Maybe the reason we're so bad at saving for retirement is that retirement seems so ridiculous today. The workplace no longer demands that we put off our hopes and dreams until we've worked 40 years. And baby boomers aren't exactly retiring in droves either, which makes younger people think that maybe they won't want to retire either.
This demographic shift in thinking about careers leads to a new way to think about retirement and dream jobs and team work. Young people think their parents - baby boomers - missed out on this phase. Baby boomers worked longer hours than any other generation and there's a nagging feeling that it wasn't all that necessary - that we can have engaging, rewarding careers without spending such a large percentage of our life at the office.
In fact, today there's an intense peer pressure among young people to find the fulfilling dream job right away. This younger generation watched their parents put off their dreams until they paid their dues only to find themselves laid off midcareer, or underfunded for retirement late in their career. So Generation Y is not waiting.
Andre Blackman typifies his generation when he writes on his blog, Antibio.tech, that, "If you work hard and keep pursuing your goals, things fall into place." He is, of course, talking about those first few years out of college. Then he describes his own dream job as not about money or prestige but about working with "cool" people who "really know their stuff."
The dream job for many people in the new workplace is a steep learning curve and freedom to contribute to the company in ways that are unique to oneself. Adam Copeland is an employee at Mirror Image, an Internet content delivery network based in Tewksbury. He has changed jobs within his company and he explains that the genesis of each move was the desire to increase his learning curve.
"I'm not even 30 yet," he says, "I wanted to try something different."
After a while, Copeland also found another way to create fulfilling work throughout a career rather than just at the end: Time for fun and travel. "I don't need a castle and a moat," he says, in a nod to the baby boomer tendency to work long hours for a huge home and put off enjoying it until later.
"I'd rather have something in the realm of time to travel," Copeland says. For Copeland, fulfillment is a lifestyle that balances interesting work and interesting breaks. And this balance gives rise to the type of job that is fulfilling for its ability to compromise on many levels to get the benefits of work and play right now, without waiting.
For others, a dream job is contributing to the community in a way that matters. It's impractical to wait until the end of one's career - to retire from work and then start doing good. If nothing else, it's a long time to wait to do good.
Sam Davidson wrote the Gen-Y bible on instigating change for a practical generation. You can talk all day long about big change with big results. But what Davidson points out in his book, "New Day Revolution," is that there are hundreds of smaller and probably easier steps we can take to make the world a better place. Davidson describes a lifestyle of micro change that can help you save the world.
Davidson focuses on a 24-hour period that most jobs can accommodate. Which means that any job can be a job that fulfills one's need to make a difference, because anyone can use Davidson's steps to "save the world in 24 hours."
For baby boomers, the workplace competition was about money - and the material things that represent one's earnings (after all, it's so uncouth to talk about it). But Generation Y sees the competition about fulfillment, and they are determined to get it.
In his post about his new dream job, Blackman writes, "And now if you will excuse me, I must break out into my secret victory dance one more time . . ."
But maybe the most important thing to remember is that you don't need a dream job to be happy. Your job cannot stand in for relationships and people who care about you. A good job facilitates those relationships and often that is the sole reason that a once-quirky job now suddenly becomes reasonable and stable.
Penelope Trunk is the author of Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success. Read her blog at blog.penelopetrunk.com.