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January 6th, 2008
CHAMBER OF COMMERCE'S BLOG: Happiness and fulfillment… New job priorities for Generation Y

By PHYLLIS SNODGRASS

This week’s column was written by a senior in college who is looking at career options a little differently than many of us did back when we first entered the job market. Want to hire good people? It helps to understand them first. If you want to attract the talent – it also helps to understand what they are looking for. There are more jobs out there right now than qualified people to fill them, so rethinking the workplace environment is no longer an option, it’s a necessity.

And now, from a college senior’s perspective:

I’m sure we’re all familiar with the 1999 movie Office Space. Peter Gibbons is a depressed, twenty-something systems analyst for Initech who feels his life is going nowhere. He does his best at work, but is constantly hounded by his droning boss, Lumbergh. The film paints a hilarious, yet strikingly accurate, picture of corporate America in which employees feel more like a number than a person.

The reason this film is so funny is because it resonates with post college twenty-somethings who have either been in a job like Peter’s or are desperately trying to avoid getting stuck in one. I’m a college senior myself, and the general consensus among my peers is that happiness and fulfillment are the new priorities for our generation when it comes to careers. Unlike generations before, we aren’t as concerned about making money or achieving high status. We just want to work in a profession and an environment that meets our needs and allows us to feel like we’re making a difference.

Young people in the UK are in many ways setting the tone for this trend. I was fortunate enough to study in northern England this spring, and what I observed among the students there was that wealth is even lower on their list of priorities than it is for young people in the States. A 2004 study of England’s youth showed that ninety-three percent of teenagers felt that “doing something you enjoy is more important that making a lot of money.” Consequently, it is common to see young Brits living by the “work to live, not live to work” mantra, meaning that a job is just something that pays the bills, and doesn’t reflect on who you are as a person. These young people often live with their parents well into their twenties, a lifestyle that doesn’t have the same social stigma it does in the States.

Some young people in Britain do seek meaningful jobs, however, and are very selective about where they’re willing to work. Not only do they want to be fulfilled in their jobs, but young Brits are also concerned with the conduct and character of their new work environment. Young professionals want to know whether companies are environmentally friendly, and are concerned with how motivating and supportive the leadership is.

Twenty-something Americans are acting along the same lines. We want to be fulfilled, but these days that doesn’t mean we have to sell all our possessions and go backpacking across Europe (although we might do that too.) Today’s generation wants the best of both worlds; we want a job that gives us wealth and success as well as personal fulfillment.

I can already feel the resistance brewing among older generations. Many of our parents have had to make sacrifices, working in jobs they didn’t like for companies that weren’t supportive. Some might feel it’s time for us to suck it up and pay our dues as well. Yet, isn’t a better life for their kids what our parents were working for all along? Times are changing, and we no longer have to sacrifice our happiness to make ends meet, because the corporate world is changing as well. Companies like Google are setting a new standard in which employees are cared for, not bossed around. I’m thankful that my generation now has the luxury of working in jobs that make us happy and also pay the bills.

Guest article submitted by Mallary Snodgrass, a senior at Southwestern University in Georgetown.

PHYLLIS SNODGRASS is the San Marcos Area Chamber of Commerce president.

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0 thoughts on “CHAMBER OF COMMERCE'S BLOG: Happiness and fulfillment… New job priorities for Generation Y

  1. Thanks for posting this article. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is finally gaining traction. Companies who “behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the local community and society at large” (as defined by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development) will attract and retain top talent. And, I still think the movie “Office Space” is a relevant litmus test / sanity check for organizations!

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