Gen Y Wants Easy, High Paying Jobs, Isn't More Socially Responsible, Study Says

Last Updated Mar 11, 2010 6:38 AM EST

We've posted several times on whether the differences between generations are actually exaggerated or could more accurately be put down to differences in career stage. Now a study out in the Journal of Management offers some hard data to demonstrate how the generations do â€" and do not â€" differ, and the results are surprising.
The study claims that it has finally managed to tease the influence of generation from career stage by using a large nationally representative sample of young people surveyed since 1976 to compare the work values of Gen Y, Gen X and the Boomers at the same age. So what did they find?

Some of the conventional wisdom about Gen Y, such as their supposed preference for socially responsible careers that really make a difference, wasn't supported by the numbers.

Press accounts often mention that Gen Y wants to help others and have a positive impact on society, but the study found no differences in preferences for jobs that helped others or were worthwhile to society â€" Gen X'ers and Boomers embraced such values just as much when they were young.
What was important to Gen Y? The youngest generation in the workforce said they want both work-life balance and high status and salary, a result that prompted the researchers to conclude they "want their cake and to eat it to:"
Striking differences emerged for valuing leisure. Gen Y was much more likely than previous generations to say they wanted a job with an easy pace and lots of vacation time, and less likely to want to work overtime. They also saw work as less central to their lives and were more likely to agree that "work is just making a living." At the same time, they placed more importance on salary and status. In other words, the younger generation wants to have their cake (big salaries) and eat it too (work-life balance).
(Cake image by jmayer1129, CC 2.0)
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    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.