Self-Fulfillment vs. Careers: Gen Y and the Work Force Today

If you ask most college students today, you’d find that most of them are choosing their degrees according to their personal interests. There’s a desire for Generation Yers to find a job doing something they love. Passion, fulfillment, and creativity are now of the utmost importance, but that sort of mentality clashes directly with the structures and CEOs of the current workforce.

The baby boomer mentality was to find a job, turn it into a career, and support a family. Life was simple. Being a cog in the machine wasn’t a bad thing, it was just a part of life. Gen Y, on the other hand, believes that a job without passion or creativity is not worthy of their time. They are being called “impulsive” and “unreliable,” but maybe there are some inherent differences in the workforce and these new and future employees.

1. College degrees and their practical applications.

What would you say if I told you our vice president majored in Russian literature? If you take a look at job postings, you’ll notice that they can be very specific with what type of degree they expect the job applicants to hold. The assumption was always that people go to college for a specific type of career and then immediately begin that career. But now, there are so many options, and Gen Y's personal-interest mentality leads some of the smarter students to pursue things like literature or art.

Those very smart and creative, college-educated individuals will eventually have to enter the workforce. Instead of passing by an application with a seemingly irrelevant major, employers need to get more creative with their hiring practices. The best candidates are critical thinkers who are dedicated hard workers. That hard worker could be a gender studies major. You don’t know unless you find different ways to judge the applicants.

2. Do what you love, and the money will follow.

An SNL skit last weekend made fun of the idea that if you do what you love, the money will follow. That’s the quintessential problem with the Generation Y mentality and their problems with the traditional workforce. Sometimes, you have to realize that what you love is just a hobby or something that will make you poor. You can make coconut monkeys on the beach for the rest of your life, but don’t expect to make a good living or to be comfortable in your finances. A passion in life won’t necessarily translate into money. If you want to make money, you’ll have to be more practical in your choices.

Students need to get realistic and start parsing out what they can do professionally and personally -- those might not always be the same thing. If making money is important to you, you might want to consider a job in the STEM careers and pursuing a passion on the side. It’s about merging expectations and reality.

3. Employees are not numbers.

Technology is great, and with improvements in technology, employers can look at every little detail of output and try to assign value or even blame. Productivity is now completely quantifiable in nearly every position. Similarly, jobs can be boiled down to menial tasks for efficiency. So entry-level jobs are extremely simple, quantifiable tasks. When you assign a number to an individual’s contributions, they might start to feel like just another number. This goes against the values of Generation Y. If the tasks are simple, find ways to develop company culture and show value to the employees. The ones that appreciate feeling included will rise to the occasion, and their productivity will only improve.

4. Company culture needs to be more flexible.

Back in point one, we discussed that some of the hardest workers and most intelligent individuals might not have a typical, standard degree. It should also be noted that those intelligent, dedicated individuals need to want to work for you. If they don’t want to work for your company, they will never apply. Therefore, anyone still doing business the old stuffy way might be missing out on the cream of the crop of Generation Y. Companies like Zappos, Virgin America, and FullContact get a lot of attention for trying to make things different.

FullContact has paid paid vacations. They literally pay their employees money to go off the grid and completely detach from work. Zappos came up with the powerful "Zappos Culture." Virgin America

was founded on the idea of being notably younger and different. Companies need to learn to adapt to the Generation Y mentality and allow them to explore their creativity in the workplace. Convincing the young and talented that they will be happy at your company is the first step. Following through is the way to keep those individuals there. Generation Yers supposedly have a wandering mentality, but I’m convinced that they’d be more committed to a company that actually took an active interest in each of their employees.

Obviously, changes need to be made by the students of Generation Y, but the business world needs to meet them half way. Let us know what you think in the comments below. Did we miss more ways these generational differences can work together?