“I think my situation is very reflective of people my age,” she says. “We all thought that finding a job would be a breeze.” Kane and her classmates were arguably being naïve, given the fact that the world financial system nearly collapsed the year before she graduated. But she says that the economic crisis and its sobering effects on the job market wound up making her realize that financial security should be a priority. When she landed her first job, she immediately signed up for a 401(K). About financial security she says, “Young people in my generation are scared crapless right now.”
Kane, 28, is now doing PR for a Boston-based company called Bright Horizons, the parent of EdAssist, a firm that offers continuing education programs for companies like Pepsico and Comcast. EdAssist has just released a survey of 1,000 millennials (age 18-35) that shows that financial security is their No. 1 concern, with 71% saying they would prefer a retirement savings plan over other financial perks like company equity and cell phone reimbursements.
EdAssist also asked respondents if they had to choose between two similar jobs, would they pick the one with strong potential for professional development or one with regular pay raises. Fifty-nine percent picked professional development. Though EdAssist has a stake in that answer, it’s still an interesting finding since surveys routinely find that employees of all ages prioritize compensation over other job benefits. That’s apparently not so among millennials, who seem to see continuing education as a path to get ahead.
There has been conflicting research about whether millennials want to stay in one job or bounce around every year or so. The EdAssist survey shows that they prefer steady employment in one place. When asked to identify the benefits of staying with one job for a long time (though “long time” was not defined), 82% said it would make them happier, 80% said they believed it would help them make more money and 74% believed it would benefit their career more than moving around. I beg to differ with the wisdom of the last two answers. Young people shouldn’t change jobs every few months for the sake of change. But they are more likely to get a healthy compensation bump if they negotiate well when taking a new position than if they move up the compensation ladder at their first or second job. Employers understand that young people move around and it helps to show that you can thrive at a series of different jobs in the space of a few years. I’d say it’s a good idea to stay in a job at least a year but it doesn’t need to be three or four years.
The message for employers is clear: Offer a retirement savings plan to all workers, preferably with a matching contribution, and make some sort of continuing education available. At the least, encourage supervisors to give plenty of feedback and make sure your millennial employees have new challenges.