Millennials vs Boomers: Be Where You Are


I was reading a study online the other day that suggested that members of the generation we know as millennials will hold 10 to 14 jobs by the age of 35. Assuming high school graduation at 18 and a four-year degree putting them into the workforce by 22, that’s an average of one new job every 10 to 14 months.

That concept is incredibly random to those that have only held one or two jobs for the past 100 years or so.

Still, it dives to a deeper notion that citizens of the 21st century aren’t happy in one place. We’re very mobile and, to use an older term, somewhat transient. Is technology to blame for some of these characteristics? Probably. Forced in part by the nature of the tech we rely on, and carry in our pockets and purses every day, we have become a 140-character, short- attention-span-society.

The difference between digital natives (anyone under 30) and digital immigrants (anyone not) creates this technological generation gap is that is worth exploring if, for no other reason, to promote better understanding of the motivations of our more senior colleagues, as well as of those whippersnappers.

Do millennials lack staying power? Or are baby boomers too close to retirement to be ambitious?

It’s not just about the technology. It could have something to do with the fact that millenials earn less than baby boomers in their prime. suggests that today’s 25 to 34 year olds earn 20 percent less than the same age group in 1989. It might follow that millennials are moving around so much in order to look for higher pay. It is even less encouraging that the same study says young adults today, with a degree and debt, earn the same as young adults in 1989 with no degree.

However, in stark contrast, millennials are saving for retirement over than 100 percent more than their 1989 counterparts. So, they’re making the most of their meager salaries.

And, make no mistake about it, these young professionals are invading the workforce like never before. They are part of your office or organization, and they’re rapidly taking over. As such, it behooves us all to take a stab at understanding their perspective. Likewise, millennials need to know that baby boomers aren’t just old and out of touch. There’s a lot of institutional knowledge and wisdom there. Michigan’s West Midland Family Center has done exhaustive research on the differences between the generations. Here are three, key takeaways from baby boomers and millennials that each could learn from the other.


  1. Millennials never knew a time without technology. Their brains developed around an understanding of how modern things work. As much as boomers may “get” technology, they’ll never “get” it the same way. It’s second nature to millennials.
  2. Contrary to common belief, millennials do not have an innate sense of entitlement. However, a job is more a means to an end, rather than a career way of life. It fills time between weekends. They will be diligent workers and good contributors, but at 5 p.m., they’re gone. When the job gets boring, they’ll be looking for another one.
  3. Millenials like a creative, team-oriented and interactive work environment. They will challenge the notion that something should be done just “because that’s the way it’s always been done.”


  1. Boomers invented the 50-hour workweek. They are driven, but not always the best at work/life balance.
  2. Boomers’ careers tend to define them. They expect their work to matter. They may only have two or three jobs in their entire life.
  3. Many boomers, however, in later career stages have pushed hard for years and are beginning to wonder if it was worth it.

I was talking to a colleague in the Government PIO world the other day and I brought up the stat about millennials and job retention. He looked aghast, proudly proclaiming that he has only held one job for more than 30 years.

“Be where you are,” he’d say.

I thought about that and realized that, to him, it was a matter of responsibility – to his employer, to his family and to himself. However, what if holding onto that job for three decades actually held him back from achieving greater things? He’s frequently told me about the 300 or so pages he’s written of a disjointed novel. “I’ll finish it when I retire,” was the usual response.

However, tomorrow is promised to no one.

In that sense, perhaps, millennials are onto something. Maybe ‘be where you are’ applies to them more than we realize. Could it be that they ‘are where they are’ at any given time because they’re always looking for the next challenge?

The point is that both groups are sowing their oats to the beat of their generational drum. Whether someone has 14 jobs by age 35 or one job for 35 years, the key is to maximize the present experience. Don’t live for tomorrow, or next year, or retirement.

Each and every day, be where you are.

Tom Bryson is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Jarron Creeden

It’s interesting when you receive this article from a boomer on your team, knowing you’re the only millennial on the team.. not sure what that’s supposed to mean.