When it comes to stark differences between millennials and other generations, one of the things that is discussed most is the concept of working for “more than just a paycheck.” And no, I don’t mean that millennials are not dead-set on finding employment with health insurance, or a 401k, or even vacation time. What I’m talking about is finding a job that fulfills their life goals more so than their financial needs.
For older generations, the idea of working somewhere for personal fulfillment in addition to monetary compensation was a nice concept, but one that was not pursured to nearly the degree with which it is today. My grandfather spent forty years working at the same manufacturing plant, and my father has been in the same line of work for the past 30 years. Ask anyone you know and they’ll probably tell you a similar story.
But nowadays, millennials continue to chase long-term ambitions at the expense of short-term gain. For many of us, the promise of career fulfillment is worth a bit of struggle, even if it means driving an old car or living at home for a few extra years.
Take my friend “Jake,” a recent college graduate who just got a job at a swanky local art gallery. After a few months of working at the business, he told me that the job wasn’t really what he imagined, and that he was considering quitting to pursue grad school or perhaps look for something more meaningful.
“I’ve thought about it a lot over the last few weeks and I think this is best for me,” Jake said one evening via text. “Even if I lose financial stability. There’s more to life than money.”
“But how will you pay your bills in the meantime?” I asked, immediately worried that my friend would fall on hard times without steady employment.
“I’ll figure it out,” he said. “I’m not looking for a job to have for the rest of my life. If I have to take loans, I’ll take loans. But I’m not at a point in my life where I’m looking to have a long term job, buy a house and start a life with someone.”
Naturally, this threw me for a bit of a loop. Even though we’re the same age, I could never imagine leaving a job on a whim, at least not without having something else lined up immediately after.
Sure, Jake can take a part-time job somewhere, but is that really the best course of action? For me, not so much. But for him—and many other young professionals like him—taking on unrelated work is a sacrifice that’s worth making if it means finding something more fulfilling in the long run.
And Jake isn’t the only young professional to seek personal fulfillment at the possible expense of his financial stability. Fortune recently posted an article that quoted several studies on millennial work behavior, all of which confirmed this generation’s desire to find meaning in their work beyond a healthy paycheck.
In one study conducted by State Street Global Advisors, 60 percent of millennials aged 22-32 said they have changed jobs multiple times in the past five years, according to Fortune. Another study from consulting firm Deloitte reported that 44 percent of millennials would leave their job if given the choice. Furthermore, 66 percent of millennials surveyed said they plan to take on a new job within the next four years.
I may not agree with Jake’s decision, but I admire the fact that he is willing to make a big change in his life in the long-term pursuit of happiness. Despite how flaky and indecisive I find people in my generation to be, it’s inspiring to know that, as Jake said, there’s more to life than just earning a paycheck.
I hope someday we can all be a little more like Jake and pursue our own personal happiness in the workplace, even if it conflicts with the status quo.
The Millennial Report is a weekly column by associate editor Michael Cusanelli, who graduated from Stony Brook University’s School of Journalism in 2013. He is an avid gamer and movie buff who spends nearly as much time concocting the perfect mix tape as he does writing. You can find him on Twitter @MCusanelliSB.