Why Gen Y Will Not Have a Career

Picture of Gen Y


Do you think Gen Y is the greatest thing since Dance-Dance Revolution?

Or do you think Gen Y is like a Backstreet Boys comeback tour – lots of sparkle without much substance?

Wherever you fall on the I Heart Gen Y scale, one way or another there’s no escaping us.

Gen Y will be the shopkeepers of culture, work, religion, and politics before you can say “social-network-with-a-dash-of-Obama “.

However, as Gen Y/Millennials begin sitting at the “big persons table,” I don’t think Gen Y will necessarily have a career to go with it.

Let me explain.

Picture of Gen Y
Photo by Erin Leigh McConnell


Bye-Bye Career

A career is defined as an “occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress.”

Yeah, I don’t think a majority of Millennials will have them one of these. Place that definition on a wooden floating vessel and push it out to sea.

In the Pew Research Center’s recent study: Young, Underemployed and Optimistic, the study states that “among all 18- to 34-year-olds, only 30% consider their current job a career.”

I don’t see that number dramatically increasing as we grow up.

3 Reasons Why Gen Y Will Not Have a Career


1. Career Feels Stifling

There is a permanence to the word career that I’m not sure Gen Y is comfortable with.

Career sounds stuffy and inescapable like getting lost in the back of your Aunt Martha’s closet.

Millennials won’t last long working in an office-assembly-line, repeating the same task over and over and over and over again. Gen Y’s idea of professional success isn’t sticking out the life-sucking job just so they can be promoted deeper into the job they already hate. Gen Y needs the space to breathe and create.


2. Gen Y is a Jack-of-All-Trades Generation

Gen Y has spent their lives dabbling. Being involved. Leading. Learning. Spreading ourselves thin. All the while, collecting various talents that weave together to form something unique and needed.

Millennials have too many interests and too little attention spans to focus on one thing for too long.


3. Gen Y’s Career Path Will Be More Lateral Than Vertical

The world is flat now with the ability to work anywhere, on anything, at anytime.

Gen Y won’t climb the ladder. Gen Y will swim from island to island, picking up necessary survival skills at each destination.

Gen Y’s professional path won’t always make sense, but their destination will.

What do you think about Gen Y’s career?

Photo Credit: Erin Leigh McConnell – Creative Commons


  1. Isha Cogborn

    I couldn’t agree with you more, Paul. It’s funny, because when I was in corporate, baby boomers complained about the lack of commitment from GenY, and now I’m coaching many of them who want the same professional freedom! Go figure…

    • admin

      Awesome insight Isha. Thank you. The old butt in a chair just to say it’s there mentality just doesn’t make as much in today’s working environment. Organizations that encourage the lateral movement and spark creativity are the ones that will grow and retain Gen Y.

  2. Melissa

    Paul – I completely agree with you! The connotation that comes with the word “career” flies in the face of everything that Gen Y strives for – freedom, choice, meritocracy, and so on. I see the trend continuing until careers are something that is phased out completely.

    People will choose to work and have a job, or they will choose to do what they love – and reserve the right to change their minds! With all of the opportunity out there to create your own balance and work-life, what has been so successful for bigger companies in the past, will be their biggest opponent in the talent wars. Great article!

    • admin

      Thanks Melissa! “Meritocracy” – Love that word. Great insight.

  3. Courage

    WRONG! Gen Y adults will have careers and will move up the career ladder. We didn’t go to college for four years plus graduate school to get stuck in a job we hate. We are the most optimistic group when it comes to our futures. Things will get better for us.

    • lordblazer

      we will have careers, but not in the traditional sense.. The successful in our generation will be the entrepreneurs.. I’m one myself.. It’ tough, but our careers will be the most interesting. In fact I already have been off to an interesting start if you look at my resume.

  4. Molly

    A simple perusal of YouTube shows this to be absolutely true. Most (if not all) of the most subscribed YouTube channels are run by 20-somethings from Gen Y. I even saw a video where someone called it Gen YouTube..and it’s true. We have access to so much now, internet and technology and any job we want, so why settle for a job our parents do when we could make videos or bake in front of a camera or spew our thoughts on a blog to earn our living?
    I’m all for the island-hopping idea of surviving life.

  5. lordblazer

    it’s not necessarily because of gen y’s poor attitude for this,but because of the global economy we live in today where it’s a race to the bottom. IT’s a competitive era filled with no guarantees, and gen y learned something the baby boomers didn’t have to. And that there are no guarantees.. I am a millenial and I remember when I was running my own grant writing business. Businesses that wanted a grant writer were the manager or owner was over the age of 60 actually understood that me writing a grant won’t guarantee them a grant, and that while I will charge a comission upon your award of a grant. I still require an up front retainer fee before I do any work. Why? because grant writing costs me time and money. I need to survive. It’s professional work, it’s a skill many don’t have.. But clients that are baby boomers? What do they expect? A lot more out of me. Not only do they want a guarantee on getting a grant. They expected me to not charge them anything. That I’m not deserving of getting paid a retainer up-front because I haven’t gotten them the grant yet and they just want to pay commission if they get the grant.. It’s absolutely insane. I can’t work for free. And grants aren’t guaranteed to all applicants it’s a competitive process. You hire me because I increase the odds by writing a professional proposal. You are a the table talking to me because I can do something that YOU do not the time nor resources to do. Respect that. Baby Boomers do not respect that at all. Half of those clients call me entitled because I won’t work for free. I tell these businesses the same thing I tell anyone that wants free work from me. “you are always free to hire someone else”

    Gen Y has learned that there are no guarantees in life. This generation is humble as FUCK.. Like super humble.. Some even shy away from doing what I do in wanting to charge retainer fees (which is what creates the overly entitled clients that want you to work for free.).. It’s rough out there. there is no ladder anymore. the ladders have been destroyed. the current job market is for those already established in their careers. if you’re a recent college graduate that means there are literally very few jobs for you. Locking so many people out of the job market also creates an interesting dynamic. Those who are still in the workforce are picking up the slack for 3 to 6 different people. Meaning they’re doing the amount of work of 3 to 6 different people. Overworked, underpaid, unpaid, with no potential for growth.. That’s the current job market and workplace environment in the 21st century America.

    IF you want to be a cog in a machine and climb a ladder, move to East Asia.. It’s hard work there too, but you will be paid for it. As for me. I continue to go from entrepreneurial venture to venture.. Gaining new skills via swimming to different islands. Why? Because it’s literally the only path I have if I want to succeed in this world. It isn’t a choice, it’s a necessity. These writers and editorial teams need to get that through their thick skulls.


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