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Are Millennials a Match for Public Service?

Generation Y, also known as the Millennial generation, is comprised of about 80 million U.S. citizens who are becoming of age just before or after the millennial.  Generation Y people tend to follow several definitional characteristics, but at a high level they are known as much for their tech savviness as they are for their belief that employers should adjust the organization’s culture to align to their values and personal lives.  In other words, unlike the baby boomers before them who tended to make careers and job loyalty high priorities, Millennials very much expect to have a healthy balance of work and home life.  If these needs aren’t met, Millennials tend to become dissatisfied and will often leave their current place of employment is search of balance and change.

I’m a baby-boomer parent to two very spirited Gen Y daughters, and as anyone with teens can attest, debates around the dinner table can be lively.  In a recent discussion with our college-age sophomore, I was informed she and many of her friends are keenly interested in public service, and she predicted a disproportionate uptick in Milliennial hiring in the next decade compared to the wide swath of more experienced workers in the market.  She used her cousin, Caroline, as an example, since Caroline just landed a job on Capitol Hill right out of college.

Given the prediction that 40 percent to half of the current baby boomer public sector workforce is due to retire in the next decade, I found our daughter’s proclamation to be admirable.  I also decided to test her theory by paying closer attention to the people I’m seeing in public sector circles.  What I’ve found is our daughter’s prediction is credible.  As I’ve started to work and interact more with younger public sector workers, I have to admit I’ve been extremely impressed with the ideas and outputs they are driving.  I also believe the Millinneals possess a genuine desire to serve and to serve well.  They’re highly educated, they’re creative, and they’re innovative.  However, in their quest to lead strong public service missions, I do worry whether the Millinneals will hang tight and be the generation that abolishes  government inefficiencies and bureaucracy -or- whether they’ll succumb to the frustrations and take their talents somewhere else.  I for one hope they give public service a chance.


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