Some Surprising Insights Into the Working Life of Millennials

Millennial/Gen Y workers are a surprising group. They’re almost twice as likely as all workers to have majored in neuroscience or bioengineering, yet nearly five times as likely to be working as a merchandise displayer or clothing sales clerk.

More than twice as many of them work at a company with fewer than 100 employees than work for one with more than 1,500.

Their median pay is $39,700, which compares handsomely to the $26,400 median pay of all U.S. workers. Yet some — those working as petroleum engineers ($98,100), or software engineers ($80,600), or account directors ($76,200) — earn three or more times the national median and twice that of their peers generally.

No surprise: a common interest in social media

Despite the variety of their jobs, and the companies they work for, Millennials share (no surprise here) a common interest in social media. The job skills they most share  all center around blogging, content authoring, and social media marketing.

And the Gen Y workers who took part in the year-long PayScale survey on which this post is based almost assuredly have a college degree; 95.5 percent have at least a bachelor’s.

Published this week by PayScale, and its partner on the project, Millennial Branding, “Gen Y On The Job” offers some insights into working Millennials. As Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding, says, “This report confirms that Gen Y is an entrepreneurial group, highly versed in social media, and prefers freedom and flexibility over big corporate policies.”

Some 500,000 workers born 1982-1993 took all or some of the survey (Editor’s note: some studies use 1980 or 1981 as the beginning of the Millennial generation). While the responses offer a general sort of look at how working Gen Y-ers are faring after four grueling years of recession, the survey has some limitations; most notable is that it’s not representative of all the Millennials.

Article Continues Below

Suffering with retail jobs instead of professional ones

The U.S. Census Bureau, for instance, says the educational attainment of Millennials is much more modest. According to the Census data, the percentage of college graduates in the 18-29 year group is 26 percent.

Nonetheless, those career-minded Gen Y-ers who visited PayScale to research salaries and related information may safely be considered to be closer to the kind of top talent recruiters seek than to those who wind up with a collection of rejections. Yet among this group of well-educated workers, their most common jobs are those that typically don’t require much college: merchandise displayer, clothing sales rep, cell phone sales rep, assistant merchandise manager, and health policy research assistant.

Observes Schwabel:

While they are the future corporate leaders and change-makers, they are suffering in this economy by having to work in retail jobs over professional ones. A bachelor’s degree can no longer be traded in for a job.”

Katie Bardaro, lead economist for PayScale:

Millennials are arming themselves with skills and educational training focused in technology and social media, two areas with great growth potential. However, the shaky economy has forced many of them into a world of underemployment nonetheless.”

John Zappe is the editor of and a contributing editor of John was a newspaper reporter and editor until his geek gene lead him to launch his first website in 1994. He developed and managed online newspaper employment sites and sold advertising services to recruiters and employers. Before joining ERE Media in 2006, John was a senior consultant and analyst with Advanced Interactive Media and previously was Vice President of Digital Media for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

Besides writing for ERE, John consults with staffing firms and employment agencies, providing content and managing their social media programs. He also works with organizations and businesses to assist with audience development and marketing. In his spare time  he can be found hiking in the California mountains or competing in canine agility and obedience competitions.

You can contact him here.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *