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The constant chase for grants, the heavy workload and the never-ending faculty politics exhausted Carol Westbrook and sent her looking for something else.
Instilled with a strong value for service, Adam Roth wants to spend his 9-to-5 time making a contribution to something larger than himself.
Jobs and careers are still a focus in American society, but more than salaries, more than getting the corner office, employees want work they enjoy.
The fit -- fitting into the work environment, fitting their work and non-work life into balance, fitting their personal beliefs with their career -- is becoming as important, and in some cases more so, as wages and benefits.
The shift in what workers want from their daily grind is most pronounced among employees younger than 30.
Anita Yoder encounters the generational shift every day in her job as director of career services at Goshen College.
The college-aged workers she sees grew up watching their parents downsized and laid off, so, in general, they have little loyalty to employers and are not willing to devote their entire lives to their jobs.
In a survey conducted by Michigan State University for the employment Web site Monster.com, researchers found 18- to 28-year-olds are more likely to job hop, or job surf, to find the position or even career that is best for them. These young adults are not tied to their paychecks and the financial security because many are confident if they cannot afford to live on their own, they can always go home and live with their parents.
"Students are looking for something that feels fulfilling to them," Yoder said. "Pay is not their primary concern."
After graduating from Goshen College two years ago, Roth joined Mennonite Voluntary Service, working as a carpenter in San Antonio, Texas, doing minor home repairs for low-income residents. He was not only taught the value of serving others but also experienced it when, as a boy, he lived in the Republic of Botswana in south-central Africa for four years while his parents worked with the Mennonite Church. The "life-changing experience" influences his career choices as an adult.
He applies to organizations that reflect his personal beliefs and looks for work that allows him to serve others. In the past, Roth said, he has worked for businesses that he did not believe in and the quality of his work suffered.
"It wasn't life-giving," he explained.
Today Roth is a fund gift officer at Goshen College. He views his job as a blessing because it enables him to build relationships and gain support for his alma mater, which has a mission he enjoys advocating.
"I wouldn't want to go to a job that I feel is work," Roth said. "I want a job that is fulfilling and that I enjoy going to."
How employers are adjusting to the attitudes of younger workers depends on the supply of applicants. Companies that are awash in résumés tell recruits take it or leave it, Yoder said, while firms that are struggling to fill open positions will be more accommodating. Some businesses will send letters home to the parents since they know many younger applicants will be talking about their career plans with their moms and dads.
At MapleTronics Computers in Goshen, the application process includes a questionnaire to determine if the recruit matches the mission, vision and values of the company. Generally the questions have no right or wrong answer but do provide insight into the personality as well as the work habits of each applicant.
"We look for people who have a real passion for customer service, a passion for people" said Beth Snow, a vice president of human resources. "We are very much a relationship-based company."
While employers are sizing up applicants, however, those applicants also are taking a close look at the employers. The atmosphere of the workplace, the management style and the co-workers are the things young adults examine when interviewing at a specific company, Yoder said. Workers of previous generations were just happy to get a job and put in long hours with little complaint, but the new generation is not willing to give 110 percent to their bosses.
To help retain its employees, MapleTronics offers training to keep skills and certifications current and allows flexible scheduling to meet family needs. The technology firm recently implemented a health and wellness program, in part to relieve stress and create a little fun around the office by awarding a traveling trophy and bragging rights every week to the team that makes the healthiest choices.
"People around here have so much energy since we started this," Snow said.
Westbrook renewed her energy by making a career change, resigning her position on the faculty at Boston University Medical Center and joining the Center for Cancer Care at Goshen Health System. Her requirements at the start of her job search were simple -- the medical oncologist just wanted the "absolute best place to work" and to be within 200 miles of Beverly Shores, where her husband of 10 years, Rick Rikoski, lives and works.
Returning to patient care after years of developing new cancer treatments in a laboratory, Westbrook, who earned her medical degree at the University of Chicago and held teaching posts at several universities, recounts her short tenure here by telling about patients who have pointed her to the best golf courses and the one patient who brought her a bluegill. The job appealed to her because she is part of an interdisciplinary team with which she can share ideas and she can get to know her patients.
"This is the only place I have ever worked in my entire life," Westbrook said, "that I would recommend to my family members for cancer care."
In addition to the approach to medicine taken at Goshen General Hospital, Westbrook was also attracted to her job by the Goshen community itself, which reminds her of the Chicago neighborhood of her youth. Although she misses having a major airport close by, as well as independent films and the bookstores she frequented in Cambridge, Mass., Westbrook is nearly overjoyed that she can find a parking space on the street in front of any local restaurant and not have to hunt for quarters to put in the meter.
Her transplant from a major metropolitan area to small-town Indiana has been successful with Westbrook finding the dark skies perfect for her hobby of astronomy and describing the ever-present train whistles as a "romantic sound." She even shrugs at locals who wish for big city retail stores like Trader Joe's or Whole Foods Market, saying there's no need because fresh seasonal produce is already here.
A company's mission and culture, along with the life of the surrounding community, are all part of the employment package. And despite differences among the generations of workers and the changes in the workplace, at the end of the day, employers and employees all want to echo Westbrook's assessment of her job: "I'm just having so much fun."
Contact Marilyn Odendahl at email@example.com.