career

'I'm finally working in my dream job but there's one problem.'

I grew up with opportunity. Believing that I could make a difference in the world. Like many millennials I was told that “anything was possible”, that “I could be whatever I wanted to be, so long as it made me happy” (good parents, I’m aware).

Money was never part of this discussion.

I prided myself on being an individual that would choose emotional, personal fulfilment in my career as opposed to a mega pay packet. If faced with the choice of a dream job at a minimum wage compared to a soulless, meaningless role for a six-figure salary, I would choose the dream job. Every. Time.

One problem. I can’t pay my electricity bill.

I’m not alone. Experts say millennials are driven by personal values, not money. That we want to balance our lifestyle with work, and that we need to feel as if our contribution is valuable to both the company and the world at large.

Clearly, I’m not the only one dreading the electricity bill.

As well as this, the workplace we entered – the one of the future – is not rigid. It’s not the world of yearly reviews in the same company and regular pay rises. It’s the world of new technology. Salary freezes while companies adjust. Moving roles. Changing office environments.

In order to stay ahead (to stay employed even) we need to keep moving, learning, hoping to find a pocket of fulfilment in the process.

Millennials are after more than money in their careers.

Because of this (the unrelenting demands of the electricity companies and our inability to meet them), we're asked:

"Why won't you move out of home?" "Why won't you buy a house." "Why won't you stay in a solid job?"

It seems to be the catch cry of this generation. We're always doing something that is disappointing or irresponsible. Particularly when it comes to money. We can't afford to rent, so we're living with our parents. We're reckless with money, so we're spending it on travel. We're not interested in owning homes or cars, and our career trajectories are unfamiliar and extremely uncertain.

There are a lot of elements here. (Have you seen the price of rent in Sydney?)

But the number one reason is experience. Millennials are hungry for experience. To see, feel and explore. We have grown up in a world that is virtual. Our meeting places are online, along with our banks, post offices and cinemas. We are constantly stimulated, by news feeds and virality. And maybe this transience is fuelling our need for real experiences. Real travel. Real work.

But this craving gives us a bad rap. That we are unreliable - most millennials will have had four jobs by the time they're 32. That we are suffering in debt, particularly under student loans and credit card repayments. And that we have no consideration for our future.

But is this really our fault?

Remembering that most of us entered the work force at the time of (or in the years following) the 2008 global financial crisis.

We entered a job market so saturated with applicants that we worked for free, or minimum wage, in the name of gaining the 'experience' every single job advertisement asked for. We would do anything, accept any pay packet, to get in the door between the redundancies and foreclosures.

Job stability is something foreign to our generation. The company I worked for when I first graduated university was constantly under threat of folding. My job endlessly under the guillotine of redundancy.

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Friends in other industries attended their 12-month performance reviews to be told the company had a two-year salary freeze and no pay rise was possible.

This reality was accepted, all in the name of experience. Gaining the experience that might, some day, lead to a job that was fulfilling. (And that might pay more than minimum wage for skilled workers.)

Twenty somethings discuss whether it truly is possible to buy property in Sydney. Post continues below video. 

We had been warned, by university lecturers in particular. Teachers asking journalism students why they were entering an industry that is so clearly dying. Law students being told about over-saturation; that it's the "worst time in living history to be a law graduate".

Most of us will look to the next four years and predict that we will have switched employers, even careers, by the end of this period. This is not a sign of instability. It's simply a requirement for survival.

It's likely our jobs won't exist in four years time.

This changing, switching, trying to keep a job means we are not getting paid. Working in a time where financial security is about as steadfast as Donald Trump's hair, companies are looking for young people (millennials) to hire because they will work for nothing.

They will work for nothing for one of two reasons. If it's an industry they care about (remember, personal values are key). Or, because jobs are so difficult to come by, being employed (at whatever cost) is seen as a pathway to a better career, a more fulfilling future.

We would love a job that paid well, or according to our skills and experience, that was also fulfilling. We'd even probably stay in it. But, for many millennials, the two - pay and fulfilment - are mutually exclusive.

This is felt, more than ever, when 'life outside work' hardly exists. Emails ping on a Saturday night. A 6am alarm is followed by a quick check of Slack. To cope with this, millennials are trying desperately to optimise their work, and make it more in-line with their values and daily needs.

We're just not being paid for it.

If we stay in the same place, we will be replaced or our jobs will expire.

If we continue moving, chasing our dreams of a fulfilling career (or any career at all), we lose out in pay.

Our ambition can be seen in the experiences we collect, and the readiness with which we embrace change, jump into new companies, new roles.

Our dreams can be seen in our search for fulfilment, the want to contribute.

But our bank balances remain closer to zero.

I wish money was still not part of this discussion, like it was when I was a child. I wish we could shake the label of 'irresponsibility' when we are finding our way in a job market disrupted by technology, offshoring, financial crises. I wish that choosing a job for its fulfilment and satisfaction, wouldn't lead to angry letters from the electricity and gas company.

It's a tough time to be a millennial in the job market. If only Origin Energy would understand.