Facebook Profiles Show Generation Y Career Trends

January 10, 2012

Facebook friend requestWant insight into the professional lives of Generation Y? Check out their Facebook profiles, which, a recent study found, provide plenty of information about their work trends and priorities.

A new survey by Millennial Branding found that Gen-Y--young adults aged 18 to 29--friend an average of 16 co-workers via Facebook. Not only does this indicate a potential blur between young workers' professional and personal personas, but it can also prove problematic for their career potential.

"Gen-Y needs to be aware that what they publish online can come back to haunt them in the workplace," says Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding. "Gen-Y managers and co-workers have insight into their social lives, which could create an awkward workplace setting or even result in a termination."

As Life Inc. pointed out, Generation Y is much more likely to include foul language or lewd photos on their Facebook walls than older workers because, Schewbel notes, they started using Facebook in college before it was open to the world.

"Their intentions are good, but they don't know the ramifications because we've never had to deal with this before," Schewbel said.

All of this can spell big trouble for young workers whose digital footprints are increasingly monitored by employers. In fact, according to a soon-to-be-published poll by the Society for Human Resource Management, 39 percent of employers monitor employees' social media activities, and many of them report taking disciplinary action against those who violated company social media policies within the last year.

"If you friend your boss on Facebook, and then complain about them or share something too personal, they might lose trust in you, not take you seriously and potentially replace you," said Schawbel to CBS MoneyWatch. According to Life Inc., anyone can legally be fired for their social media activities, barring those who are ranting about work conditions, covered by labor union contracts or working for the government.

Perhaps one reason Gen-Yers shrug off the professional risks Facebook poses is because, according to The Examiner, they may not hold their employers in particularly high regard. According to the survey, only 36 percent of Gen-Y Facebookers list their employers in their profiles; 80 percent, on the other hand, listed their schools. The economy may partly explain the disparity: Generation Y is still struggling to find employment despite being the most educated generation in history.

Another potential explanation for why young workers do not better safeguard their online personalities is that they do not consider their relationships with their employers to be long-term to begin with. According to the survey, Gen-Y tends to career hop, sticking with employers for about two years before moving on.

Other interesting trends that the survey revealed include: only 7 percent of Gen-Yers work for Fortune 500 companies despite the fact that they will account for 75 percent of the workforce by 2025; "owner" is the fifth most popular Gen-Y job title, a sign that this is the most entrepreneurial generation yet; travel and hospitality industry hires the most Gen-Y workers; and the U.S. military is Gen-Y's largest employer, followed by Wal-Mart and Starbucks.

Compiled by Aimee Hosler


"Facebook: 5 people Never to Friend From Work," cbsnews.com, January 9, 2012, Amy Levin-Epstein

"Facebook Profiles Reveal Gen Y Work Trends," examiner.com, January 9, 2012, Sharalyn Hartwell

"Generation Y's career Facebook fumble," lifeinc.today.msnbc.msn.com, January 9, 2012, Eve Tahmincioglu

"Millennial Branding Survey Reveals that Geny-Y is Connected to an Average of 16 Co-Workers on Facebook," personalbranding.com, January 9, 2012

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