2014 Adecco Way to Work Survey: Attitudes and Perceptions of American Youth

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Survey background

Methodology & background

This survey explores attitudes and perceptions of American youth on the workplace and job market.

This report presents the findings of a telephone survey conducted among a sample of 751 adults 18 – 24 years old, living in the United States. Interviewing for this survey was completed between April 5- 8, 2014. The margin of error for this study is +/- 3.57%.

Key findings

American Youth Are Successfully Navigating The Job Market

Today’s American youth think they have a harder time than generations before them when it comes to finding a job.

Seven in 10 (69 percent) Americans ages 18-24 believe that it is harder to find a job now compared to previous generations

  • Interestingly, women in this age group (18-24) are more likely than men to feel that it is harder to find a job now than it was for previous generations (76 percent women compared to 63 percent men).

Although today’s youth may feel like finding a job is difficult, it’s not taking them very long to land one.

The majority (65 percent) of employed American youth spent less than six months to find their current job

  • In fact, only 18 percent spent six months to under a year and 12 percent spent a year or more.

As for those American youth who are currently unemployed and looking for work, one-fifth (19 percent) say they’ve been job hunting for less than a year followed by 12 percent who say they’ve been looking for six months to a year. 

  •  Six percent of unemployed American youth say they’ve been looking for a year or more.

Not so surprising, those who ‘live to work’ (59 percent) were less likely to find a job in less than six months compared to those who ‘work to live’ (70 percent).

Are today’s employed American youth ‘living to work’ or ‘working to live’?

The majority (54 percent) of those 18-24 who are currently employed say they ‘work to live’ compared to only 32 percent who ‘live to work’ and 14 percent who say they like what they but do not like the company they work for.

  • Gender may make a difference in perception as men are much more likely to say they ‘live to work’ (36 percent men compared to 28 percent women); women are much more likely to say they ‘work to live’ (60 percent women compared to 49 percent men).

While the majority of American youth are employed, four in 10 (42 percent) are not working in their field of choice

  • And, 16 percent of American youth are undecided on their career choice

American Youth Say They Were Raised For Success

American youth say their parents raised them for success but there are a few lessons they wished their parents would’ve taught them

Six in 10 (63 percent) say the way their parents raised them has prepared them to go after the job they want.

However, when it comes to career lessons, American youth are most likely to wish their parents had taught them the importance of making connections and networking (31 percent) followed by how to make a good impression (25 percent). Other career lessons include:

  • How to negotiate (23 percent)
  • Strong work ethic (23 percent)
  • The importance of getting as much work experience as possible (22 percent)
  • The benefits of going to college (18 percent)
  • Not to take a job you hate/are not passionate about (17 percent)

American youth limit their parent’s involvement in their job search but when they are involved their personal networks prove most valuable

The majority (62 percent) of American youth today do not involve their parents in their job search process.

  • However, those who do (38 percent) are most likely to say their parents use their personal network to help them find job opportunities (16 percent). Additional ways they lean on their parent for support include:
    • Locates/researches job listings for me (12 percent)
    • Rehearses for my interviews with me (9 percent)
    • Crafts my resume or cover letter (6 percent)
    • Forwards my resume or cover letter to personal network (5 percent)
    • Accompanies me to interviews, but does not join the interview (4 percent)
    • Makes calls/send emails to perspective employers on my behalf (3 percent)
    • Writes my thank-you notes (3 percent)
    • Follows up with my prospective employers on my behalf post-interview (2 percent)
    • Accompanies me to interviews and joins the interview (1 percent)

Importance of Career Equates To More Than Just Money For American Youth

American youth prioritize career growth and paying down personal debt

Priorities for American youth boil down to career advancement (34 percent) and paying down debt (16 percent).

Not at the top of today’s youth’s priority list are some of the more long term, traditional and family values including:

  • Saving for a major purchase (10 percent)
  • Having fun (10 percent)
  • Getting married (6 percent)
  • Starting a family (4 percent)
  • Saving for retirement (2 percent)

Passion and interests - not money - drive happiness for American youth

The majority (55 percent) of American youth define the ‘New American Dream’ as having a career you love within your field of interest. This can be compared with:

  • Having a well-paid job (22 percent)
  • Owning your own company (10 percent)
  • Retiring at age 45 (4 percent)
  • Running a company that you do not own (2 percent)

When it comes to their current job, American youth are most motivated by the work that they do (51 percent), gaining valuable work experience (47 percent) and the opportunity for upward mobility/career growth (43 percent). Additional motivators include:

  • Being able to build my professional network by meeting people in my field (30 percent)
  • What my family expects of me(30 percent)
  • Spending time with colleagues (28 percent)

Importance of Career Equates To More Than Just Money For American Youth

Today’s American youth are thinking about their future and plotting their five year plan

Three in 10 (30 percent) American youth plan to either go back to school or advance their career within their current job or company (29 percent). Other plans for the future entail:

  • Switching careers or try something completely new (20 percent)
  • Working for themselves (19 percent)
  • Job-hopping to advance their career or title (16 percent)
  • Living and working abroad (13 percent)


American Youth Are Successfully Navigating The Job Market

American Youth Say They Were Raised For Success

Importance of Career Equates To More Than Just Money For American Youth

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