Why Millennials Are
at a Disadvantage for Many Job Positions
In order to understand why Millennials are at a disadvantage
for many job positions, we have to understand the age distribution of the US
population. Everyone talks about the aging Baby Boomer generation, but what does
this actually look like?
Here is a graph that shows the estimated 2015 US age
distribution based on 2010 US Census data. In this graph below, Millennials are
approximately ages 20 to 34 (green). Generation X are ages 35 to 50 (blue) and
the Baby Boomers are 51 to 69 (purple). Notice
US Population Age Distribution (2015)
As you can see in the graph above, there is a large portion
of the US workforce that is over the age of 40 (the “working-age” median). In
fact, about 56% of the working US population is over the age of 40. These
workers obviously have a time advantage, in terms of experience, but the point
is to notice the sheer volume of workers with this time advantage compared to Millennials (green).
Of the 44% of workers under the age of 40, most of them
are under the age of 30.
If a company is hiring for an entry-level management
position, the chances of someone older than the age of 40 with similar
experience applying for the position is high. Why?
Because the Generation X (ages 35 to 50 in blue) have had to
deal with their own workforce supply and demand issues. For a long time, the Generation X have
been at an experience disadvantage compared to the larger Baby Boomer
Going back to supply and demand for a moment: In the job market as a whole, the overall supply of low-paying jobs is high (high worker
demand) while the overall supply of high-paying
jobs is low (low worker demand). Not everyone can have a high-paying job
because the supply of high-paying jobs is much lower than the supply of
For Generation X, the competition for high-paying positions
has been extremely high compared to the low supply for these positions.
Therefore, as their Baby Boomer competition has moved on to higher-paid
positions (and retired), many of the Generation X have finally become highly-qualified
competition for even entry-level positions that are higher paying.
Essentially, Millennials are experiencing the after-effects
of over a generation long high-supply labor market.
Millennials are now asking the same question that many of
the Generation X once asked: How am I
supposed to get experience if no one gives me a chance?
However, the labor market will not be over-saturated with
experienced workers like this for much longer. Within the next 10 to 15 years,
we will see a rapid drop in the experienced labor supply due to the Age Cliff.
In 2030, the estimated age distribution of working adults will look like the
US Population Age Distribution (2030)
In 10 to 15 years, the majority of working adults will be under the age of 40, with young Millennials and the older members of Generation Z (orange) making up the largest age-group (ages 30 to 40).
To an extent, this Age Cliff will be good news to well-prepared
Millennials for career advancement.
However, that’s 10 to
15 years from now. What about career advancement now? How can Millennials
obtain higher paid jobs today?
Next, we will discuss what types of positions allow for Millennials to have an advantage over the Generation X and Baby Boomers in
today’s labor market.
Positions Where Millennials Have an Advantage
In today’s labor market, rapid change is good news for Millennials.
Millennials have their greatest advantage in job fields that
have rapid advancements in technology and knowledge. For example, the medical
field has both of these characteristics, where both rapidly changing technology
and the need for advanced knowledge are in high demand.
Millennials graduating from advanced-knowledge degrees, such as
nursing, have an advantage over older generations for obtaining high-paying
entry-level jobs because the nursing field is rapidly accelerating into a more
advanced medical profession.
According to Forbes and YI, other jobs where Millennials
excel include: Physicians and Physician Assistants, Actuaries, Statisticians,
Biomedical Engineers, Computer and Information Research Scientists, Nuclear
All of these positions involve advanced knowledge that has
been rapidly changing due to new discoveries, innovations, and technology. It
is not a coincidence that most of these jobs where Millennials excel are STEM
jobs (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math).
If Millennials want to excel in today’s labor market, then
it is important to become competitive in the areas where demand is high and
rapidly growing. For many Millennials, this means that establishing a
successful career will involve pursuing STEM-based jobs. Those who do will be well-positioned now, and in the future, when the age cliff allows more experienced Millennials to enjoy high-paying job positions.
However, another frequently ignored way in which Millennials are succeeding is in entrepreneurship. Whether it be creating an app or building an online business, many Millennials are changing the way they approach the workforce, carving out their own path to success.
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