'Millennials' May Have Jobless Future

March 21, 2007 | By Kate G. Stevens

Although students of the Millennial generation work hard and value higher education, they will have a tougher time getting jobs than their parents’ generation.Millennials, the segment of the population born between 1982 and the mid-21st century, make up most of the University of Arizona student population.

“You really are the best educated,” said William Strauss, co-author of the books “Millennials Rising” and “Generations.”

The books delve into generational nuances and trends, and predict what challenges coming generations will face.

About 3.2 million more people went to college in 2004 than in 1970, a 3 percent increase in the total educated population of the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Education.

“The problem is there may not be the proportion of high-caliber jobs for which you obtained the higher education,” Strauss said, because more people are attending college now than ever before.

Strauss has been studying generations since the early 1970s while he worked on degrees from Harvard College, Harvard Law School and the Kennedy School of Government, and has co-authored 10 books on the subject.

“I find that students today are very practical, meaning that they are career-oriented,” said Merrie Brucks, a professor of marketing in the Eller College of Management.

Brucks has been teaching for more than 25 years and said today’s students are often over-committed with a long list of goals.

Students often have a job along with a full-time student career, do volunteer work and are fitness-oriented, Brucks said.

“My worry about them is that they might burn out early in life,” Brucks said. “I think they are doing too many things and it stresses them out.”

Strauss and co-author Neil Howe coined the term “Millennials,” refuting the term “Generation Y” because it suggests the generation is simply the next after “Generation X.”

Strauss said Millennials are different from Generation X and should not be considered an extension of them. “One of the Millennials’ strengths is your ability to get along with each other and adults,” Strauss said.

Millennials want lots of communication between supervisors and fellow co-workers, as well as constant feedback.

“They want a supervisor that is more like a coach,” said Kem Blanchard, a UA career counselor.

Because they have been raised on technology, Millennials will go for employment with companies that have the latest technological tools, Blanchard said.

Strauss added that Millennials have pressure put on them by the older generation to behave better and work harder than their predecessors.

Jennifer Whitcomb, a 22-year-old family studies and human development senior, agreed that her generation works harder but said it is for different reasons then the previous generation.

“I think now it seems like society is more acclimated toward material possessions,” Whitcomb said.

Society used to work to build a name for themselves, but now it is about getting more money and more stuff, she said.

Today’s students are also more concerned with environmentalism.

A 2006 study by Cone Inc. found that 83 percent of Millennials will trust a company more if it is socially and environmentally responsible and 79 percent want to work for a company that cares about how it impacts or contributes to society.

“Students that are graduating are looking for careers that are more meaningful and service-oriented,” Blanchard said. “They are very much looking at values-based choices as far as employment goes.”

“It is not going to be accepted for a CEO to be paid so much more than other employees,” Strauss said. “There will be a collective quest to decrease the income gap.”