What Young Adults Want in Their Careers


There is no doubt that the generation that comprises the group of people known as millennials is unlike any generation encountered in the past. Including people born from the early 1980s through the mid 1990s, millennials are unique in numerous aspects, ranging from the technology available during childhood and today, the relationship with parents, economic and educational prospects, and overall culture. Generation Z, which is also known as the post-millennial generation or the iGeneration is equally as unique, and as these young people transition into adulthood, there are numerous questions about what the future will look like.

But while millennial and generation Z culture may be something that those of other generations are neither able to relate to nor understand, when it comes to the workforce, what young adults want from their careers may more closely resemble the desires of other generations than one would think.

What Young Adults Want in Their Careers – The Similarities and Differences

There are a number of things that young adults today want in their careers that are very different from what young adults from generations past wanted. These differences are based, in large part, due to technology and opportunity. For example, working remotely was hardly an option for generations past, but with the proliferation of wi-fi, there are many jobs that can be performed from anywhere in the world.

When polled, young people are also much more likely than older Americans to say that a top priority in finding a new job is that the job is enjoyable and provides the individual with a feeling of “making a difference.” Older Americans, on the other hand, are likely to prioritize salary.

But there are also a lot of similarities between what younger and older generations want in a career, too. Some of these similarities include:

  • Benefits matter. Just like older Americans, about one-third of millennials say that they want benefits from employers that align with their lifestyle and values, including things such as tuition reimbursement and 529 college savings plans. All three generations who were asked in one survey (generation X, baby boomers, and millennials) all said that vacation time, a matching 401(k) plan, and healthcare were “must-have” benefits.
  • Employer-employee loyalty is a priority. Young people have earned a reputation as career hoppers, jumping from job-to-job with ease. However, when asked, a large percentage of millennials state that being loyal to their employer is important. But it’s not just about an employee being loyal to an employer that’s important; but also the employer being loyal to the employee. Young people today don’t want to be viewed as just another number or company asset.
  • Job security. Perhaps the thing that young people and those of older generations have most in common: their desire for job security. What’s more, young people and older people seem to agree about which industries they think will offer the most job security in the coming years – energy production, tech, and healthcare. In order to meet the demand, many young people agree that updating skills and returning to school for more education is a smart idea.
  • Ability to prioritize family. Millennials are having children at a much slower rate than did older generations; the number of women giving birth in the United States has been declining for years, and recently hit a historic low. But while young people may be having fewer children than did previous generations, those who do have children are still searching for a career that, and employer who, cares about their ability to provide for their family (millennials are also reaching the age where aging parents may begin to need care). While things like maternity leave and paid time off to care for family is important, other benefits–like paternity leave and more flexible work schedules (goodbye 9-5!)–are being promoted by younger generations. Employers who offer these more modern benefits are often more attractive to millennials and those in generation Z.

Technology and Cultures Change; People Don’t

While technology and culture has advanced significantly in the past decades, what people ultimately want from a career–including employer loyalty, job security, benefits, and the ability to care for one’s family while also working–hasn’t changed much. This highlights that human needs and desires may transcend in what year one is born.


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