by Kristin Burnham

Gen Y Traits in the Workplace Unveiled

Jan 09, 20123 mins
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A study of 4 million Gen Y Facebook users provides insight on the 20-something generation, which will account for three-quarters of the workforce by 2025.

You know the typical labels associated with Gen Y, or people between the ages of 18 and 29: They are more tech-savvy than other generations, are achievement-oriented and, some would say, are an entitled group that’s infiltrating the workforce.

A new study released today takes a closer look at this generation and its employment trends—with statistics culled from the social network that defines Gen Y: Facebook.

Millennial Branding together with, studied 4 million Gen Y Facebook profiles to obtain better insight into how members of this generation operate professionally—a topic of increasing importance as they are projected to make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2025.

According to the study, only 7 percent of Gen Y reports working for a Fortune 500 company—a statistic in line with another report that predicts that 40 percent of the Fortune 500 will no longer exist 10 years from now.

“Fortune 500 companies are having a tough time hiring and retaining Gen Y workers right now,” says Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding and author of Me 2.0. “Gen Y looks for more flexibility like working from home, and they want to have access to social networks. Fortune 500 companies don’t usually allow this flexibility. I think we’re looking at the end of the 9-to-5,” he says.

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Instead, Gen Y workers are turning to startups in which the hiring process tends to be much quicker than that of the Fortune 500, and where Schawbel says Gen Yers feel they can make more of an immediate impact.

While Gen Yers are turning more to startups for employment, they’re also branching out on their own in what Schawbel calls an “unprecedented entrepreneurial spirit.” “Owner” is the fifth most-popular job title, trumped by “server” (No. 1), “manager” (No. 2), “intern” (No. 3) and “sales associate (No. 4).

The recession and poor economic climate that has plagued many of Gen Y’s early years in the workforce likely explains many of those top titles as well as the most popular industries: Travel and hospitality ranks No. 1 at 7.2 percent, followed by consumer products, government/military, and technology at No. 4, with 4.4 percent.

Retention, too, is exceptionally low compared to other generations, Schawbel notes. According to the report, Gen Y typically spends just two years at their first job and has job-hopped multiple times in their careers.

To increase tenure, the report says companies need to tap into Gen Y’s entrepreneurial spirit: “Companies need to allow Gen-Yers to operate entrepreneurially within the corporation by giving them control over their time, activities and budgets as much as possible.”

Kristin Burnham covers consumer technology, social networking and Web 2.0 for Follow Kristin on Twitter @kmburnham. Follow everything from on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Kristin at