Why 80% of millennials will change jobs

Today's 20-somethings see their current gig as less of a career choice and more of a waiting room for their dream job.

By Jason Notte Jul 3, 2013 8:19AM
Young business woman with her colleagues working in call center (© Daniel Laflor/the Agency Collection/Getty Images)Know that fresh-faced 20-something kid your company just hired this summer? Yeah, there's about a 1-in-5 chance she'll stick around as long as you have.

A Harris survey for the University of Phoenix found that 80% of workers in their 20s say they want to change careers, compared to 64% of 30-somethings and 54% in their 40s. Granted, it's a lot easier to say something like that with no family or mortgage tying you down, but it's just realistic when you view your 20s as a trial period and not "adulthood."

Right now, those "emerging adults" in their 20s have really high expectations of both life and their jobs, and they're willing to do what it takes to get to those fulfilling gigs later. If that means working for minimum wage, as 284,000 college grads are doing, or making less money doing time at Starbucks (SBUX) or Wal-Mart (WMT) in exchange for college credits, they're in.

In short, what they're doing now generally bears little to no resemblance to the careers and lives they're aspiring to. The Harris survey suggests that millennials would much rather be working in the arts and sciences, business management, technology and health care. A survey of Harvard students found that this year's graduates are shunning Wall Street and gunning for ideal jobs at St. Jude's Children's Hospital or Google (GOOG).

They told researchers that they agree with the statement: "I am confident that I will eventually get what I want out of life," and they seem determined not to have their dreams ground into the earth by their current means-to-an-end employment.

In the meantime, however, it's a tough slog. A Gallup survey suggested that 53% of millennials aren't engaged in their jobs at all and approach their work with the kind of detachment one would expect at a temporary position. That's slightly higher than the 52% of all Americans who feel the same way about their jobs, but the 14% of millennials actively disengaged from their jobs is still minute compared to the 19% of Generation X and 23% of baby boomers who are similarly disgruntled.

If 20-somethings are worried about one day becoming that jaded, their fears are well founded. The Harris poll found that although the majority of older workers said they had career plans when they were younger, 73% of them had not landed in the job they had expected.

Get out while you can, young'ns.

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Jul 3, 2013 10:58AM
Talking to my son and his friends (age range 21-23) has given me a good read on the mindset of these up and comers. It's a toss-up between delusions of grandeur and pipe dreaming. Mix in a little entitlement mentality and spice with immaturity, naivety, shallow fund of information,  marginal marketable skills, and little intellectual curiosity and you'll be able to paint a true picture. I wish this group could capitalize on hand-eye coordination. They're great with hand-held devices, texting, tweeting, and other superficial, mindless activities. I'll be kind in closing...their outlook is bleak.
Jul 3, 2013 12:17PM

Welcome to the real world.  "Life is hard and then you die."  Life is not about waiting for the dream job to fall in your lap, but to make the most of want you have and to build from there.  Hopefully, you do not

wait too long and wish away your life. 

Jul 3, 2013 12:21PM

Companies have brought this on themselves. First, they are not at all faithful to their employees. Second, employees are often rewarded for moving around getting bigger raises and promotions than those that remain and stay faithful. That combined with a higher tolerance of risk makes it work. That said, I changed careers a little less than a year ago. I know a lot more today than I did in 1999 when I graduated high school. I still like computers and engineering but I can’t stand sitting at a computer for 40 hours/week. If I could do anything, I think I would go back to college to get a degree in Construction Management. I love negotiating contracts, I love construction. I truly think it would be perfect. I’m not interested in going back to college though so I did the next best thing and went from an engineer in aerospace to supplier contracts in aerospace. Don’t regret it at all other than a pay cut that wasn’t overly fun.

Jul 3, 2013 1:56PM

All you jackasses hating on the millenials need to look in the mirror and realize it was your shitty-**** leadership that helped to deteriorate the infrastructure of our great country.  Now, the baby boom generation just sits around and judges my generation; all the while, they are riding around in their gas guzzling RV's and collecting obscene retirement and medical benefits that no generation on Earth has ever received! 

It was my grandfather's generation, the World War II guys and gals, that paid the price for prosperity in this country; the baby boomers just pissed it away.  Even further, they continued to raise the barriers of entry into various fields of industry for the following generations, mostly just to save their own asses. 

So yeah, go ahead and run your mouths about the Millenials; we are the ones paying for your retirement.

Jul 3, 2013 10:03AM
Hey 20-somethings,  forget about waiting around for a dream job and create your own.  The more entrepreneurs and self-employed citizens we have, the better off we'll be.  At the very least, the experience of working for yourself will give you a new perspective on how the real world works.
Jul 3, 2013 3:19PM

I'm on the borderline between Gen X and Gen Y (Millennial).  I have a master's degree and work in a professional job that relates to that master's degree.  I know quite a few other people my age who are educated and work to support themselves.  Nevertheless, we all seem to get painted as slackers, freeloaders, entitled, etc. by bigots among us---and that's precisely what it is, too.  It's bigotry.  It's no different than making nasty, generalized statements about blacks, gays, women, men or any other group.   


You can make derogatory generalizations about almost any generation, and they're only as true as you want them to be.  I could claim that Baby Boomers squandered their youth walking around naked at Woodstock and rioting in the streets to protest the government's foreign policy of the time.  That would be true for some of the Boomers, but it wouldn't be true for all or even most of them.



Jul 3, 2013 12:09PM
They are only following what they see around them - our company and government leaders have demonstrated time and again they have no loyalty to their employees and citizens and have a 'grab as much as you can for #1'.  They saw how their parents worked hard only to see the stock market swindlers, employers and government take away with a middle class worse off now then 20 years ago.  The 20-somethings that work under me want to be executives within 5 years - they believe that once they do a task they have learned and should get promoted to the next level.  They equate experience with time and they see no need to waste time getting more experience just show me the money! 
Jul 3, 2013 1:25PM

Considering that thousands are retiring every day the idea seems to be more realistic than once thought. I think it is good to shoot for the stars just if  don't get there don't be bitter and cynical like older  generations have become. The system is now set up  for disloyalty in the workforce they took away pensions, wages are stagnate, and vacation and insurance have become dirty words I can see why people are shooting for the stars. I would like to remind all who are complaining that the kids of today have no skills and are good at nothing that you are the ones that raised us, shaped our minds, and now are fighting tooth and nail not to hire us, so we can gain the skills necessary for us to work in said jobs.

Jul 3, 2013 2:31PM
  LOW pay, no pensions, no unions to get employees long term benefits and nothing vested. Those are  the  facts of life for these kids. Companies are only getting what they asked for, a transient work force. Loyalty isn't even in the mix and that's another new rule first established by management. So hire that  young up start and be prepared to groom him (or her) for a job with the competition who will ultimately offer a better deal.
Jul 3, 2013 3:14PM
This isn't just the Millennials.  Everyone is changing jobs, mainly because they are feeling like they are being taken advantage of by companies.  The average length of employment for workers is just over 4 years (and that may be on the high side).  If the opportunity is there, they will leave.  Besides, loyalty to the employer is long gone because the employer is only loyal to their bottom line.
Jul 3, 2013 2:25PM
Are they any different that any other generation when they were in their 20s?  I'm 54 and I really can't remember people having such a sense of entitlement when I was that age.  My parents were born and raised during the Depression and WWII, maybe that has something to do with it. 
Jul 3, 2013 2:46PM
You get what you pay for, If you want to give these kids 9 or 10.00 bucks an hour don't expect loyalty, punctuality or any kind of work ethic!  America needs a National Union, one that demands affordable health care and a livable wage. Until then good luck getting help worth a damn!
Jul 3, 2013 10:15AM
For all the negative talk about millenials, I'm hoping they can help change things for the better with their idealism.  What other choice to we have?  America needs it's self-esteem and optimism back.  We sure have been a cranky country the last 15 years.  Younger generations should be encouraged rather than criticized.  Older generations have not been setting a very good example.
Jul 4, 2013 12:26PM
Millennials quit their jobs because their self esteems are higher than their intellects.  I watched a co-worker look at his crotch, texting, for an hour and a half straight (without so much as looking up to glance around) a few weeks ago.  And he wonders why he isn't being offered more hours.  Um, because our employer actually expects us to WORK while we're at work?
Jul 3, 2013 7:23PM
I'm not a millennial, but the article above sounds just like me when I was that age. 
Jul 9, 2013 1:12PM
Most ordinary people,who don't go from Harvard to a high paying career ,probably change jobs several times,in their life. No big deal.
Jul 9, 2013 2:19PM

who's idea of a career is fast food or retail? holding out for something better doesn't mean they aren't at least doing something in the mean time until the job market improves. personally I should have coped out and joined the military then land a good govt. job.

Jul 3, 2013 3:30PM
IDGAF what they do. I'll be retired & chasing UFOs in the desert before too long. Just make my burger right, you slackers!
Jul 10, 2013 12:41AM

I'm twenty seven years old. I'm an American. Your age doesn't matter to me. I will gladly work with anyone that is capable.


I don't see what good it does this country, for different age groups to yell at each other. People of all ages are skilled in different ways. Why not embrace a diverse work environment, and create great things?


I would rather work with my neighbors to make our community and nation better. What if there was a generation where people of all ages worked together to accomplish great new things? Sounds pretty great to me.






Jul 9, 2013 6:56PM
I am 24 years-old. Do not tell me that I cannot have what I want out of life. Will it be hard? Yes. Is there is a chance I might not make it? Yes. I work 3 jobs, all the while putting myself through college. I thought that America was based on dreams and a brighter future. Just because some of you didn't make it, doesn't mean that we won't. You can call it whatever you want...pipe dream, fantasies...whatever. I will do the BEST THAT I CAN to make sure that I get where I want to be!
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