Americans spend an average of 8.8 hours a day on work or work related activities – the largest chunk of time spent on any activity while we’re awake. Work is the structure around which we build the rest of our day, and we all want similar things from the experience of work regardless of our generation.
Jean Twenge, a psychologist and author at San Diego State University, reviewed data collected from high school students in 1976, 1991, and 2006 with the assumption that some of the purported generational differences were due to a lack of methodological rigor. Ask a Boomer, a Generation Xer, and a Millennial what they value most in work and of course they give different answers. They’re different ages. But when comparing the answers each generation provided when they were same age, Twenge found we’re not all that different. All three generations first want work that is interesting, challenging, and will present opportunities to learn (intrinsic value); followed by a job that offers status, room for promotion, and good pay (extrinsic); and work that gives us an opportunity to contribute to society (altruistic).
When we think about fulfillment we often think of it as a destination. We’ll get there, sit back to examine our success, and be done, though this is contradictory to what we report we value most. If we really wanted to get there and be done, we would value the extrinsic more than intrinsic. Fulfillment is not a predetermined endpoint. Fulfillment requires change.