10 Career Stats Every 20-Something Should Know About


Barna Group’s research reveals Millennials’ perspectives on the challenges they face as they join America’s workforce. 20 and Something, written by David H. Kim, executive director of the Center for Faith and Work in New York City, unpacks Barna’s vast data on Millennials and work, calling, faith, and career. Kim offers insight for churches and businesses on how to understand and relate to twenty-somethings as they emerge into adulthood. Based on Kim’s book, I’ve distilled top ten career stats every 20-something should know about.

1. Only four in 10 twenty-somethings would say they need their college degree for their current job (42%) or that it’s related to the work they’re doing (40%), and the same number wish they’d chosen a different major altogether. In the end, just under half of Millennials (47%) would strongly agree their degree was worth the cost and time.


2. The degree-to-job disparity seems to bother parents most of all. While only about one-third of Millennials believe universities “have my best interests at heart,” that’s nearly twice as many as Gen-Xers (15%) and four times as many as Boomers (8%). Considering most Millennials remain optimistic about someday achieving that “dream job”—52% believe it’s within reach in the next five years—they seem to believe the degree will pay off at some point.

3. The current economic climate poses great challenges for job-hunting twenty-somethings. The unemployment rate of 18- to 31-year-olds in 2012 was 13%. Even those young adults who are college educated are struggling to find employment; the rate of unemployment of twenty-somethings who hold a BA degree or higher jumped from 7.7% in 2007 to 13.3% in just five years. 

4. Yet in spite of the bleak economic landscape, Millennials remain optimistic about their future prospects. In addition to the majority who believe they’ll get their dream job, nine in 10 Millennials (88%) believe they currently have enough money or will eventually meet their long-term financial goals. Even among the unemployed and financially strapped, 75% believe they will someday have enough money. They are more optimistic about their economic future than older generations. While 55% of Americans over fifty-five believe young people will have a worse life than their parents, fewer than half of Millennials agree. 


5. One of the reasons Millennials are so resilient in the face of a tough job environment is that many of them refuse to be defined and confined by their job choices or lack thereof. In fact, only 31% would say career is central to their identity—listing it lower than any other factor except technology.

6. When it comes to work and career, more than anything this generation wants to be inspired. Finding a job they are passionate about is the career priority Millennials ranked highest (42%). They don’t want a job merely for the sake of a paycheck, and they are willing to wait to find the right job. Some may interpret this willingness to wait as a sign of courage, while others may view it as colossal irresponsibility. Having grown up in an era where parents and teachers were constantly telling them they could “be whatever you want to be,” many Millennials see this decision as their prerogative, even if it means having to live off unemployment benefits or parental assistance. 

7. This elevation of job fulfillment over security has led to an increase in job-hopping among young adults. Statistics show Millennials just assume they will have multiple career changes. Gone are the days when an entry-level employee could expect to remain with one employer throughout his or her career. While the average worker today remains at his or her job for 4.4 years, Millennials generally expect to remain at a job for less than three.

8. Technological advances have played an important role in nurturing the entrepreneurial mind-set of this twentysomething generation. It has never been easier for a would-be entrepreneur to access information and obtain funding for budding projects. Crowd-sourcing sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have helped to cultivate an entrepreneurial culture among young adults around the world.  Success stories like Google and Facebook serve as inspirational fodder for twentysomethings who are hungry for success as they define it. For Millennials, the entrepreneurial lifestyle celebrates everything they have come to want in their work lives: self-drive, creativity and an opportunity to use their jobs to make an impact on issues and causes they care about. According to our FRAMES research, Millennials rate working for themselves as an important career priority—higher than any other generation. Young adults want to make their own hours, come to work in their jeans and flip-flops, and save the world while they’re at it. 

9. Even the risk associated with entrepreneurialism is a value for Millennials, nearly one-third of whom prioritize the freedom to take risks in their work as important to them (32%), compared to an average of 25% among all generations. This risk, however, doesn’t come without angst. There are the associated fears of making the wrong career choice, disappointing parents and those closest to them. Nearly half of Millennials (45%) feel judged by older adults for their life choices. 

10. For Christian twentysomethings, there’s the added dimension of wondering what God thinks of their choices and if their decisions are part of God’s will for them. Yet, with all these concerns, these young adults are pioneering the reinvention of many concepts, including the concept of career. They are paving a new way of approaching work, holding out for a work-life mix that integrates how they play and work.