Half of Young Americans on the Job Hunt in 2011

Last Updated Jan 19, 2011 1:29 PM EST

With unemployment still hovering near 10 percent despite signs of economic recovery, you might expect those with paying gigs to plan on staying put for a while. But according to a recent survey, young Americans aren't letting statistics stand in the way of optimism.

A recent survey of 1,000 Americans of all ages by HR firm Adecco found that despite the gloom hanging over the job market, fully half of those aged 18-34 plan to look for a new gig in 2011. That's up 5 percent on last year and double the percentage of older Americans who plan to go on the job hunt (26 percent of 35-54 year olds). Why the discrepancy between younger and older workers? Joyce Russell, president of Adecco Staffing US explains:

There's a generational difference when it comes to optimism about finding a new job. What we have seen here at Adecco is that Gen Y candidates tend to be at a point in their careers where they are looking to try new things and explore different kinds of jobs based on their shifting interests whereas the Gen X workers prefer a bit more stability in their careers.

What Gen X job seekers are telling us is that they are more likely to have families to support, kids to send to college and mortgages to pay off than younger generations â€"- all good reasons for making job stability a priority. Younger people are less likely to have those obligations and responsibilities and more likely to be willing to frequently change their career course.

You can't blame Gen Y for being determined to use their freedom to pursue their goals before life limits their options, no matter the state of the economy. Plus, there are some glimmers of hope when it comes to hiring this year, including positive financial fundamentals and upticks in temporary and small business hiring. Maybe Gen Y isn't totally delusional about their chances of improving their work situation this year (though, as a group, studies do indicate Gen Y will pay a price for starting their careers during a downturn).

Young workers are also using their freedom to prepare for the stiff competition in the labor market -- 39 percent of those 18-34 pursued education or training in 2010 compared to 20 percent of 35-54 year olds.
In addition, the survey revealed a bit about America's dream jobs. Surprisingly few of us would like to replace the (probably stressed out) millionaires at the top of some of the country's most celebrated companies, with only 17 percent of respondents saying they'd like to take Steve Jobs' position atop Apple and 10 percent wishing to switch places with Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg. Less surprising: just 3 percent want the job of reality TV star Snooki. That's reason for optimism itself.
Are you hunkering down in your current position or planning on looking for a new gig this year?

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(Image courtesy of Flickr user AngelaArcher.com, 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.