Search the site

Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


Young Employees Get a Slow Start on a Career…and What It Means

As students graduate from high school or college—they’re getting a later start in their career. In response, moms and dads are welcoming their kids back home, to help them experience a safe haven as they seek out a steady income. Many find jobs, but they don’t actually start careers—until eight years later. This has far-reaching impact on these young workers.

Young Employees Get a Slow Start on a Career

Recent research from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce reported in The Wall Street Journal shows that Gen Y workers are 30 years old, on average, before they hit median earnings of $42,000 per year. The study examined data from 1980 to 2012, and found that only a third of adults in their early 20s work full-time. By their late 20s, that figure rises to about half. Labor force participation among younger workers is at its lowest point in 40 years, the study finds. The recession, combined with trends toward Americans working longer into what used to be the retirement years and jobs that require advanced skills, have created an environment in which younger workers start their careers later.

What This Means to Young Adults

According to economists, the impact of this late start is tangible:

  1. Generation Y workers will lose a minimum of 3 percent in lifetime earnings.
  2. These workers who were assured great careers may fight disillusionment.
  3. They are not ready to move away from home for six to ten years after school.
  4. A bit gun shy, they may be less apt to take risks or venture out.

“The combination of structural change plus this particular recession has been devastating for Millennials,” study co-author Anthony Carnevale said. “It has really knocked them back, and some of these losses are permanent.”

Steps We Can Take

  1. Communicate that tough times don’t last but tough people do. Help them keep their emotions and attitude healthy.
  2. Broaden their perspective, helping them see opportunities beyond the realm they first expected to be employed. Help them go where the need is.
  3. Work with them on the two most valuable assets they can build:
    1. Resilience – The ability to bounce back from a setback.
    2. Resourcefulness – The ability to create something useful from small, seemingly useless items. To see opportunity even in obstacles.

Let’s commit ourselves to inspire resilience, resourcefulness and hope in the young adults we know. Remember—they are our future.


Free eBook: Managing the Toughest Generation

Managing the Toughest Generation


  1. charlene.fonseca on November 19, 2013 at 8:16 am

    Having a 25-year old who is in this bracket, I am interested in reading Managing the Toughest Generation, but only after I’ve completed Artificial Maturity–which is a confirming read.

    • Tim Elmore on November 26, 2013 at 2:52 pm

      Great plan, Charlene! Thank you for helping lead this next generation!

  2. Charles McNeil on November 20, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    If most joined an apprentice type of program to start their careers at 25 they would be brining home 60 to 65000 a year, and have a trade and a degree. Apprenticeship is the new four year degree

    • Tim Elmore on November 26, 2013 at 2:51 pm

      Thanks Charles for the insight! I am seeing studies that are confirming that.

Leave a Comment

Young Employees Get a Slow Start on a Career…and What It Means