced a very difficult job market and, unlike previous generations, their workplace is less structured and their career roadmap is less defined,” said Sara Sutton Fell, founder and CEO of FlexJobs, a subscription-based online service for hand-screened telecommuting and flexible jobs.

With these specific issues in mind, FlexJobs recently launched 100 Days on Jobs for Millennials, which includes job-seeking tips and strategies in the form of expert articles, videos, webinars, question-and-answer columns and success stories directed mainly at older millennials on its free Millennials & Gen Y Jobs blog.

Born between 1980 and 1995, millennials make up the largest portion of the U.S. workforce, 35 percent. They are followed by baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1963, who now make up 30 percent; Generation X, born between 1964 and 1979, 18 percent; and so-called traditionalists, born before 1946, at 17 percent.

In a breakdown of millennials by age, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates there are 4.5 million 16-to-19-year-olds, 13.6 million 20-to-24-year-olds and 31.2 million 25-to-34-year-olds employed. Unemployment runs above 10 percent for younger millennials and just more than 5 percent for its older members.

“As an elder member of the millennial generation myself, I can attest to the differences in starting, managing and developing a career over the last decade,” wrote Brie Weiler Reynolds, FlexJobs online content director. “Members of this portion of the millennial generation went through a major recession during the exact years we were supposed to be growing our brand-new careers. Many of us do jobs that didn’t exist when we graduated from college. And we’re all basically learning how to develop our careers (and what a career even means today) on the fly, because the rules aren’t just changing – it’s almost as though there are no career rules anymore.”

They also have to put up with managers who doubt their work ethic and buy into negative stereotypes about millennials as entitled creatures consumed by social media. If you’re wondering what that stereotype looks like, check out a recent “Saturday Night Live” skit featuring Miley Cyrus, Kate McKinnon and others constantly texting and taking selfies at the office. In a promotion for the fictional Fox TV show “The Millennials,” a worker portrayed by McKinnon demands a promotion.

“I deserve it,” says McKinnon’s character. When asked how long she’d been at the company, she responds enthusiastically, “Three full days.”

Her elder managers coped with the younger workers’ antics as if they agreed with the way real-life managers responded in a survey reported by Careeerbuilder.com about perceived weaknesses of millennial workers.

  • 54 percent feel millennials lack the ability to receive criticism.
  • 51 percent perceive millennials as impatient with established processes.
  • 35 percent perceive millennials as ineffective communicators.

More than 500 millennial-age respondents to a recent FlexJobs survey provided insights from their point of view, some countering the managers’ perceptions:

  • Top reasons to work: Pay for basic necessities, 83 percent; pay for luxury items, 55 percent; enjoy working, 53 percent; passionate about career success, 50 percent; have a professional impact in the world, 46 percent.
  • Top reasons to seek telecommuting and flexible job opportunities: Work-life balance, 84 percent; family, 67 percent; time savings, 60 percent; cost savings, 49 percent; and commute stress, 48 percent.
  • Most sought-after type of flexible work: Telecommuting all the time, 85 percent; alternative or flexible schedule, 54 percent; telecommuting some of the time, 50 percent; part-time schedule, 47 percent; and freelance/contract, 39 percent.
  • Top social media channels used in job searches: LinkedIn, 65 percent; Facebook, 28 percent; Twitter, 13 percent.

Although millennials are seen as job-hoppers, they really are no different than earlier generations at their age, reports The Washington Post. Since the Great Recession ended, millennials have been hanging onto jobs for just more than three years, on average. CareerBuilders says nearly 8 in 10 millennials expect to have five or fewer jobs throughout their careers.

The top five industries for millennials jobs, says FlexJobs, are retail and wholesale, health care, professional and business, leisure and hospitality, and manufacturing.

Among tips posted on the FlexJobs site:

  • Establish a personal brand as a dependable person.
  • Know your strengths so you can strategically target opportunities.
  • Invest in your career and yourself with certifications and other education needed for the career that interests you.

What ideas do you have for millennial job seekers? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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