From Meaning to Money — What Each Generation Wants From Their Jobs

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Choreograph / Getty Images/iStockphoto

When it comes to your job, what do you value most? A study published in the Journal of Business Ethics found that employees from all generations value meaningful work. However, each generation thought other generations were more concerned about money than meaning in a job.

To get a better idea whether there is a difference among the generations, GOBankingRates’ asked millennials, xennials (the microgeneration born between 1977 and 1983), Generation Xers and baby boomers what they valued most in a job. Although there are similarities among the generations, what matters most to workers does tend to change with age.

Keep reading to find out what Americans really want out of a job.

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What Millennials Want From a Job: Professional Growth

Millennials don’t want to be stuck in a dead-end job — at least 23-year-old Cedrick Capati doesn’t. The online public relations specialist for Spiralytics said what he values most in a job is the opportunity for professional growth.

After graduating from college, Capati got a job he really liked. “But after three years, I realized that I wasn’t getting any professional growth from my job so I left,” he said. Capati decided to pursue a career in digital marketing because he said it offered him more opportunity to grow.

Keep reading to learn more about the signs that you need a new job.

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What Millennials Want From a Job: A Good Salary

There’s no denying that money matters to millennials when it comes to a job — especially if they are in cities where the cost of living is high. “What I value most is a salary that affords me my current lifestyle in San Francisco,” said millennial Brian Sheehan, a marketing manager at e-commerce company Hollingsworth. “It is not cheap to live here.”

That said, Sheehan also appreciates that his job allows him to be creative, to work remotely and help grow a business that impacts the lives of many people. “I do not see myself going anywhere else soon,” he said.

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What Millennials Want From a Job: Good Work-Life Balance

Although many millennials want a job that pays well, salary isn’t all they care about. For 31-year-old Ashlie Walton, a job that offers a good work-life balance is even more important than money.

After managing a pediatric medical practice for nearly 12 years, she was told this year by the provider she works for that her salary was capped. Initially, Walton was upset that she wasn’t valued enough to receive a continued pay increase for all of her hard work. But then she asked herself what was the most important element of her work life. “For me, my answer was my time, and time is more valuable to me than money,” she said.

Walton told the doctor she works for that for her to stay in her job she would need to leave the office an hour earlier each day. “Without hesitation, she agreed to me leaving an hour earlier each day,” she said. Now she has more time to work on her own life coaching business, LEO Warriors.

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What Xennials Want From a Job: Ability to Learn

As a member of the xennial generation– the small age group between millennials and Generation X — Jamie L. Smith said what matters most in a job is the opportunity to continue learning. “I envy but cannot empathize with people who get comfortable in roles or organizations,” said Smith, who is the founder of Amplify Advisors, which provides contract CFO and controller services. “I need to constantly be stretched and learning.”

Smith said she also values meaningful work — specifically, work that allows her to feel like she is adding value — and connection. “Connection is at the intersection of health and longevity, success and happiness,” she said. “I strongly believe that deep personal relationships are key in both our personal [lives] and our careers.”

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What Xennials Want From a Job: Flexibility

Dee Barizo, who is 39, said what he values most in a job is flexibility. His current job as an online marketer at SI Certs allows him to work anywhere and set his own hours. “I worked a few years in a traditional office job,” Barizo said. “When I switched to remote work, I felt happier, more fulfilled and less stressed.”

He said he’s also seen the quality of his work improve by working remotely. That’s because he can work during hours when he is most productive. Keep reading to learn about major companies that allow you to work from home.

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What Xennials Want From a Job: A Good Boss

Chances are you’ve heard that people leave managers, not companies. That was true for 40-year-old Dillan DiGiovanni, who said what he values most in a job is a good boss. Years ago, he got a job at Whole Foods but left within six months because his supervisor was a “despicable person,” he said.

He then enrolled in graduate school but was contacted a few months later from someone at another Whole Foods location who asked him to join his team. DiGiovanni took the job and stayed with the company for five years. “He was a wonderful person and changed my outlook on how bosses and jobs can be when you’re working for the right person,” he said.

Find Out: The Worst Things Bosses Made Their Employees Do

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What Generation X Wants From a Job: Being Valued

Many people want to feel like they are providing value to others through their work. But it’s equally important to have a job that lets you feel valued for what you do. At least that’s what 49-year-old Adam Cole said he wants in a job.

Cole left a full-time job as a public school teacher to launch his own school and to focus on writing fiction. In addition to feeling like he is valued, being an entrepreneur gives him flexibility. “While I know that my prospects are more precarious, I am also a lot happier,” Cole said.

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What Generation X Wants From a Job: Flexibility

Like younger workers, boomers also value a job that offers a flexible work schedule. “At this point in my life, the thing that I value most in a job is the ability to have the time off that I need to spend time with my family,” said David Bakke, a 52-year-old manager in financial services.

At his current job, he has the ability to adjust his schedule so he doesn’t have to sacrifice time with his family. That might mean working weekends so he’s available to meet his kids’ needs during the week, or shifting his schedule as necessary to maintain a work-life balance.

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What Generation X Wants From a Job: Freedom

Greg Shepard, who is 44 and owns Emily’s Maids, said he never realized what he wanted in a job until he grew his own successful business. “Freedom is what I value from owning a business,” he said. “Freedom from a 9-to-5 job, freedom to spend more time with family, freedom of having my own fate in my hands and not that of a boss.”

When he worked for others, Shepard said he would focus on how cool the company was or how much his salary was. “But none of that matters,” he said. “None of that added to my happiness. Freedom does.”

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What Boomers Want From a Job: Meaningful Work

Early in her career, Paige Arnof-Fenn said she wanted great work experience from well-known companies with names that had resume value and that offered a good salary and benefits. She then worked at three startups to get more autonomy and potential for growth. However, what she wanted from a job changed after she started her own global branding and marketing firm, Mavens & Moguls.

“Once I covered my basics like food, shelter and financial security, my definition of success changed to find more meaning and purpose in my life,” said Arnof-Fenn, who is 53 and on the cusp of being a boomer. “I work because I love what I do, and I want to stay active and engaged in activities I care about.”

Keep Reading: 15 Secrets of Getting Your Dream Job 

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What Boomers Want From a Job: Being Part of Something Bigger

Through the years, there were many things Carol Gee valued in a job: a good salary, flexibility, excellent leave and health benefits. Now that she’s 68 and retired, she can look back at the 12-year period when she worked as a department administrator for a school of public health as a time when she had a job that offered what she valued most.

“Daily I juggled several balls in the air as I resolved problems, managed staff and other resources,” Gee said. “However, working with other stakeholders with a common goal, I felt a sense of being part of something larger than myself.”

Read: 10 Jobs With the Most and Least Security

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What Boomers Want From a Job: Ability to Serve Others

For 10 years, Steve LePore worked as a director of human resources first at Six Flags Corp., then at a Hollywood-based entertainment group. He loved what he did, but he saw an opportunity for work that would allow him to do what he loves most: serving others.

“The most important thing to me in terms of a job or employment is the opportunity to serve,” said LePore, who is 62. He had seen that homeless teens in his community were in need of support, so he started a nonprofit organization to help them. He then created another nonprofit to help high-risk teens. LePore founded his third nonprofit in 2007 to help male adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Although he spent 31 years in the nonprofit world serving others, Lepore said, “I get so much more out of it than what I put into it.”

Click here to find out what boomers and millennials do agree on.

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