This is the most 'millennial' career move

Millennials pick work culture over pay
Millennials pick work culture over pay

About half of millennials — twice the proportion of older workers — plan to change jobs within the next two years, according to the results of a study from Fidelity.

Their reasoning seems to reflect their age and, perhaps, shifting values — rather than unhappiness: 86 percent of the young people surveyed said they are content with their current workplace, a proportion in line with those of Baby Boomers and Gen Xers.

What attracts millennials to a workplace? It's not the salary or the benefits, but the "quality of work life" being offered, the report suggests. That includes meaningful projects, promotion opportunities, and positive company culture, said Fidelity senior vice president Kristen Robinson.

In fact, more than other age group, 38 percent of young people surveyed said they would take a pay cut for a happier office life, the study found. The average salary cut they'd be willing to take was $7,600.

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There is anecdotal evidence of this trend, as well, said Bonnie Zaben, COO of recruitment firm AC Lion.

In their applications, young people seeking work at her company have actually cited the imagery of "happy-looking" employees in AC Lion's job listings, said Zaben.

"Recent college graduates are worried about company culture and work environment," she said. "It was interesting to see how that resonated with many millennial applicants, who articulated that just in the cover letter."

But workplace happiness is not just a millennial concern: Baby Boomers increasingly have the same feelings, said Larry Luxenberg, a New York-based financial planner.

"My contemporaries are stepping off the fast track," he said. In other words, they're taking jobs that are more meaningful to them.

There were also some differences in what male and female millennials said they valued in a workplace. More young women placed emphasis on the importance of a workplace retirement plan, which makes some sense — women live longer and earn less on average, which means less security when they retire.

The online study surveyed 1,500 people aged 25 through 70 who work full-time. It defined millennials as participants born between 1981 and 1991. But it's not a good idea to put all millennials in the same bucket, said Zaben.

"I would differentiate between the 25- and 35-year-olds," she said. "Most of those 25-year-olds aren't thinking career and family and work-life balance."

Zaben attributes the trend of job hopping not to laziness or greed, but to the fact that younger people are in a period of transition. "Most aren't ready for desk jobs," she said.

Changing jobs is also a key way millennials — a generation plagued by student debt — can pay off loans faster. Switching companies is one of the best ways to boost one's salary.

Luxenberg said he thinks job hopping is more common among young people partly because the Great Recession led to pessimism about the ease of climbing the corporate ladder. But he said he thinks this cynicism will wear off as "the recovery unfolds."

During the job hunt, millennials should prioritize more than simply finding a positive work environment, said Fidelity's Robinson: If they change cities for a position, that comes with other considerations.

"Millennials are on the move," she said. "They need to understand the tax implications [and] overall cost of living."

With tax season in full swing, millennials would do well to keep in mind that moving for a job is a tax-deductible expense.