Millennials prioritize meaning over pay, according to report

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Data from PayScale shows that the most meaningful jobs in tech may not be the best paying or least stressful, and the stickiest workplaces may not give the biggest raises.

You might think Elon Musk would be upset about data from PayScale that pegs Tesla and SpaceX as low-paying employees by tech industry standards, but the CEO appears to be paying more attention to satisfaction rates than salary.

"SpaceX and Tesla rated most meaningful work in high tech. Also, most stressful, but that goes with the territory," Musk tweeted Sunday. "SpaceX & Tesla comp is same or better than other companies. Big diff is that we don't outsource manufacturing, retail sales or service."

Compensation tracking company PayScale reported recently that among 18 tech companies for which PayScale had employee data, Tesla and SpaceX ranked highest for percentage of employees who described their jobs as highly meaningful -- and, on the flipside, also for those reporting the work to be highly stressful.

The companies were neck and neck with Facebook for youngest median employee age. Facebook and SpaceX both reported median ages of 29, and Tesla reported a median age of 30.

PayScale editorial director Lydia Frank says the data, combined with findings from past PayScale reports, confirms a widely reported characteristic of millennial employees: They care more about whether their job is particularly meaningful than lucrative relative to other jobs.

What millennials value "comes down to purpose and feeling they're making a difference," says Frank. She adds that at Tesla and SpaceX, "clearly employees at those companies do feel that way."

The two companies ranked among the lowest when it comes to median wages for employees with five years of experience or less, paying between $78,000 and $82,000 a year. (But "tech is a well-paying field to get into," Frank points out, explaining that at all 18 companies, the median salaries of mid-career employees, or those with 10 or more years of experience, fell in the six-figure range.)

Musk disputed the reported pay on Twitter, saying both companies offer competitive compensation. "SpaceX & Tesla comp is same or better than other companies. Big diff is that we don't outsource manufacturing, retail sales or service," he wrote.

Based on the data, the cushiest employer appears to be Facebook. The median salary of early career workers at the social network was the highest, at $116,800, according to PayScale. Facebook employees who filled out PayScale surveys also reported the highest rates of satisfaction with their jobs, the lowest rates of stress and came in third after Tesla and SpaceX for finding their jobs meaningful.

Another interesting differentiator--companies where workers reportedly stayed the longest generally fell in the lower median ranges of salaries. An example is IBM, at which employees reported the highest median tenure (7 years) and among the lowest median early- and mid-career salaries at $72,700 and $112,700 respectively.

That last detail could reflect generational differences, says Frank. Millennials are more comfortable job-hopping while older employees may feel more comfortable sticking with the same employer for various reasons including a sense of security and consistency.

While hopping job to job may help millennials jack their salaries at a faster rate, there are drawbacks, says Frank. Having to explain frequent job changes on a resume is perhaps an obvious problem, but there's also the issue of not learning everything you can from a company.

"I think there's something to be said for tempering that," says Frank.

PayScale based the findings on survey responses submitted voluntarily by roughly 33,500 tech workers. Frank says the data had a 90 percent confidence interval and five percent margin of error. PayScale reported values of "0" in cases where insufficient salary, tenure or other data was available.

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