— Heather Axtman was a senior in college in 2006 when
she landed an internship at Thomson Reuters. By the time
she graduated from the University of Minnesota, the
company had offered her a full-time job. She’s since
been promoted several times. Now 33, she manages a team
in the marketing department.
worked my butt off to prove myself, but my timing was
pure luck," she said.
were different for Kendall Bird, who graduated from the
University of Northwestern-St. Paul in 2010.
was naive about how hard it was going to be coming out
of the gate," said Bird, now 29. "The
landscape was so crowded and competitive."
sending out countless resumes, combing job boards and
networking to build contacts, she ended up taking an
internship instead of a job, being a nanny (for minimum
wage) and moving home. It took her more than two years
to get a job in her field.
they’re only a few years apart, the experiences of
these two millennials couldn’t be more different. What
changed between Axtman’s graduation and Bird’s? The
the economy has largely recovered, the younger cohort of
millennials may not have. New research indicates that
the recession has acted as a great divide for this group
of 72 million, born between 1980 and 1995.
a Wayzata, Minn., consulting company that advises
businesses on generational dynamics, commissioned a
study of millennials and found distinct differences
between younger and older millennials.
are a complex generation, and we’re seeing that their
experiences are very different from oldest to
youngest," said Hannah Ubl, research director at
early millennials, born from 1980 to 1987, remember
dial-up internet, using AOL screen names for instant
messaging, watching movies on VHS tapes and attending
were raised to be optimistic and were told they could be
whatever they wanted to be," Ubl said. "They
graduated into a strong economy and got a good foothold
almost overnight, that upbeat outlook turned gloomy for
their younger brothers and sisters, whom some call the
between 1988 and 1995, they used technology at an
earlier age, with Wi-Fi-enabled devices and the iPhone
arriving in their adolescence. They downloaded music,
watched movies on DVDs that arrived in the mail from
Netflix and rode to school on their Razor scooters.
younger millennials, however, were in the unenviable
position of trying to launch careers after the housing
market crash, when unemployment jumped and hiring
the worst economic downturn in 80 years, the
recessionists had to compete with laid-off adults for
service jobs. They worried that the college loans they’d
taken as a bet on a post-graduation middle-class life
would prove to be poor investments.
say that finding a job during the recession was like
working out with training weights," said Jeff Lane,
29, who graduated from college in 2009 and worked in a
coffee shop instead of starting a business career.
I couldn’t even get an interview, it docked my
confidence," he said.
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the early millennials, the recessionists had been raised
to follow their dreams, but the advice they had been
given all their lives began to ring hollow.
of a sudden, the message changed. It was, ‘Expect
rejection, expect to struggle, even the best among you,’?"
Ubl said. "They were back in their parents’
basements and back on their parents’ health insurance.
They felt lied to."
an economic recovery is on track and, in Minnesota, a
low employment rate has many businesses and nonprofits
struggling to find enough qualified workers to fill
employers and hiring managers who want to recruit —
and retain — a millennial workforce should appreciate
the different attitudes and expectations of the two
millennials care more about autonomy. They’re more
likely to want freedom in choosing where and how they
work, who they work with and what their schedule
is," Ubl said.
the recessionists tend to be motivated by money.
are always important, but for the later millennials,
workplace satisfaction is much more tied to their
ability to earn a salary and pay their bills, so they
will have enough to live where they want to live,"
Ubl said. "The early millennials believe everything
will work out. The recessionists are less trusting about
those younger millennials may have good reason to be
mindful about their paychecks.
would suggest that the fallout of the economic downturn
will continue to haunt the recessionists, who began
working when entry-level salaries were suppressed.
seen that those who happened to be unlucky enough to
have entered the labor market in a recession may never
really recover from it," said Wendy Rahn, a
political science professor at the University of
at the Federal Reserve have found that lifetime earnings
tend to hinge on an individual’s first decade in the
workforce, with those who earn less as they begin their
careers never catching up.
Economic Policy Institute tracked lifetime pay for
employees who started work in previous recessions and
found that as a group, they experienced lower wages and
real estate company Zillow’s research concludes that
graduating into the recession has an "immediate and
lasting effect on young adults’ homeownership
attempts to fire up their careers may also create
ongoing financial worry in the younger cohort. Ubl
suggested that their early difficulties could turn them
into modern-day versions of their grandparents, the
generation that survived the Great Depression and took
thriftiness to extremes, always pinching pennies and
saving plastic bags.
brains were still developing during this time. I think
this will color and shape their impressions for a
lifetime," Ubl said.
marked them in a profound way, and it will always be
part of them."