Money vs. Freedom: What Do We Really Want In Our Careers?

 

Get ready to make some room in those smartwallets, class of 2017, because we’ve got some good news for you: You’re about to enter a workforce where the average starting salary is just shy of $50,000, according to a recent study conducted by executive search organization Korn Ferry. This represents a 3% bump over last year, and when you adjust for inflation, a 14% increase from 10 years ago (juuuust before the recession sent the job market into the toilet).

Predictably, jobs in STEM are leading the pack, with software developer roles bringing in 31% over the average at $65,232. On the lower end, customer service reps and category assistants made a tick above $35,000 on average in this survey of 145,000 positions at 700 companies. Also not that surprising: San Francisco, a.k.a. Techlandia, offers the highest average salary at $62,829. (Sorry to leave you out of all of this, liberal arts graduates, but you knew this was coming, right?)

The takeaway? Opportunities are rife for bright-eyed techsters, and employers are continuing to be put in a position of sweetening deals in order to attract top talent. But when it comes down to it, are bigger salaries and plush bennies enough to get Millennials to stick around? Maybe, maybe not. Thinkpiece after thinkpiece will tell you that we’re a generation of job hoppers, searching for the perfect gig that will let us leave our mark on the world from the comfort of our couches. But the reality of our workplace behavior is far more nuanced.

Perhaps the most notable revelation is that our desires don’t, in fact, differ all that much from the Baby Boomer generation that loves to shit on our work ethic; according to a study conducted by Qualtrics and Accel Partners for CNBC, 90% said they would stay in a job for 10 years if they knew they’d get annual raises and the opportunity to move up in the company, and 77% said they would be willing to take a cut in salary if it meant long-term job security. Add to that the fact that Millennials are now the largest demographic of homebuyers and we’re looking pretty traditional after all.

And yet another study shows that while we might be willing to make concessions and follow the status quo in exchange for said security, our beliefs about what a productive work day looks like is different than the definitive work-life separation previous generations strove for. A study from Bentley University revealed that 77% of Millennials feel that a flexible working schedule would improve productivity, and 89% check email and engage with work on some level afterhours. In other words: we’re already making ourselves accustomed to a flexible work-from-home lifestyle, only we’re doing it on voluntary overtime (and thus probably not being compensated for it).

If it seems a little difficult to parse, that’s because it is: We cling to security, just like any other generation, but it’s not necessarily what we want. We’re absolutely about The Hustle--maybe to a fault, considering most of us can’t stay off of our phones and just chill the eff out. But we’re also a generation that’s closer to our parents (for better or for worse) than previous generations and will thus feel more responsible for taking care of them as they age. We also place tremendous value on “experience over things,” which again speaks to those flexible scheduling/unlimited PTO perks. So it’s no wonder everyone--employers and potential employees alike--are a little confused about what everyone really wants and how to go about asking for it.

But here’s the thing: By 2025, this generation will make up 75% of the global workforce. Which means we’re increasingly in a position to make our demands known. So when it comes down to it, are you ready to ask for what you want? Or better yet, do you know what you want? Looks like now’s the time to figure it out.

-Deena Drewis