For some 20-somethings, it is passion — not pay — that matters most to them in a job.
The recession has affected workers of all generations, but the youngest generation is exhibiting a different work attitude than perhaps it once did, one study shows.
Workers ages 21 to 31, the "millennial" generation, have more realistic expectations about career success, according to a study by the Career Advisory Board at DeVry University. Of the 500 millennials surveyed, 30 percent identify meaningful work as the most important measure of a successful career.
"The findings were a little bit surprising," said Alexandra Levit, a career expert who sits on the university's Career Advisory Board. But during the recession, "Millennial attitudes have shifted," she said. "They want a sense of accomplishment."
Not long ago, a key question for the millennial was, "How can you help me?"
So while 71 percent of millennials reported in the survey that "meaningful work" was now one of the three most important factors in determining their career success, only 11 percent of hiring managers surveyed said that they felt meaningful work was most important to millennials.
Managers thought millennials were most concerned with money, followed by having a high level of responsibility. High pay is still important — ranked as most important by 27 percent surveyed. But a "sense of accomplishment" ranks nearly as high at 24 percent.
"Hiring managers' perceptions have lagged a bit," Levit said. "Many employers still perceive younger workers as those who just work for the money and have no loyalty."
The recession also affected the millennials who lost their jobs or saw their baby boomer parents being laid off by employers. As a result, they began to recognize that a good job was "not a given, but a privilege," according to the study. They've learned valuable lessons on what they need to do to succeed.
Some of those young workers who lost jobs, or were unhappy at work, have returned to school to pursue a career that's closer to their dreams.
Zety Varas, 29, of Hollywood, Fla., at first selected a pharmaceutical career but decided the job wasn't for her. "My parents were pushing me to do it because I was already working at a pharmacy," she said. "I love the customer relations side to it, but it's a really stressful job."
Varas is now instead pursuing a career as a real estate broker, completing an internship with Coldwell Banker in Miami Beach. She recognizes that real estate has been a difficult industry in South Florida, but she's confident it will recover. "Money is important of course, but I don't think it is No. 1," she said. "No. 1 is to be happy with what you are."
Josh Barry, 27, moved to South Florida to earn his MBA at Nova Southeastern University. He once worked for his family's business, Bloomer Candy Co. in Zanesville, Ohio. The fifth-generation company was sold in late 2009 when raw material costs skyrocketed. "Even if we tried to pass on a price increase, customers were looking for a price decrease," Barry said.
Barry worked with a turnaround business consultant on the family business, which inspired him to pursue that specialty as a career. "That really hit home with me. I've seen it firsthand. That would be a fulfilling career," he said.
"You have to make sure what you're going into is interesting," said Barry, adding that he also seeks longevity in his chosen career. And, he also warns fellow students to make sure their career choice "is still a viable industry."
Fernando Arias, 24, of Kendall, Fla., says employers tend to have a bias against his generation that "we're too young and immature and we don't really care about our work. I think that's really untrue."
Arias, an MBA student at Nova Southeastern University, plans to get his law degree to eventually practice immigration or criminal law. When he was 9, his father was involved in an accident at work, and that inspired him to learn about the law.
"I'm not in it for the money. I want to help people in need," Arias said.