The New Mercenary

I’ve been noticing a new tread in the attitudes with the younger people I work with which mirrors my own.  I notice we have a new generation of mercenary employees.  They are out there for themselves and don’t have much loyalty to their companies.  Yet what is truly different about this group from previous mercenaries is they are not out there for the highest bidder of salary, but rather who has the best benefit package.

Perhaps in a backlash to watching many of our parents do years of unpaid overtime that never seemed to get compensated properly for.  We now have a group of people determined to keep a home life in the face of the job.  No more 60+ hour weeks, 24-hour cell phone answering or being abused by bosses.  We have put our families first and we don’t have a problem leaving a job if we find a better offer of benefits or if we feel abused.

Salary is important to be base degree, but after that is all about the benefits.  I don’t want a $5,000/year raise, I’ll take a extra week in vacation instead.  We question: Do you offer any other non-taxable benefits?  Overtime is only granted if a promise is made of time off later to compensate it.  We have done the math and realized being paid out overtime is a bad idea.  You lose too much to taxes when all you really want is that time back with your family.  Flextime is required and you better be able to use your sick time to look after your sick kids.

So how has the come about?  I believe the younger generation knows the baby boomer are retiring and despite all the changes to allow the older generation to work later companies suspect they are still going to be short bodies to do the work (in some cases they already are short bodies).  So a company could try to overload their existing employees, but that isn’t working.  We walk instead.  We know our skill sets are in demand in the market and we are not afraid to shop around to get the best deal for us.   So hence the new mercenary.

The above opinion is based solely on my own conversations with people under 30, but I’m curious to here other stories like these.  Are you a new mercenary? If so, what’s your story?

This post is now part of the 139th Carnival of Personal Finance.

12 thoughts on “The New Mercenary”

  1. Interesting perspective. I’m in roughly the same age group (30), and share some of your views, however I’d argue that it came from the companies’ attitude first. I don’t think my parents generation worked hard for nothing, I think they were the ones who worked hard and were guaranteed a 30 year job and a pension when they retired. My current and prior companies guaranteed nothing but what the minimum labour laws stipulate, so why should I do anything more for them?

    I don’t want to sound like a jerk, but people in the 20-30 age range have never really seen a recession in their working lives. When something like the early 80s hits again, their skills suddenly won’t be in demand, and it might be a rude wakeup call.

    In regards to salary, if I was making $25k I’d take an extra $5k in a heartbeat. Where I am now, I’d take the vacation, although I can’t complain because I’m already at 4 weeks.

  2. Warren: I’m with the OP on this one. I’m in an office of engineers that are all on the other side of 45 and I’m the only person under 30 (27). Something tells me there will be a major shortage of talent coming up shortly as the Boomers start collecting their retirement funds and taking it easy, so while it’s might dry up for a short spell, I can’t see it lasting for any kind of long period.

  3. I am in my mid- 30’s and work with “grey hairs” and “young bucks”, part of the issue is that most people under 30 have grown up in the internet age where if you don’t get things in 4 seconds, its too long to wait so there tends to be the same attitude about work; if I don’t become a manager within a year, its not worth putting in the hours. This is why there’s a shortage in professions where you have to train for years to get a designation (my accountant friend tells me everyone wants to be an i-banker now and not an accountant- it takes too long to become one).

    Having said that, the employers brought this on themselves with outsourcing, down-sizing and treating employees like a number you move around on a spread-sheet. If you are going to move capital around without remorse then prepare for your employees to do the same with their loyalty.

  4. Employers are just starting to wake up realize that they are about to lose a very large chunk of there work force, hardest hit will be the skilled trades that pay a decent living but could never be CEO.

    My Wife was downsided 4 times in her early carear and it made it very very clear that you are only a number to the company. She still shocks people when she has no loyalty to the company. It’s a smart move on those youing people.

  5. I’ve retired (early). I saw more than my share of downsizing, rightsizing, outsourcing, etc.

    Most of the CEO’s for whom I worked (indirectly) lasted less than 18 months, turned the companies upside down trying to make next quarters numbers and grabbed a fat severance when they left or were turfed.

    The chickens are coming home to roost.

    However, it all reminds me of my relatively newly planted front lawn. It was planted on sand, looked good when first planted, but will need major work to keep it green next summer and will likely have to be ripped out and restarted within a few years.

    I see lots of companies which will be faced with similar challenges because management and staff are both looking out just for themselves and aren’t willing or able to build he foundation for growth.

  6. I fit the mercenary role. Many of my friends are too. We are the work to live generation, not the live to work ideal of our parents. Loyality can not be expected as past events have shown that companies are not loyal to you. Jobs are plentiful but you must be portable and adaptabile. I have changed “careers” three times and I am only 33. I have chosen my family over my job and my employer knows it. They give me 5 weeks vacation, flextime, awesome benefits and exceptional salary plus no pressure to move up the ladder. In return, I make them money and ensure that the customer comes back.

  7. Your second paragraph reminded me that I read a long, impassioned blog post recently that posited that the reason women are the large majority in medical/professional college programs and men are in the large majority of startups is because men don’t want to turn into their corporately miserable dads. Dunno about that, now, but it was an interesting post. My experience as a child growing up in permanent-recession 1980s and early-1990s Ireland was always that job security is a myth, so I may differ from Canucks in that regard.

    I’ve been pondering whether even to type this, but: I work in a field which in N.America is dominated by expats (I’m a chartered quantity surveyor) and what I’ve found everywhere I’ve worked is that there’s a big split in the ranks. With the “Anglosphere” immigrants valuing vacation, flexibility, benefits, etc and always aware of other opportunities on the horizon and the “Eastern” immigrants aspiring to be lifers and valuing bonuses and salaries most. It makes it very difficult to stand as a group with our boomer bosses, or for me to report back that my staffers “All want” X. But it takes all sorts, eh?

  8. Interesting that this is the trend in the under 30’s, because in my field of forestry I am not seeing it in the corporate culture or in the positions those in my age range (mid-30’s) are taking on. One of the reasons I work for myself is the flexibility in working hours, and the ability to take on enough work so I can say no to overtime, and can work a 35 hour work week if I want to (for the most part). I bring in a more modest salary than some of my colleagues in order to build my business and to allow me flexibility, but most of them are not being paid for overtime and working 50-60 hour work weeks. I have benefits because I pay into an extended health care plan. To be honest though in my field the trend has not yet reversed and I honestly think that people are working more for less than they did 10 years ago. I am happy to hear that this is not the case in other professions and it may eventually trickle down!

  9. I definitely fit in this category of people. I’m 26 and have worked at 6 different companies in the last 8 years.

    The problem is not one caused by a lack of commitment, but the lack of having a personal life. Every company I have worked at has always enforced a 40hour work-week with overtime AND being on-call evenings & weekends. Sooner or later it catches up to you and makes you resent working for corporations.

    I’ve opted to be self-employed even though there is much less money to be made. If companies want to keep their staff for years, they have to offer incentives that actually interest us, like flextime, more vacation, and no overtime.

    My parents are the perfect example of people who dedicated their lives to their companies only to be hit by downsizing and layoffs. It’s frustrating growing up seeing the pain they go through after all the effort they placed in their jobs.

    So yes we’ve chosen to take another path. Call it whatever you want, New Mercenary, Millenials, etc… it’s obvious things need to change. I personally would be extremely happy to work part-time doing the skilled work i’ve studied for, even if it brings only half the salary, I could use the free time to work on other personal business projects or doing more “fun” things such as snowboard instructor, bartending, or being with my family.

    We’ve learned that we can only rely on ourselves to ensure a proper pension/retirement fund.

  10. Warren,

    It’s a bit of personal decision to take the vacation versus the cash, but it really depends where you are on the pay range. An extra $5/K when you are higher up is a smaller amount % wise.

    I wasn’t saying everyone is like this, but a lot of people I have met are putting their personal lives first.

    Alex W.

    O good it isn’t just my rough sample of people I have talked to. Best of luck.



    He/she (the company) that does NOT SHOW LOYALTY WILL NOT GET LOYALTY!

    Want loyalty. GET A DOG!


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