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"These surveys usually leave me with more questions than answers," writes Marci Alboher, of Encore.org, an organization that helps older workers start second careers. "So in this case I'm wondering if older folks are wearing glasses more rose-tinted than younger people or if are they really feeling more inspired at work. After all, the idealism of youth seems like it would be tied to inspiration."
Alboher thinks some of the findings might be because, according to her organization's research, workers over 45 are more likely to choose jobs that focus on the "greater good." In fact, 9 percent of the workers she's surveyed changed to a more altruistic profession after the age of 40. It makes sense that people who work in fields that give back would be more inspired by their jobs.
Another factor that occurred to us is the persistent unemployment (and underemployment) among younger workers. It seems possible that Gen Y workers feel less agency in their careers in general, at the moment. If you're forced to take whatever work you can, it's hard to feel too inspired by it.
For workers of any age who wish they got more than just a paycheck out of their jobs, Alboher encourages them to look outside of themselves and their current jobs for new opportunities. One of her suggestions, for example, is to mentor someone: that allows workers to get a sense of satisfaction immediately, without making major changes -- and it still sets the stage for a career shift down the line, into a more rewarding field.
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