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Survey finds millennials pessimistic about job prospects, but job numbers show potential for change

There were 252,000 jobs added to the U.S. economy in December 2014.

Survey finds millennials pessimistic about job prospects, but job numbers show potential for change

According to a recent Federal Reserve report, the recession made it difficult for younger workers to find full-time work, and as a result, the majority of them are feeling pessimistic or uncertain about their employment future. Only 45 percent of young workers say they feel optimistic about their future employment. The report also found that young workers have been settling for contract, part-time or temporary work while they search for full-time jobs.

Things may be turning around, however: Monthly jobs growth topped 200,000 for 11 out of 12 months in 2014; December numbers were also strong.

“Millennials enter the workforce wanting guidance, a job they’re passionate about and a flexible work schedule,” says Sally Scannell, a millennial who is now PR coordinator for Syndio Social. “However, they also feel misunderstood by their elders and believe it’s harder for our generation to find jobs than it was for past generations.”

She says that while millennials have lot of skills employers are looking for, such as tech savvy and self-confidence, some employers may think they’re hard to manage. “Millennial workers look for challenges in their work environments and rely on feedback and communication to ensure they’re doing a good job. Besides not being able to simply find job prospects, millennials’ pessimism comes from confusion and frustration about not knowing how to act in the workplace to succeed.”

‘A lack of candidates’

Millennial Ramon Khan is the business development manager at National Air Warehouse. He says the problem isn’t a lack of jobs: It’s a lack of skills among his cohort. “The problem, I think, is the lack of leadership for our youth to be guided in the right direction. Skilled trade employers are in high demand for workers, but there is a lack of candidates. There is no shortage of opportunities for millennials in our future, but they have to change their outlook on what they think is right way to go about landing a career.”

Head to our Career Start site if you’re a millennial looking for tips on how to break into the job or career you want.

Because he couldn’t decide on a major, Khan says he went straight into the workforce to focus on gaining experience. “During interviews, I would often point out my dominant position over candidates with more education but lack of relevant experience,” he says. “As a hiring manager and coordinator myself, I also saw that there was a huge bias against those who possess education but not relevant experience.”

With the Federal Reserve report highlighting how millennials are relying on part-time or temporary jobs, it may make sense to use the time not working to enroll in educational opportunities.

Khan says he sees many educated young people without a sense of direction or relevant experience for their chosen major. “This, combined with the pressures of hiring managers to hire candidates with relevant experience, is not a good combination.”

Expectations play a role

Leigh Steere, co-founder of Managing People Better, says these expectations of newly minted college grads can be important in understanding some of the report’s results. “In my generation (tail end of the boomers), there was an expectation that newly minted college grads had a period of dues-paying in the workplace that might involve less meaningful (even mundane) work,” she says.

“Graduates from the Fed study period grew up, on the whole, with a different set of expectations,” Steere explains. “There was ever more pressure to build a résumé starting at younger and younger ages. There was focus on being competitive — in grades, sports and other extra-curricular endeavors — because that, supposedly, was how to gain the edge in college admissions and then when entering the workforce.”

As a result, millennials may end up with a mindset that if they work hard and build a good résumé, it guarantees an interesting job with a good salary. “I believe some of the pessimism comes from the mismatch between their expectations and what actually transpired,” she says.

In addition, the cost of living in the U.S. is escalating, she says, and younger workers have to work harder to maintain the standard. “It's a jolt to many young people to discover just how little each dollar will buy, and I think this contributes to some of the pessimism I've been seeing among younger workers.”

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