In Job Market, Are Gen Y's Wants Out Of Reach?

Anxiety is nothing new to young adults stepping into today's job market.

hide captionAnxiety is nothing new to young adults stepping into today's job market.

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Over 40 million Americans are in their 20s, and they're having a particularly tough time securing work. Their expectations may not match what their employers have to offer. Ryan Healy talks more about young job seekers' challenges. He is the co-founder of a website aimed at helping young professionals network and share ideas.

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ALLISON KEYES, host: There's been a lot of talk lately about millennials. Who are they and what do they want? There are more than 40 million people in America who are in their 20s. And this generation of workers is on pace to be the most educated yet. But the latest labor statistics show that the 20-somethings are having a little trouble finding jobs. Their unemployment rate is about 12 percent for 18 to 29-year-olds, a bit higher than the nation's current 9.2 percent rate. What complicates the issue even more is that as these young people enter the workplace, there's a big gap between their expectations and those of potential employers. In other words, they want a few perks here and there.

Joining us to talk about millennials in the job market is Ryan Healy. He's the chief operating officer and co-founder of Brazen Careerist, a website designed to help young professionals. And he's sitting right here with us in our studios. Hey, Ryan.

RYAN HEALY: Hi. Thanks for having me.

KEYES: So for those of us that aren't clear, are millennials and Generation Y the same thing?

HEALY: Yeah, same thing. So the oldest Gen Y-ers, or oldest millennials, were the high school graduating class of the year 2000. So that's where the name millennials came from, the new millennium. So...

KEYES: High school graduates.

HEALY: High school graduating class of 2000.

KEYES: I still can't say we.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

KEYES: Talk to us a little bit about the expectations gap between millennial workers and their bosses.

HEALY: You know, I think millennials in general are looking for something that they can come into where they're going to learn a lot, they're going to grow personally and professionally, and they're really going to get a lot out of it to help them advance in their career somewhere else. And that somewhere else may not be at the same job.

So what you see is millennials hopping jobs every 18 months on average. And, you know, bosses in general are looking for people to stick around for five or 10 years and it doesn't happen anymore with people in their 20s, as they're trying to figure things out.

KEYES: So the thing that my parents told you was, get a job, stick with it, be there for 30 years. You guys don't have to do that.

HEALY: Yeah. That doesn't work. And, you know, I think millennials realize there's a danger in that because you never know when you're going to get laid off or fired. And sticking with something for 30 years, you're giving them control, rather than you having control.

KEYES: Is that fear partly because the economy has been so iffy the last few years or is it kind of the way you guys were brought up with the whole, you guys are great; no, you're great; everybody gets a trophy. You can negotiate for your (unintelligible). You're not kind of used to the adversarial. You've got us in a cubicle.

HEALY: I think it's a little bit of both, you know. It was, you know, this is a generation of people who grew up with their parents saying you can do anything you want to do. You can be anything you want to be, and they listen to it. So they don't want to settle for something where they're sitting in a cubicle and not able to innovate and have a voice in things. But also the economy, you know. It's definitely had an effect on it. They've seen people get laid off, they know it can happen and they know that ultimately the safest thing you can do is have control of your own career, not put that control in someone's hands.

KEYES: But I would think everyone wants a fun place to work, a place that inspires you and makes you happy to be there. So why would it work for this generation when it doesn't seem to have worked all that well for some of the previous generations?

HEALY: It's interesting. It's a demographics thing, really. And if you look at generations, Generation X, who's the generation before millennials, or Gen Y, it's 50 million people. The baby boomers are about 76 million...

KEYES: OK, wait, wait, wait. Generation X came out of high school around when?

HEALY: Let's see, they probably came out of high school in the '80s. Eighties and early '90s. Yeah.

KEYES: Gasp.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

HEALY: Exactly.

KEYES: Tottering around.

HEALY: Yeah. So, but it's a very small generation comparatively. So they weren't able to have as much of a voice or make any kind of changes because there weren't that many of them. And with Gen Y it's a much larger generation and they're able to find different jobs because companies need to fill those jobs.

KEYES: A lot of 20-somethings today seem to be putting off some of the things that, again, Gen X or worse - older than that - the baby boomers, might have thought were things you do. You get out of college, you get married, you have some babies, you get a mortgage. But again, not so much a focus for the millennials.

HEALY: Yeah. You know, people are putting it off. Marriage is delayed, kids are delayed. It's partly because people are living longer. And you know, really what's happening is people are graduating college and they're in this almost delayed adulthood or emerging adulthood where they're trying to really figure out what it is they want to do with their lives and they don't have a mortgage to pay and they don't have kids to feed, so they can afford to do that because they're only feeding themselves ultimately and you can afford to take the lower paying job or go babysit and bartend instead of taking the job in the cubicle that you just don't want.

KEYES: Sounds like a lot of roommate situations going on out there.

HEALY: Oh yeah. If you look in D.C., everybody has a roommate. It's too expensive to live on your own.

KEYES: Yes. If you're just tuning in, I'm Allison Keyes and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.

We're talking about the challenges for the millennial generation entering the workforce now. Our guest is Ryan Healy. He's co-founder of Brazen Careerist, a site for young professionals. What do you say to those who kind of call millennials, Generation Y-ers lazy entitled people who just are too big for their britches, basically?

HEALY: You know, I mean there's some merit to it. You can say that people wanting to have a job that's interesting, where they can learn, where they can have flexible hours might be entitled. But really, it's something that they want because they want to have a high quality of life. And, you know, I think ultimately everyone wants that. Gen Y is making their voices heard a little bit more and that can lead to some controversy.

KEYES: I'm wondering, since your unemployment is a little bit higher than average, are bosses not going for that kind of entitledness?

HEALY: You know, that's a good question. I don't have all the answers on that, but I do think that there are a lot of folks who are actually deciding not to take that job that they're not really interested in and instead searching for that job that they really want and putting it off. You know, often a lot of times people go live at home with their parents so they can delay taking that job that they just really don't want until they find that great one. And that may have something to do with it.

But, you know, there is a higher unemployment rate, but a lot of the employers that we're talking with at Brazen Careerist are looking for highly educated, smart young people, and they're looking for them to come in in management positions pretty early.

KEYES: But what about long established companies? If they're not used to those kind of demands from workers, are they passing over millennials and going for the Generation X's or the baby boomers who are less sea change for their whole operation?

HEALY: You know, they're really looking to figure out how they can recruit and engage with these folks who are in Generation Y. They realize that it's just sheer numbers, right. There's so many people that are this age and there's so few people who are that age in between that they have to go out and they have to adapt their business practices and work with these folks to bring them on. So the established companies are really the ones who are having this conversation the most.

KEYES: Talk to us about some of the strengths that your generation brings into the workplace. Are you guys better able to deal with diversity, race, gender, sexual orientation? You're not, like, eek.

HEALY: Definitely. I mean there's a huge sense of diversity with Generation Y. Grew up like it. You know, you see, I think in the workplace the Latino population by 2050 is going to be 30 percent of the workplace, up from 15 percent. You know, I think some other strengths are people that really want to get things done. Results oriented, you know, let's finish this, let's get it done and let's be on with it.

And that can be a good thing. It could also be a bad thing. Sometimes you need to strategize, think through, edit things, pay a little more attention. But in general it's a sense of let's get this done. Let's get on to the next thing and let's move quickly.

KEYES: So, what is it that a company has to do to attract and keep a millennial for more than, you know, three months or so?

HEALY: Yeah. I think it's really about relationship building. Figuring out how you can make these Gen Y-ers friends with the other people in the company. Because people tend to stick around a company where they have friends at that company. And really, as 20-somethings, who are social, just out of college, not necessarily with a family, they want to go out and have fun after work and they want to do it with their friends. And they'd much prefer to be in an office where they can hang out with somebody at lunch and really build strong relationships.

KEYES: Ryan Healy is the co-founder and chief operating officer of Brazen Careerist. It's a site designed to help young professionals and college students find work. He joined us in our studios in Washington, D.C. today. Thanks so much.

HEALY: Thanks for having me.

KEYES: I want some yoga(ph) .

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

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