The Cold, Hard Truth of Why Millennials Are Feeling Career Distress

The Cold, Hard Truth of Why Millennials Are Feeling Career Distress

Millennials are disillusioned about the future and rightfully so. Many have started their careers in the lull of the 2008 recession and unfortunately things have hardly picked up ever since. Gone is the traditional career comprised of 9-5 work days for thirty-plus years at the same company, with a celebratory retirement send-off, complete with a generous pension package. Instead, today’s young professionals need to be resilient in the face of numerous challenges working against them including:

Underemployment with little idea of how to get out of it

Only 27% of college grads are employed in a job that is related to their major. More than 40% of college graduates take positions out of school that don’t require a degree, and more than 1 in 5 college grads still aren’t working a degree-demanding job a decade after leaving school. It can be hard to break out of that pattern, since employers may typecast applicants by their most recent job experience.

Additionally, a study from Clutch found that as many as 40% of millennial workers feel that they are unfulfilled and unengaged in their current jobs, leaving many to pursue job options elsewhere. This lack of direction leads to feelings of hopelessness for millennials who are underemployed and just don’t know what kind of career they want to obtain in order to escape that cycle and find career satisfaction.

Internal dialogue starts to mimic a game of twenty questions… What other field might I find interest in? Should I go back to school? If so, can I take on more debt? What have I learned about myself from the jobs I have held? Do I have the time, money, or energy to make a change?

Stagnant wages combined with heavy financial pressure

By now it’s common knowledge that millennials will be the first generation to not out earn their parents. Their net worth is lower and their wages are stagnant, despite inflation. They also tend to owe more — the median student loan debt is nearly 50% greater for millennials than for Gen X. The high interest of student loans also snowball with other debt like credit cards, car loans, and healthcare costs. Roughly 15% of millennials live with their parents, up from 10% of Generation X members when they were in their 20s and 30s.

This increasing financial pressure is inspiring more and more millennials to find other means of income. Approximately 38% of millennials report that they make additional income through a #sidehustle at least once a month. By 2020 we can expect to see self-employment in the United States tripling to 42 million workers with 42% of those people likely to be millennials.

The job-hopping stigma

Millennials take a lot of flak for being “job-hoppers”. According to an article from Forbes, as many as 74% of millennial workers plan to quit their jobs sometime within the next three years. And that same article says that only 28% of them plan to keep their current job for longer than five years. The days when employees would spend decades of their lives with one company prior to retirement are long gone.

This creates a stigma that millennials do not value job security. However, bear in mind that not all millennials quit their roles. A steady decline in union membership has weakened workers’ bargaining power when layoffs inevitably roll around. Job loss in the form of layoffs have surged 35% to highest level to start a year in a decade. Maybe millennials are quitting because they would rather leave on their own terms and not wait for the inevitable.

A society that values instant access and fast-success

Due to the rise of technology in the past few decades the workforce has been expected to be easily accessible. No longer are employees able to power down their computers at 5pm every day. Instead they are more and more likely to blur the lines of “work-life balance” to answer emails and texts from their boss at 9pm. Since millennials are accustom to this ask, they are more likely to work longer hours, take less vacation, and express burnout.

At the same time, due to social media, there is added pressure to obtain fast-success. As most millennials are moving sluggishly through their twenties, the hyper-visible hotshots — the Taylor Swifts and Kylie Jenners of the world — are getting younger and younger, whittling away at the maximum age limit at which someone can get their “big break.”

However, for every young cultural force like Lena Dunham or genius app-creator like Evan Spiegel, there are thousands of other twenty-somethings sitting in their parents’ basements wondering why they haven’t invented an app or started a fashion line.

Final thoughts

Many millennials feel stuck. They are in a working environment where they are un/under-employed in a role that doesn’t possess meaning to them. They need to keep working, often with additional jobs to even stay afloat with their rising debt and inflation. If they quit their jobs (or are forced) to take another that fits their interest and/or with higher pay, it can often reflect as a negative quality to potential employers. Adding on top of this is the pressure for them to figure out who they are and what skills they can bring to the table to achieve success quickly.

If you feel that you can relate to these issues, check out our Career Coaching, Exploration, and Transition services.