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While Gen Y holds different workplace expectations than Boomers, they are willing to work twice as hard to fuse their passions with a career
In mid-January, while most college students returned to their dorms to begin another semester of classes, Michael Martinez embarked on a learning experience of a different sort. Deciding he needed a change of scenery, with a $100 Greyhound bus ticket in hand, a bag of clothes, and an Xbox, the then- 20-year-old left Laredo, Texas for San Francisco, Calif. Only 15 credit hours away from a bachelor's degree in public relations, his decision to leave everything for a new career placed him closer to his true calling than school ever did.

If somebody told Martinez five years ago he'd drop out of college and move to another state to pursue photography with $20 in hand, he wouldn't have believed it. "I always thought my fate was to go to school," Martinez says. He graduated from high school a year early and took AP classes and college courses at Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) during the summer. But somewhere along the way, his interest in public relations, and school in general, took a different direction.

"I started to feel like school was bullshit," Martinez says. "I started seeing it as nothing but a sort of social club." Despite his angst, he took interest in photography, inspired by a class he took while at TAMIU. He enjoyed the class but found it absurd to sit in a classroom and hear someone else's opinion on the subject. He believed it was better to go out and learn, finding things out on his own. That's when he decided to pack up and try his hand at photography at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, a move that could classify him as ballsy, or just plain crazy.

Martinez's desire to fulfill his passion on a whim resonates with fellow 20-somethings. The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development reveals those in Generation Y, or millennials (the 79.8 million people born between 1977 and 1995), are likely to make five to eight major career changes throughout their lives. Also, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, roughly half-a-million Americans under 25 are self-employed.

Generation Y's willingness to pursue its passions, or dream job, creates a conflict in the workplace. Jean Twenge, a psychologist at San Diego State University and the author of Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled—and More Miserable Than Ever Before, suggests that young people who grew up with the ‘you-can-do-anything-you-set-your-mind-to' attitude may have problems with workplace relationships, namely strict management and tedious workdays. Most millennials' managers are baby boomers who have more of a "cradle-to-grave" mindset, which may explain why they characterize their younger counterparts as impatient, needy, arrogant, and instant gratification seekers. For Generation Y, that conflict creates dissatisfaction. "There's disappointment," Twenge says. "Also, young workers, when they're faced with a job that disappoints them, will simply leave."

But leaving a job does take a certain measure of planning and consideration, or access to parental housing. Ryan Healy, a 23-year-old working at a Fortune 500 company, aspires to entrepreneurship. In 2007, he told Business Week that Generation Y-ers have the luxury of staying with their parents until they get a stable job, which affords them more choices when it comes to where they decide to work. Because boomers grew up in the 50s and 60s with much more rigid cultural expectations and distant parent-child relationships, they try to counteract it by keeping close with their children, making it easier for Generation Y-ers to return to the nest. And if unhappy in their current job, the members of Generation Y find it easier than their parents to quit and find a career that really makes them happy.

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