How Different Generations of Americans Try to Find Work

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Do millenials approach the job hunt differently than their older counterparts in Gen X or the Baby Boom generation? It turns out that they do, sometimes in surprising ways. For one thing, despite the fact that millennials are highly likely to be underemployed or just plain unemployed, they are more optimistic than older generations about their prospects for finding work. Nearly 9 in 10 millennial job seekers (88%) describes themselves as optimistic about finding a new job, compared to 81% of Gen X and 73% of Boomers.

That’s just one of the differences among generations we found in a new study called “The Multi-Generational Job Search,” by my company and Beyond.com. We surveyed 5,268 American job seekers, including 742 members of Gen Y (18- to 29-year-olds), 1,676 Gen Xers (30-47) and 2,850 Baby Boomers (48-67) to see how the various generations went about job hunting differently.

In many ways, the job hunt is the same no matter what your age. All generations spend an average of between 5 and 20 hours per week searching for jobs. The study shows that all generations largely focus their job search energy online instead of offline, which is a big difference from a decade ago when people couldn’t rely on social networks to connect with recruiters. Despite the rise of social networking, the vast majority of all generations relies on job boards as a primary resource — Baby Boomers especially (87 percent), but a high percentage of younger job seekers as well (77 percent of Gen Y). People still value job boards because they raise awareness for open positions and because it’s easy to submit a resume through them.

(MORE: Just How Underemployed Is Gen Y?)

Similarities aside, there are several notable differences in how Americans in varying age demographics approach a job search. Here is what we found:

Generation Y. Relative to older generations, Gen Y is the most optimistic about the future and is willing to do whatever it takes to build a career, including going back to school, starting a business or moving back in with their parents. Despite a tough jobs market and the strong likelihood that they have student loan debt, 88 percent of millennial job seekers say they are optimistic about finding a new job. After all, they do have their whole working lives ahead of them. The fact that, overall, members of Gen Y are finding work faster than older generations surveyed may also have something to do with their optimism. The jobs millennials are getting may not be ideal — lots in retail and categories that don’t require a college degree — but at least the job hunt isn’t being dragged out forever.

Nearly half of Gen Y has considered going back to school instead of continuing their job search (35% of Gen X and 23% of Boomers), and nearly one-third are being forced to move back in with their parents (31% of Gen Y, 24% of Gen X and 13% of Boomers). One more difference about millennials is that, naturally enough for a generation that came of age with Twitter and Facebook, they’re more likely to use social media in the course of the job hunt. Before interviewing, Gen Y members are more likely to follow and interact with the company’s social media profiles over older generations (24% of Gen Y, vs. 19% of Gen X and 16% of Boomers).

(MORE: Outwitting the Recruiting Black Hole)

Generation X. Workers raised on Nirvana and John Hughes movies are likely to be parents with kids in the house today, and they value job security and have suffered more stress and frustration due to unemployment relative to other generations. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of Gen Xers say they are stressed due to unemployment, compared to only 61 percent of millennials who feel the same way. Many in Gen X have families they have to feed and provide for, as well as mortgages and other responsibilities, so unemployment has a major impact on their daily emotional state. For this reason, as well as others, Gen X is more focused on job security over a higher salary and workplace flexibility.

Baby Boomers. Interestingly enough, the children of the ’60s are using social networks, especially LinkedIn, more than other generations for their job search — 29 percent, compared to 23 percent of Gen Y and 27 percent of Gen X. Also somewhat surprising, the Boomers are the most likely to conduct an online job search, though the vast majority of all job seekers do so — 96 percent of Boomers, compared to 92 percent and 95 percent of Gen Y and Gen X, respectively. Boomers, it seems, may be slightly more likely to search online for jobs because they’ve been unemployed longer, and the kinds of jobs they tend to seek (corporate, well-paid) are found at job boards and other online sources. Baby Boomers also take more pains to prepare for job interviews than the younger generations: 85 percent of Boomers take the time to view the company’s website before interviewing, and 64 percent search for news related to the company beforehand, compared to 78% and 58% for Gen X and 71% and 53% for Gen Y. Again, the need for better preparation may be related to the kinds of jobs Boomers are applying for, in which a solid understanding and interest in the business is required before being hired.

(MORE: Terrible Financial Advice: Top 10 Money Tips You Shouldn’t Follow)

Much, much less surprising survey results point out that Boomers are less likely to consider going back to school as an alternative to finding a job (they’re too old to bother), and that Boomers are more likely to say they’ve suffered from age discrimination.

Dan Schawbel is a Gen Y career expert and the founder of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting company. He is also the #1 international bestselling author of Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future and was named to the Inc. Magazine 30 Under 30 list in 2010. He speaks on topics such as Gen Y workforce management to companies such as IBM, CitiGroup and NBC Universal. 

15 comments
JenniferBullockYeager
JenniferBullockYeager

LLBelle & lconti8757:  My UC benefits recently ran out and I am getting so frustrated with the "on-line" process of applying and not getting call backs.  All of the applications ask when you graduated from high school (1979) and in turn figure out your age, hence the age discrimination I can't help but feel.  At age 40 I went back to school and obtained my Medical Office Assistant Certificate with 92 hours of CNA training and have 9 years experience as a Medical Biller.  Can either of you (or anyone reading this) recommend how I can get my foot in the door???

lconti8757
lconti8757

Even when you have a degree they discriminate against older workers.  They are now saying that 54% of the long term unemployed ARE OLDER WORKERS.  The young feel optimistic because THEY ARE GETTING ALL THE JOBS.  Furthermore, even though I have 30 years work experience, the only jobs that even call me in for an interview are for low wage entry level jobs.  We all need to write to our Congressmen and send them a birage of complaints about how they're not doing their job to protect us.  If you watch TV most congressmen are over 40 HOW COME THEY HAVE JOBS??????  

lconti8757
lconti8757

LL Belle:  Older workers are saying they're suffering from age discrimination BECAUSE THEY ARE.   The Supreme Court removed the protection for older workers from the Civil Rights Act of 1967 in 2009 and is it any wonder that older workers are being discriminated against since corporations paid off the Supreme Court to do that!  Please research your rhetoric before you embarrass yourself on message boards!

lconti8757
lconti8757

LLBelle:  I'm a boomer and have already taken (2) online degree programs.  BUT

the crooked job market that is slanted for the young still won't give me a decent f/t

job!  So much for your theory!

LLBelle
LLBelle

"Much, much less surprising survey results point out that Boomers are

less likely to consider going back to school as an alternative to

finding a job (they’re too old to bother), and that Boomers are more

likely to say they’ve suffered from age discrimination."

I'm not a real fan of the way that's stated. I guess you would call me a "Boomer," and it's not that I'm too old to bother to go back to school, it's that I don't have time. I need to get a job now, and don't have the luxury that younger people do of moving back in with parents while pursuing a degree.

The problem is that the jobs I'm applying for now all require a degree, even though I've been doing that exact job for a couple decades. Not having that piece of paper is keeping me from even getting an interview.

And I don't "say" that I've experienced age discrimination, I "KNOW" that it's happened. I can see it in the interviewers' faces as soon as I walk in the door when they realize I'm not in my 20s or 30s. It's obviously uncomfortable for many of these 30 year old managers to be interviewing someone their parents' age.

 

RobertSF
RobertSF

For one thing, despite the fact that millennials are highly likely to be underemployed or just plain unemployed, they are more optimistic than older generations about their prospects for finding work.

That's just the naivete of youth at work. After a couple of years, they'll learn.

Angela J Shirley
Angela J Shirley

Before the recession, I had no problem using the famous internet to job search - but after being laid off my 50's for the third time in 2008 (different jobs) - I now use the old fashioned - go visit the company. Why? What I found from networking, a lot of these online jobs are just ways to get a hold of your personal information for identity theft. The only safe online jobs are usually on the company's website but even with those sites, the information is sometimes outdated. And a lot of companies are now telling their employees about jobs instead of advertising them. Saves them the cash and increases the chance of getting qualified people who should fit into their work environment. Yes, the younger generation may have a lot going for them, including those degrees - but I know personally, my only child now just got a job based on her Masters after a year of either no job, temporary jobs or jobs that were way below what she should be paid. Excellent article - very well written and informative. Thank you! Career Counseling

Tim_0
Tim_0

Gen Y is one generation, but from a job marketing perspective Millennials are another group altogether (the younger generation following Gen Y). This article in unhelpful and shallow in its blending of the two. 

AComm2
AComm2

Excellent article and descriptions.

Advertising Jobs
Advertising Jobs

Most of the jobs specially the ones with a good salary requires a degree, there are some companies that allows you to take a degree while working for them but of course this kind of set up would put so much pressure in you.

AComm2
AComm2

Gen Y and Millennials are the same.  Do you mean there are different "cohorts" within each generation?

JohnEvans
JohnEvans

Stephanie answered I didn't even know that a person can get paid $5593 in 1 month on the network. have you look this(Click on menu Home)