With graduations taking place across the country this month and next, a new wave of college students is preparing to enter the workforce.
But the job market those workers will encounter is drastically different than it was even five years ago.
Burdened with record levels of student loan debt, these young people will face stiff competition for fewer jobs and the prospect of lower starting salaries than their predecessors. They may have to take part-time work or a job in a field outside their degree. Many are moving back in with their parents while they look for work and staying even after they find employment in order to save money.
Those who do find jobs bring different ambitions and expectations of their careers than previous generations, which can lead to rifts in offices with older workers.
Raised by a legion of "helicopter parents" who shuttled them to after-school activities and pampered them with praise, members of Generation Y are unafraid to speak their minds, question authority or to switch jobs if it furthers their career, experts say.
Members of Generation Y, often referred to as "The Millenials," also seek a deeper sense of meaning and fulfillment in their jobs and see less value in traditional 9-to-5 work schedules.
Although bringing younger employees into a workplace can cause conflicts, businesses that can engage their workers and take advantage of their passion, innovative thinking and familiarity with technology stand to benefit, said Alexia Vernon, a Las Vegas-based author and speaker who studies multigenerational workplaces.
As Baby Boomers continue to age out of the workforce and retire, it's critical for businesses to develop their next generation of leaders and innovators, she said.
"Gen Y brings a lot of creativity and innovation to the table. We understand how to work well in groups," Vernon said. "We are going to need Gen Y to step into leadership positions in our companies and they need to get opportunities to develop those leadership skills."
Meet the Millenials
Referred to by some as the "most coddled generation in history," the Millenials grew up in an era of Oprah and the Internet and were taught that what they think and care about matters, Vernon said.
Roughly defined as including those born between 1980 and 2000, Generation Y is expected to include about 80 million people, comparable in size to the Baby Boomers and about twice as large as Generation X.
Their unique upbringing means Millenials tend to be motivated by different things than older generations. Although raises and job titles are nice, young workers seek an opportunity to grow and develop in their jobs more than anything, Vernon said.
"The No. 1 reason why a Gen Y leaves work isn't money, it isn't for a better opportunity or graduate school. It's feeling like we can't learn and grow in our current role," Vernon said. "There is that desire and in many cases an expectation that work is inherently meaningful."
Six years ago, Jasmine Freeman packed up her family and moved to Las Vegas from the Midwest in pursuit of a new career, even though she admits she liked her old job at a bank.
"But there was this hole. Something was missing," she said. "I'm looking for this total package. I don't want to just be fulfilled in my family life. I don't want to just be fulfilled in my work life. I want balance across the entire board."
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