Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Will This Tough Job Market Change Generation Y?

When I graduated from college, my priorities were: getting a job doing something I loved, having opportunities for advancement and making enough money to pay the rent.

Not so different from what Generation Y wants now, is it? And, I have even more in common with them: I needed a job when the economy was basically in the toilet. I know what it feels like to look for work when employers are cutting back.

At the same time, I know those tough times taught be a lot of valuable lessons. I decided to look into what the impact -- if any -- this difficult job market will have on young workers. Here's the column I did for Gannett:

They have been called unflattering names such as the “Entitlement Generation” or “Generation Me,” but young people seeking jobs these days may have a new name: realistic.

Often known has Generation Y, these young people for years have turned companies and recruiters inside out as they demanded jobs for more pay and more opportunities. With their technology skills and great social networking abilities, GenY ( born roughly between 1980-2003) previously have found employers willing to meet their expectations.

But then the recession hit and unemployment soared to more than 10 percent. Like the rest of job hunters, Generation Y has found jobs can be tough to come by, even with their skills. That has caused what some might term an attitude adjustment.

“This is now a more grown up generation,” says Dan Finnigan, CEO of Jobvite.

Finnigan says recruiters, who often called young job seekers “challenging,” now report Generation Y job candidates are more willing to compromise on salaries or job duties.

In a recent survey, Jobvite found that before the recession, more than 60 percent of GenY candidates wanted a higher compensation than offered. Today, more than 50 percent of candidates say they will take the salary offered. Further, now almost one-third of applicants are trying to get jobs below their skills level, a jump of 25 percent from the pre-recession level.

“Employers just don’t have the time or patience for a generation that is so picky,” Finnigan says. “This generation is not pushing back as much as they did before.”

The National Association of Colleges and Employers, an organization of career counselors, says that employers will hire 22 percent fewer college graduates than last year. The question is whether the tough times being experienced now by this younger generation will forever change their attitudes – or be just a momentary blip in their career plans.

“This generation of workers is still highly desirable because of their skills in technology and their (social media) connections,” Finnigan says. “Employers are always going to need new blood, and that’s not going to change. But do they (GenY) have less of an attitude? Yes. And that’s a good thing.”

That “attitude” is what often has driven a generational wedge between workers. Some older workers see the young employees as wanting advancement and opportunities too quickly without paying their dues. Some younger workers see practices in today’s workplace as outdated and ineffective.

Wayne Hochwarter, a Florida State University professor who studies the workplace, says that despite the bad economy and many college graduates unable to land their desired jobs, the changes within the generation may not be that profound in the short or long term.

“I don’t know that young people’s attitudes have changed a lot, but maybe they’re more prone to say, ‘Well, it isn’t utopia, but I can make it work for me,’” Hochwarter says. “They understand they’re not going to get exactly what they want right now.”

Hochwarter says that many college students on his campus seem unfazed by the bad job numbers and tough economic times. “Of course, you have the one group who is gung-ho, but realistic. They’re paying attention and taking all the opportunities they can to make contacts (for jobs). Then, you have the other group sitting on the sidelines, just out of it.”

He says the group that is “unwilling and unable” to do more to gain entry into the working world is often supported by parents who tell them to “just wait out the recession” by staying in school.

“I don’t think the recession is really going to affect this generation all that much. They’ve been ingrained all their lives with the attitudes they have, and employers are still going to want them because they’re cheaper to hire than older workers and they have in-demand skills.”

“But are they going to be different? I kind of doubt it. You take the skin off a cucumber and it’s still a cucumber,” Hochwarter says.

Do you think this job market will have any impact on Generation Y?



Roberta Matuson said...

There is nothing like real life to wake people up. While I wouldn't wish a recession on anyone, I do believe that it's been a good thing for Gen Y. They have personally experienced what it is like to have someone tell them they are no longer special. They've watched their parents experience loss of jobs and in many cases they've had their allowances reduced.
When hiring picks up,(and it will), I think we'll see a more humble workforce. At least they will be that way for a couple of years!

Roberta Matuson

Anita said...

Hopefully, everyone -- no matter the age -- will learn important lessons such as being more resourceful, networking and being resilient. As you said, it will be interesting to see if the lessons of this recession stick, or are just a fleeting memory...

Bret Simmons said...

Great stuff, Anita. Can you provide the citation for the Hochwater stuff you discuss? I would love to see it myself. Keep up the good work! Bret

Anita said...

I interviewed Prof. Hochwarter over the phone. What he provided isn't a study, just his observations. However, his contact information is in the link if you want to follow up with him.


Jonathan Begley said...

It's important to remember that Generation Y wasn't the only generation living unrealistically the last decade or so. The housing market collapse is a great example. How many people, from all generations, were living out of their means, demanding too much? I think Generation Y knows that it has a lot to offer and I think they now realize that the "me" attitude can be disasterous. I think a little humility will do us all some good.
I'm really enjoying your posts!

Anita said...

Well said! I agree we could all do with a reality check...thanks for adding your comments.

John said...

We can learn so much from history, but as soon as things start to do well again, we seem to forget everything we learned. I feel this recession/depression was absolutely necessary. As a culture (not just "y's") we got wasteful, relatively lazy and most importantly entitled. After a huge economic disaster, when things are dialed back, we get more ambitious and need to work for everything we have. This leads to more satisfaction in accomplishments and a stronger work ethic... which will make our economy stronger.

Years after we recover I hope we retain the lessons learned from history and we dont resort back to our entitled view point. I believe this recession is a good thing.

good post!

Anita said...

Thanks for your comments. We're counting on people like you to remind us of the important lessons now and in the future!

Anonymous said...

We have the same views about it but in my genuine content essay, this tough market can penetrate by Gen Y! :)

Kareem said...

I have the same opinon. Great minds think alike.

Kingsley Tagbo, IT Career Coach said...

I think there will be some measure of change. In the IT sector, there was a time when IT professionals demanded outrageous perks and benefits. Many over-evaluated their skills and flitted from job to job as long as there was a pay raise. Then the 2001 recession hit the Telecom and IT sector. Today's IT workforce is more humble (well, a little :-)) and much more realistic about matching skills and pay.

Anita said...

Thanks for that reminder about the IT profession and what they suffered. I just heard someone say that they think everyone would return to their old ways once the economy improves. We'll see...

Kirk in Indy said...

Interesting, relevant topic. Well researched. Well written. Big Kudo's Anita!

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but this is full of it. People graduating college now are still working the same jobs we have had our whole lives. This means doing the jobs no older person wants and living off of tips.

This recession isn't the same as the one in the 90s, it is worse. As for entitled, now and unlike many previous generations, we work for free on top of working a menial job to make the bills. Interning is supposed to get you ahead, to help you find a job but now it seems people are just taking advantage. Entitled? Maybe some, but implying that we don't deserve fair pay is awful. Did you ever think that companies offering 20 grand a year for a college graduate working full time with scant benefits is too little? I think so. You'd barely make room and board after taxes. That's why we often have multiple jobs.

As for humble, you try feeling like you've accomplished anything after spending your nights bar tending and your days making copies and sorting with no promise of job growth. As for allowances, most people in this generation have held jobs. The kind where you get up at 5am to make coffee, where you wait on tables on a Friday night.

Wise up, each generation coming out of college has been lowering expectations. I know people that tried to get jobs as secretaries and they couldn't find work.

The longer people go without a job, the less hire-able them become. So when and if hiring picks up, you can be sure the 2009's college grads will still be left behind, cleaning your old entitled mess.

Anita said...

It certainly sounds like you're in the trenches right now and not being paid what you believe yourself to be worth. The worry I have is this that your generation will never catch up pay-wise when they are being started at lesser salaries...but that is also a problem for workers at every age and level.
By the way, next time leave your name. We're a friendly bunch here, and like to make a better connection by using your name. Your opinion is as valid as the next person's, so don't believe I'll let anyone take unnecessary pot shots at you.

FrauTech said...

I thought this article was really well written. Didn't have any of the usual bias of Gen Y that these articles usually do.

Anonymous has some valid points (with a side of bitterness, however understandable). Though the job market now is bad, it's been bad for years now. And due to outsourcing, Boomers not retiring, and Gen Yers being told (by older generations mind you) to get degrees in their "passion" or that "any degree" is a path to success...you end up with a lot of overworked, underpaid 20somethings.

It's been an employer's market since about the year 2000. Anonymous wails that their fellow grads can't even get jobs as secretaries. That's very true, and understandably! Employers want people with secretarial experience for their secretaries. They also want people who still stick around and pursue that as a career when the economy turns around. But there aren't a whole lot of "entry level" jobs anymore. Employers want you to have worked internships in your field your whole college career, and then like anonymous said they'll pay you 20k a year. Used to be you could "work your way up" in a company. No longer the case. They want you ready-formed with skills you can use day one. Especially given this job market there's no incentive to hire young people (and also, no incentive to hire the oldest people either, only those in the middle are barely hanging on to jobs).

I agree with other commenters that it's not just Gen Y that's been changed, but every generation. Every MBA getting paid $250k a year to do nothing or every Detroit factory worker that doesn't want to make a career or geographical change. In some ways, the change is good. In other ways it hurts people who don't deserve it and is completely unfair. I hope some of that mitigates when the economy recovers.

Eddie said...

This article is good, and I have mixed feelings about this topic. AS someone is has only less then two years experience in IT it is a nightmare to find a job. Most employers want guys with CCNA,MCSE and or MCDIT and these certifications (Or degrees has some prefer) take time to acquire and money.

I do independent consultation and repairs but it is not enough to buy software, books, equipment and pay bills all at the same time. I am only 25, but it feels like I don't stand a chance in today's market. You need money to pay for school, you need school to get a decent education, you need a job to pay for education, you need experience along with education to get a job while there is hardly any work, no money so how to pay for school? I was laye doff in 2007 while attending an collage I had to take up two jobs to make ends meet which means that school was out of the schedule. Now I am in debt of student loans, hardly any "creditable" job experience. Not o make this a rant or anything but I know 3 guys who manage to finish school due to having help from others and they can't find work.

My point is this may a lesson hard learned in life but some of us REALLY tried to make ourselves better and it seems unfair that some of us are paying the price for the mistakes that "Financial" experts made or how some of us was ripped off. Oh and I really hope the government offers these "stimulus" packages to small business and other organizations not "Large corporations" and Wall st.

Okay glad I got that of my chest.

Anita said...

I have interviewed people in the last year who have gone back to school at age 50, or someone in their 20s who has volunteered for extra work in order to gain needed skills. I've also interviewed people who are like deer frozen in the headlights, refusing to retrain in a dead-end profession or just sending out resumes to big job boards. I think we're in a transition time, for sure. Let's just hope everyone gets the message that this isn't the same old, same old job market. It requires new strategies and new thinking. Thanks very much for your comments.

Anita said...

President Obama is proposed putting money into generating jobs for small businesses. It will be interesting to see if that happens, or it becomes another political football to kick around. Thanks for sharing your story...it's tough, I know.

Anonymous said...

Articles of this genre make me slightly nauseous. Slanted, deliberately skewed information. Character defamation.

I am a 2009 college grad (one who worked summers, volunteered throughout college and still graduated in three years) and I have been actively searching for work for seven months and one week. I get up early and I go to bed late. I've been rejected from retailers like Kohls and Starbucks for having "too much" education; I've been rejected from Corporate America for "lacking experience."

I feel as if I am between a rock and a hard place, but I refuse to spend my time whining and complaining: in fact, I visited this blog in the first place to find fresh tips for an interview tomorrow afternoon.

My friends (also '09 college grads) are following the same path--some working 4 jobs or more in an attempt to support themselves.

If you are not GenY and you have not experienced what it is like to graduated from college in THIS recession, please do not share misguided ideas that aim to slam an entire group of diligent young people.

The word "entitlement" is only applicable to a small group of people within GenY. I would imagine that this small group hasn't evolved much since their parents graduated from college.

Why would this brand of negativity be helpful? I may be 22, but even I can spot a foul.

Anita said...

Dear Anonymous,
First, I have to disagree that this article is biased. It's pointed out several times that GenYers bring great skills to the table and are valued for those abilities. And, a study was used to document the changes in GenY.
Second, no one can dispute that this job market is challenging for experienced professionals, let alone someone just getting out of college. But your attitude, I think, will only stand in the way of your success. For the four years after I graduated from college, I earned wages that were below the poverty level. But I steadily gained experience, and eventually was able to get better and better jobs. Did I work multiple jobs to survive growing up? Sure. My Dad lost his job and all his retirement benefits when I was in college, and worked in a gas station for the next 10 years. All of us did what we had to do at the time.
I'm not trying to say you and others don't have it tough. You do. But use your hard times to show employers that you're growing and rising to the challenges presented.
By the way, be sure and leave your name in the future. We welcome all opinions here.

John said...

This is intended for anonymous... I want to comment on your view of Gen Y, and the 'bad rap' we get, (I am a Gen Y, recently graduated from school and still searching for work.)
Whether a stereotype is positive or negative they are a necessary park of human thought process. A stereotype is based on assumptions, and repeated observation of a behavior. What this stereotype is trying to say, is there are a lot of Gen Y's that fall into this category, it does not mean that you fall into this category.
Have you ever heard the stereotype that white guys cant dance or jump... well, I have A LOT of friends that fall into this category, but I can dunk and I have taken dance lessons since I was a kid. I don't get mad when someone uses this stereotype, it actually motivates me to become better. You should take the same advice, instead of getting mad that you fall into a stereotype, get motivated to prove them wrong! Good Luck with your job search.

Anita said...

Thanks for reminding us that we can turn our anger into something positive. I know I've done it a time (or two) in my career. :)

Howser said...

I think you should read this before writing a boastful article about how great it is young people are being humbled. Destroying someone's self esteem doesn't actually make them better.

I think people's attitudes towards branding generation me are rough assesments. Considering the truth when it comes to having careers, recent college grads or those of a few years back. Many have no health insurance, many can't find a well paying job, or even be independent. I feel like the stereotypes come from generation afriad of change, X. Young workers aren't being taken care of, so while switchign jobs may seem odd to older generations, that is often how one can stay afloat. They have the jobs that are first cut, they have the skills that get exploited. I think the gloating nature of the end of this post about rejoicing in the humblness, is a far cry from reality. It is hard to be cocky when you have to commute from home or share a bedroom with two other people, just to be getting by. Generation Y to a greater extent have been getting higher degrees, I think that someone with a masters should make more than 20,000 a year but from interactions with my fellow gen Ys, I know that is not the case. The good jobs are few and far between. I say if companies aren't loyal to you, than we should keep moving until we find a good fit and when we have one, pray you're job is safe. I think it needs to be less about humbling the young and more attention to the fact that for generation Y, the job keep has been slowing down for years.

Anita said...

I'll have to disagree that the article is "boastful," since it's an expression of the opinions of two people I interviewed. I also don't see where self-esteem is destroyed ...it's a story about the current job market and how it's changed the way that younger workers get jobs. The job market is tough for everyone these days.
To me, what's important is realizing that no matter your "generation" or age, everyone is facing a different job market that may never return to the way it was a couple of years ago. We all have to learn to constantly market ourselves, network continually and get as many skills as we can to hopefully get our foot in the door. No matter our age, I think we'll job hop more, and change careers many times. The story you tell is one that someone at 25 or 55 can identify with.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Nice Post,

Two things come to mind:
First, I think the economy or more to the point, the high level and arrogant CEO's who seem to dominate the nightly news have impacted younger generations in un intended ways. For example, I think there will be a total lack of respect shown to future executives. This is probably ok, but I think it will have some consequences later, in as yet unforeseen ways. I can still remember my parents taking us for a drive through the rich part of town, and the message was IF YOU KIDS WORK AND STUDY hard, you might get a house like this. And I do understand that money does not buy happiness, etc etc, but we do heroes, mentors and models of good behavior. the CEOs who dominate the news shows are not indicative of those who I know.
The other impact is in the area of startups. More new businesses are starting up now than ever. Most will most likely fail...but the failures will be inexpensive ones, that will provide great learnings for this new generation.
If I could, I would buy stock in gen y and x.
keep up the good work...you are the best,


Anita said...

I can always count on you to bring something new to the table. Really interesting observations.
We can't forget that GenY and GenX are the future of this country. Those of us who have been in the workforce for a longer period of time owe it to ourselves to help them, mentor them and encourage them..... and hope they do the same for us! :)

Anonymous said...

I think the problem is that the corrupt media wants us to believe that it is some how our own fault that we, as fresh young college graduates, cannot find work. They want us to believe that we are entitled and not cut out for the "real world". No one dares point the finger at the real perpetrator who triggered the global economic crisis in the first place. These big corporations that we have erroneously entrusted our lives to have betrayed us by outsourcing our jobs overseas and cutting costs to increase their revenues ultimately at the expense of the middle class working average joe. Hardworking college educated middle class folks are becoming impoverished, starving, unemployed homeless people because millionaires wanted to become billionaires in this country. This current "recession" is basically the rich robbing the entire American middle and working class of all its wealth. But these greedy corporations and rich folks who run the country behind the scenes have so much money, power and influence in our society that they can get away with such a blatant act of grand theft. The American people should be much angrier than they are. Our government paid billions of dollars to the same greedy institutions and people that are continuing to profit from our rapidly declining standard of living. The country would have been better off if every household in America was given a million dollars a piece as a stimulus! If the American economy is 70% consumer spending and small businesses, what the f*ck is paying Wall Street and friends billions of dollars going to do to remedy our situation?! Are people that dumbed down these days that they can't figure this out? I would not be surprised if there was another revolution in America in the next few years. But Americans have become effectively brainwashed by the ever present media to the point where most people do not think for themselves anymore.

We are currently living in a gangster's economy. What I mean by that is, you need the best connections and interpersonal networking skills to make money in a cutthroat economic environment where everyone wants to cut off your cash flow. God bless America.

Anita said...

It's clear that you're very angry about the way things stand now.

I'm wondering if you have a plan to channel that emotion in a positive direction? Do you have a goal in mind for your career? What's your dream job look like? How do you plan to use your anger to do something you love?

I'd be curious to hear your thoughts.

Unknown said...

I think the Gen Y thing is overhyped. It's a US media concept that exaggerates the real situation. All of us, when starting work for the first time, were hit by the realities and changed. You don't have a choice. I'll be writing soon on this topic at www.mytalentplace.co.uk/blog