The biographical trajectories of contemporary individuals have become more variable than several decades ago. This is proven by research. The traditional model of a life journey – school, post-secondary education, job, family, pension – long ago ceased to be universal. While during the Soviet era it was considered normal to work in one organization for one’s entire life, today it is an exception. A person today is ready to change employers many times depending on personal needs and aspirations.
The results of the CYS’s project demonstrate which meanings young people today attribute to the concepts of ‘labour’ and ‘consumption’, as well as what is important in work for various groups of professionals employed in business or public service, as well as those who are self-employed.
The project was carried out in two stages. First, the researchers carried out a repeated analysis of the data collected by CYS in various years as part of previous studies, which included surveys conducted among young people living in St. Petersburg and cities along the Volga. In-depth interviews with residents of St. Petersburg were carried out on the second stage. The researchers split the respondents into two age groups: 20-25 and 30-35. Thirty interviews were conducted in each group. The sample represents equal shares of men and women.
The repeated data analysis revealed that professional fulfilment is a considerable part of life plans among today’s young people. ‘Key measures of young people’s lifestyle strategies on the labour market are their mobility, flexibility, readiness to risk, the level of freedom in decision-making, institutional inclusiveness, work schedule, individual responsibility and personal skills’ development’, the researchers said.
At the same time, professional success as part of the concept of an ideal future regulates another important aim for the youth, which is creating a family and having children. In addition to mutual feelings, young people mention such important conditions for marriage as high and sustainable income by both partners.
Analysis of the in-depth interviews helps in understanding what success means for young people in the context of labour and consumption. The study described how respondents understand success in various dimensions, including social success and personal success. The question about success was worded as follows: ‘What does it mean to be successful in our society, in your view? And what does it mean to be successful for you personally? What would you like to achieve? And what have you already achieved?’
Most respondents, both men and women, stated that success lies in the framework of popular stereotypes. ‘It includes money, wealth and other markers of lifestyle and social capital’, the authors explain. But personal success was understood in different ways and most often was radically different from the normative examples. According to the study, the core of personal success is interesting work and the opportunity for self-realization.
This is what employers should take into account in the recruitment process. ‘Young people’s expectations from work are the following: “Work should be interesting/not boring, well paid, be meaningful and leave a certain level of freedom”’, the study indicated. Today’s young people, the researchers say, learn to stand up for their rights early, and if they are not satisfied with something in their work, they leave it easily. According to the results of the study, by age 30 many young people have changed both their employers and field of work many times.
The researchers revealed differences between younger and elder generations of youth in the context of labour, as well as what is important for employees in various spheres, such as the public sphere, business and self-employment.
With regard to age, the main conclusion is that ‘people from the younger group are still under stress after entering the labour market, while people over 30 are somehow summarizing their experiences and at the peak of solving problems in life, such as parenting and housing arrangements’. ‘At the same time, the attitudes toward labour among both generations are largely similar: the search for interesting jobs and money determines their professional trajectories, and the career/life planning horizon rarely exceeds 3 to 5 years’, commented Yana Krupets, Deputy Director of CYS.
The researchers found out that the opportunity to realize their education defines their field of employment. Young people who are motivated to work in their field of service choose public sphere, the experts said. Those who are self-employed and who work in large- and medium-sized businesses do not believe that education is so important for the profession.
The authors also concluded that employees in the public sphere and private companies often prefer to contact friends, family and formal ways in their job search, while self-employed people mostly use weak social connections, such as casual acquaintances and clients. Self-employed people mostly ‘live in the present’, while professionals in the public sphere choose a ‘future-oriented’ career.
In general, the researchers note that young employees of Generation Y (born in 1980s and 1990s) vary, but they have similar features: they value freedom, satisfaction, passion, status, stability, and money. ‘Employers are recommended to provide at least one of these conditions in jobs; then young people are ready to compromise and look for satisfaction of their other needs outside of work, for example, in hobbies’, the authors commented.
*The project was led by Elena Omelchenko, Doctor of Sociological Sciences and Director of CYS.