Gen Y on the job

Generation Y college graduates are enjoying a strong job market, but employers complain they want it all now and switch jobs if they don’t get what they want. The LA Times reports:

That revolving door is costly to employers. Every recruit gone after a year or so represents the loss of about 1.5 times the worker’s salary for costs associated with recruiting, training and the like, according to Saratoga, a San Jose-based unit of PricewaterhouseCoopers.

. . . Generation Y, the children of baby boomers and Gen-Xers, is often described as the entitlement generation.

. . . Many entry-level positions still require making copies, fact-checking reports and taking the blame when the manager messes up.

My daughter was graduated from Stanford in ’04 with an American Studies degree. She’s done plenty of time at the copy machine. Now she’s headed for law school at University of Chicago. Many of her friends have left their first or second job for graduate school. Only a few are in the same job they started two years ago.

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  1. I’ve seen this in some members of Gen X, too.

    Among my cousins and siblings close to my age, I think I am the only one who is still in her “original” career (several people are still not 40 and have had three very different careers in different areas). This is also true of some of my friends.

    I don’t know. I think I tend to chalk that behavior up to “money trumps interest” – I went into a field where I knew I wouldn’t be making the big bucks, but it was something I genuinely enjoyed (and that had enough of a range so that I wasn’t filling out the same TPS reports day in and day out).

    The problem is, even if you’re making a lot of money, if you hate your job…well, you hate your job. I think too many people in ALL generations get too caught up in “keepin’ up with the Joneses” and tend to go after careers that are less interesting to them but more prone to get the bucks.

    but among Gen Yers, yeah, there might be somewhat of a “you’re asking me to do WHAT” attitude of being unwilling to pay their dues. I see that in some of my students.

  2. Part of that is because employeers reward the behavior.

    Jumping jobs every few years is a fast way to build up a wide range of experience in your field.

    And each jump generally comes with a significant raise. Plus a large set of stock options. Employeers don’t keep giving you big incentives to stay, they give you big incentives to join.

    Of course, this is all from the perspective of a silicon valley engineer.

  3. Justin: This was a common tactic in the aerospace industry of the 1960s; such a person was known as an “aero bracero”.

  4. As a proud generation Y’er I can only look on this trend with pride. Long gone are the days where employees are expected to act in their companies best interest, holding on to some thread of hope that when it comes time to trim the fat they’ll be spared. I think my generation has little time for such trifles as “company loyalty”, not because making copies is beneath us, but because the favor is seldom returned. We’re too busy trying to find that career that truly makes us happy instead of settling for complacency.

    That’s my take at least.

    And another thing, the babyboomers are syphoning off 12% of my pay for social security and just recently received a huge medicare boon, and WE’RE the “entitlement generation?” C’mon.

  5. I’ve been a freelancer in media for about 25 years, and before I made the plunge to that life, I heard many stern lectures about being a “job-hopper”.

    I’ve been able to learn plenty of new tricks along the way, while my colleagues who believed that they could settle in and get cozy–downsized.

    There’s always another job.

  6. Like KateC, I’ve had a few jobs over the years. And like BHB, if the attitude I received was “If you don’t like it, leave”, I left. I never regretted it.

  7. superdestroyer says:


    However all of the job hopping means that you are giving up the match on the 401K and probably not exercising your stock options or profit sharing. The example in the article had a degree in biology but had basically worked in sales. All I saw was someone who could not hold a sales job. That has been the same for all generations.

  8. SuperD–Enron. Tech-stocks. Yes, if I had been at Microsoft back in the day, I could have retired. But that’s a time and place thing more than remaining chained to the cube.

  9. Employees will only give as much loyalty as they are shown. Companies only have themselves to blame for this sort of behavior.

  10. Well I am a Gen-Xer who has already had more than her fair change of jobs. However, if I could have stayed and worked my way up the same way that my elders did, I would have stayed and done that. What Baby Boomers and older generations don’t seem to realize is that the job market and job stability are very different now compared to when they were my age. I wish that I had the options that my elders took for granted. I had to leave my hometown in order to find a professional job. Not that my hometown is small, just that the companies would pay big bucks to transfer experienced people in rather than hire new graduates. My hometown has a really low percentage of hiring local graduates compared to the national average. I left my first professional job because in order to advance I needed more education. Then I was a graduate student and that ended when I graduated. I left my last job with government for two reasons. The main reason is that I needed to move back to my hometown to be near my dying nephew who is only four years younger than me, and to help my parents who are old enough to be my grandparents. So I put family ahead of career advancement. It has been seven months since I moved and I am still working low paying temp jobs because I am told I am overqualified for everything. While here, I have rejected five serious offers for jobs in big cities (outside my hometown) in order to be near my family. I am proud to say that many in my generation have their priorites in order and put family above a career. How does that make me entitled that I want to help care for my family. The other reason I left was that due to a change in political parties, I was left without any chance of advancement. The new admistration could not get rid of me, but they got rid of the better qualites of my job in an effort to clean house. The only way for me to advance was to leave completely and reapply later for a better job with them. Employers lack loyality to me. As for wanting it all now, I am 35 years old and I have spent years to get nowhere. I just want a decent job, to be near my family, and to build my own business eventually. How it is that entitlement? Enough of the whining from my elders who have not walked in my shoes.

  11. superdestroyer said:

    “However all of the job hopping means that you are giving up the match on the 401K and probably not exercising your stock options or profit sharing.”

    For the record, I’m 6 years out of college and have had two jobs (one for 4 years, my current for two). My 401(k) with my first job vested after 3 years and my seond job offers stock option fully vested at 4 years. Due to Real Estate prices in my area (Saratoga/Cupertino/San Jose) I probably won’t stay to see my stock options fully vest, though I will leave with about 1% of the outstanding shares under my belt. My first company even put me through a Masters at Santa Clara University (about $20k a year for 3 years). The day I got my diploma I left.

    Getting the most out of your compensation by taking steps such as maximizing your 401(k) match, accumulating stock options, and taking advantage of tuition reimbursement plans are important financial steps but I doubt they have anything to do with Generation Y job hopping. First of all, none of these financial perks, in isolation, is a good reason to stay at a job that otherwise makes you unhappy. Second, while these perks might give you some small benefit, the odds of them making you wealthy or otherwise contributing to your future financial success is relatively small. You might get another 10K-20K for the master’s degree, some padding for retirement, or an extra 15% on margin from your stock options. At best your stock options might go quadruple-platinum ala Google and make you a millionaire, but if there was a good chance at that would you really be leaving?

    What’s my long and winded point? Good financial decisions and job-hopping aren’t mutually exclusive.

  12. Ross the Heartless Conservative says:

    The last job I left was because I was working 60 – 80 hours per week and I was still behind all the time. I asked for an assistant and did not get one so I changed jobs. Within three months of the time I left 3 people were doing the job I had been doing and 2 of them were making more than I had made. I have also been on the other side of the fence where I had a great employee who deserved more money but who I could not reward appropriately because we were limited to giving 6% pay raises maximum (3% without extensive documentation and approval from the board). When the employee would find a better job and leave I would end up having to pay more than what would have kept them to hire a less experienced replacement.

    Some people laugh when they read Dilbert because that think that it is silly. Others read Dilbert and laugh because they can identify with situations the characters go through.

  13. John from OK says:

    Increasing your salary through job hopping indicates a rigid salary structure which does not adapt to an employee’s improving skill set. I was once offered a 2% raise during the dot-com years. I could have easily joined the competition and received a 50% raise (instead I went independent for a 100% raise). MY company, however, could not offer me more that 2% because it would upset the salary structure (and the balance sheet) for everyone else and destroy the balance sheet. Essentially, they were saying, “If you’re dumb enough to stay on, we need you.”

    We’re all out to maximize profits. If a firm really wants to retain its freshmen employees, it should pay them less the first year; pay the good ones more the second year; fire the not-so-good ones the second year, and be up front about the whole process. Loyalty shmoyalty.

  14. Whats the incentive to stay at the current job if its entry level or close to it. If you cant get the time off you want you can just quit, take the 3 weeks off and come right back to an employer that will hire you for the same or higher pay rate. I dont think its a generation issue but more of an open economy that allows free transfer of goods/services including human capitol.

    Im 27, most of my friends have left their jobs after about a year or so mostly due to being bored and not being challenged. We all want to learn and contribute in new ways.

  15. I was in the IT field and the same thing happened when I started back in the 1960’s. You went to work for an employer as a programmer. In order to move up you had to change jobs as the companies would keep considering you as a programmer and that is all. The same thing happened with personnel recruiters. My friend kept going back to the same recruiter whenever his contract was up and the only jobs he was sent out for were exactly the same as the ones where he started. The recruiter just did not see him as having moved on.

    The result is that you are almost forced to move on in order to improve your skill sets. The other result is that when you have to deal with HR rather than IT you are thought of as a job hopper. I learned a long time ago that I would first look for the job with the IT department and then let them fight the battle with HR. If you went to HR first they really had no idea what the job required and they were so tuned into seeing someone who stayed with a company forever that they missed all the good points such as when you moved it was to positions of increasing responsibility. Since you did that, then if they looked to you for improving your skill sets and taking more responsibility, you would stay there. If they didn’t, then you would leave.

    I worked with too many people who had gone to work for a company and stayed there. They were still doing their jobs the same way afte 20 years as when they started and had done nothing to improve themselves. They would retire from the company with the same skills as when they started because the company did nothing to train them and advance them. This is far too common in industry and shows a total lack of good management practices. Shame but that is one of the major reasons people leave jobs and why people change fields. If you are someone with any drive and any desire to improve and learn, then if management will not recognize that then what precisely are you to do to keep from stagnating!

  16. Reginleif says:

    A lot of the previous commenters make excellent points. I’m 38, and I’ve had a great many jobs. We no longer have the sort of stable economy that enables most people to spend their entire working lives in one or perhaps two positions. And a company that treats its employees like cattle has no right to expect loyalty in return.

    OTOH, the entitlement behavior discussed in the article is not completely exaggerated. The concept of “paying one’s dues” is kaput. A great many kids, having been coddled and catered to all their lives, fly out of the extended nest that college has become and expect to land in a six-figure job. Many think that doing anything menial is far, far beneath them, especially if they went to a prestigious school. (Remember Shawna Gale?)

    I’ve worked with someone like this, too, a guy in his early 20s. He was hired as an intern, but he refused to do data-entry and similar tedious work because he wanted to do something “important.” He didn’t last long.