Millennials want more vacation and time for themselves away from the job than young people did 30 years ago, and they also value compensation more, according to a recent study.
That may be setting them up for intense disappointments in today's labor market.
Those born starting in the early 1980s put a bigger emphasis on time away from work than previous generations, like Gen X. They're slightly less likely to say that work should be "a very central part" of one's life, and tend to value a job more for salary and advancement opportunities rather than as a source of friends or an avenue to learn new skills.
Millennials, the youngest generation in American workplaces, may see time off as necessary because of how hard they saw their parents work, said San Diego State University psychology professor Jean Twenge. She has a study analyzing generational differences in attitudes toward work in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Management.
But as unemployment has grown for young people, their expectations for money, job promotion and leisure time are encountering workplace reality. In today's world, that means tepid growth in salaries and benefits, and heavy competition for positions.
The Conference Board, a private research group, said in January that job satisfaction for those under 25 was at a record low in 2009.
"High expectations are colliding with reality and leading to a lot of disappointment and dissatisfaction," said Twenge.
In her study, Twenge culled data from high school seniors taking the annual "Monitoring the Future" survey in 1976, 1991 and 2006. About 15,000 seniors nationwide take the survey each spring.
The 2008 report, from after the recession began, showed that 17- and 18-year-olds valued leisure time away from work even more than they had two years before, Twenge said.
And other surveys second this finding, despite the recession. College students in summer 2009 said they valued job security more than in previous years, but they also continued to say work-life balance was important, according to a survey by Universum, a human resources consultancy.