Gen Y Wants 'Balance' More Than An Interesting Job Or Wealth, Study Finds

Young people are often viewed as wide-eyed idealists. But a new survey shows that the youngest generation is as pragmatic as their older counterparts when it comes to job security, ranking that as more important than becoming wealthy or having a prestigious job.

That is in striking contrast to boomers and Generation Xers, when they were in their 20s, and it suggests that young workers are being shaped by having come of age during Great Recession, according to the study, released Wednesday by the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

Polling 1,700 adults, the survey also found that millennials -- those aged 21 to 32 years old -- also place a high importance on "work/life balance," ranking it as the most important thing they look for in a job.

While it might seem unusual that young people -- many of whom are single, without children -- place a higher priority on balancing the demands of work and home life than, say, finding interesting work, co-author Cliff Zukin says this generation is learning from their parents' experience.

"[Gen Y] grew up with both parents working and has a lot of models for trying to balance things," he told AOL Jobs.

Workers of all ages ranked these five as the most "essential" or "very important" components of their work lives:

  1. good work/life balance
  2. positive work environment
  3. good compensation
  4. interesting work
  5. job security

When asked about what is important in their overall lives, workers of all ages valued "meaningful" work as much as they do having children, and those qualities outranked having a prestigious career or being wealthy. The rankings were:

  1. financial security
  2. having a life partner
  3. having children
  4. having a job where I can make an impact
  5. having a prestigious career
  6. being a leader in my community

Other key findings from the report include:

'Doing Good' Is Important

  • Sixty-five percent of university students expect to be able to make some positive social or environmental difference through their work.
  • "Having a job where they can make an impact causes and issues that are important to them," is something that vast majority of college students want from their work, with 70 percent ranking it as "very important." Of those, 31 percent said it was essential.

Students Face Up To Grim Reality

  • Just 10 percent of undergraduates think it will be "very easy" to find a job, with another 23 percent saying it will be "somewhat easy." Nearly half (46 percent) say finding a job will be "somewhat difficult," while 13 percent believe it will be "very difficult."
  • Among undergrads asked how difficult it will be to find a job that they really want to do, a quarter of them said they believe it will be either "very" or "somewhat" easy.
  • Two-thirds of undergraduates and three quarters of graduate students surveyed said that they expect to owe money for school or other reasons when they finish, with median debt among junior and seniors totaling $25,000.

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