7 Ways the Job Market Differs for New Grads Versus Baby Boomers

Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 5:31pm by Sandy Jones

As millennials graduate from college and traverse out into the bleak job market, tension can build between millennials and their baby boomer counterparts. With both generations working alongside one another, their differences become apparent and may be a source of hostility and resentment. However, with the economic crisis, neither party necessarily gets the better end of the stick. Millennials and boomers may have to close the generational gap and resign to working together in spite of their varying business strategies.

  1. Boomers Are Jobless for Longer

    NPR broadcast a Weekend Edition news story entitled, "For Baby Boomers, The Job Market’s Even Worse," which hones in on how the difficult job market reflects on the baby boomer generation. The unemployment rate for people 55 and older hit 7.2%, which is the highest level ever recorded in the post-World War II era. While that percentage may be lower than it is for young people, baby boomers also seem to be jobless for much longer. Often their unemployment can last upwards of 35 weeks, while jobless workers between 25 to 54 years old are only unemployed for 30 weeks on average. The Pew Economic Policy Group conducted a study which showed that one out of every three unemployed baby boomer workers has gone without a paycheck for more than a year. This may be because, after struggling to find a job, boomers simply retire when the going gets tough, whereas new grads and young professionals can’t afford to give up on their search.

  2. Millennials are Nomads

    According to the online lifestyle magazine, The Next Great Generation, while baby boomers held fast onto careers switching only when absolutely necessary, millennials expect to move from job to job. Baby boomers were welcomed into the job search with quite a bit more security than millennials, requiring fair wages, benefits, and a pension plan before accepting any job. Millennials can’t afford to be that picky. The recession leaves few jobs available, a lot of jobs are freelance or on a contract basis, and new grads oscillate between jobs simply to pay the bills. While a shocking 66% of millennials are prepared for a career shift at some point during the course of their working lives, 84% of baby boomers are satisfied with staying in the same career for the rest of their lives, as stated by a study conducted by Pew Research Center.

  3. Social Media is Used Differently

    While baby boomers are getting a hang of social media and its use in the work place, millennials grew up with social media. This creates a widely varying extent to which social media is used between the two generations. AccountingWEB’s article, "Social Media Influences on Generational Behavior and Vice Versa," argues that while baby boomers are reluctant to use social media websites for personal information, millennials blur the personal and professional via their Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts. Boomers are wary of privacy infringement, while millennials have been posting status updates and photos from their rowdy vacations for years and well into their time on the workforce. Likewise, millennials are simply more wired into social media in general, using it for everything from party invitations to marketing. When baby boomers do use social media platforms, they keep their personal and professional lives completely separate.

  4. Millennials Feel Grandiose

    David Mielach of CNBC’s article "Gen Y Seeks Work-Life Balance Above All Else" describes how millennials view their workforce contribution. According to MTV’s "No Collar Workers" study, 92% of millennials feel their company is lucky to have them as an employee, feeling that the company directly benefits from their skills. They do not merely see themselves as a cog in the machine, but a contributing factor to the company at large. They believe that their baby boomer bosses could learn a thing or two from them, that their finesse with social media and technology makes them faster and more astute, and that they have worked hard enough that they are entitled to their dream jobs. To some extent, millennials feel self-entitled because their baby boomer parents raised them as such. Millennials grew up receiving trophies and being told they were special; if they were coddled, only their baby boomer parents are to blame.

  5. Millennials And Flexible Working Conditions

    When baby boomers had their reign in the job market of the 60′s and 70′s, the work day was eight hours or longer, with a relatively strict emphasis on working from nine to five. Yet, according to Time Magazine’s Moneyland, millennials are working much more flexible hours, often not even in the office. The traditional workday is no longer, with millennials working odd hours, telecommuting, and delegating moments for personal time while at work. More than a third of the millennials reported that they would rather have a pay cut if it meant more flexible working conditions, so the working environment is more important to them than the money they make. Likewise, since millennials are constantly accessible through technology, work doesn’t necessarily stop when they get home. They may still be wired into Facebook or email, where they will continue to work away off the clock. This varies considerably from baby boomers who were able to maintain a separate working life and personal life.

  6. Millennials Barely Get By

    Baby boomers have widened the chasm between themselves and millennials by creating an enormous, global debt that has a nasty impact on millennials’ ability to make ends meet. That combined with their student loans and increasingly steep gas prices leaves millennials, even ones with decent jobs, essentially high and dry. According to Boston.com, millennials compose the highest percentage of Americans who can’t afford their basic needs. This thrifty generation has inspired companies like Groupon and Living Social to help aid the quest in seeking deals on everyday products and experiences. A 2010 Pew Research Center study states that 60% of millennials in the workforce don’t make enough money to truly support themselves, with 36% requiring their parents to subsidize their lifestyle. Many even live with their parents out of necessity.

  7. Boomers Aren’t Retiring

    As baby boomers hold onto their jobs far past their "expiration date," millennials and Generation X’ers tap their toes waiting for jobs to free up. According to the Employee Benefits Research Institute, the overall labor force participation rate for baby boomers is at its highest since the studies began in 1975. Boomers are working past the traditional retirement date because the economic crisis has made it necessary for some who did not efficiently save up for retirement. Others work because they need access to affordable healthcare. Meanwhile, a number of well-off baby boomers continue to work because they simply enjoy working and are living longer than previous generations.


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