Older and Younger Workers Seek Different Tech Jobs
If you’ve ever had the feeling that everyone else at your job is younger than you, you may not be wrong. Millennials are now the largest generation in the US labor force. And the tech sector holds a special attraction for them; previous Indeed Hiring Lab research has shown that younger job seekers are more interested than their older counterparts in tech jobs. Both older and younger workers make valuable contributions in tech, but differences in experience and training mean they may offer different skill sets.
We can discern the tech roles that most distinguish younger and older tech workers—and the skills these roles require—by examining Indeed job seeker activity and the content of the most-clicked tech postings. While much of the discussion around tech revolves around younger workers, our research shows that older tech workers stand out because of the important managerial experience they provide.
For this analysis, we draw the line between younger and older workers at age 40, near the cutoff between Millennials and Generation X, and also when workers begin to receive government protections based on their age.
What jobs do younger workers seek more than older workers?
First, we identified the roles that are most distinct to each age group, or in other words, which job postings each age cohort clicks at a higher rate compared with the overall population. That’s not to say that younger and older workers are interested only in these jobs, but rather that these are the occupations each age cohort is more likely to seek.
The job titles distinct to younger tech workers are primarily high-skilled engineering and developer roles, which cover many specialties in software engineering. Java developer tops the list, but two other notable jobs fall within the top three: Machine learning engineer and data scientist are jobs that have recently risen in the ranks, so it’s understandable that younger workers are more keen on them.
Many of the roles most distinct to older workers require years of experience, managerial responsibility or both. Absent from the list for those older than 40 are any jobs that feature significant programming or code writing responsibility. It is also worth noting that a few of the titles distinct to older workers fall within the realm of information technology, a preference not shared with younger workers.
Just as there are observable differences in the tech roles distinct to each age cohort, there are also areas where preferences overlap. These are job titles that not only get similar interest levels from each age cohort but also rank high on both groups’ list of most-clicked occupations. These include higher-skilled jobs such as software engineer, business analyst, and data analyst, as well as some lower-skilled roles such as technical support, help desk analyst and IT support. All these jobs have a high posting volume and plenty of opportunity for tech job seekers of all ages.
Bringing different skills to the table
The chart below highlights the skills most likely to be associated with the job titles distinct to each age cohort. The skill set differences between the cohorts are clear. The top skills in postings favored by the younger group consist almost entirely of programming languages, tools or libraries. In fact, nearly all programming languages are more likely to appear in postings distinct to the younger cohort.
Another stark difference is that managerial tasks are more likely to appear on the older cohort’s skills list. Three of their most distinct skills–budgeting, coaching and employee orientation–are not specific to tech, but rather reflect responsibilities common in more senior leadership roles in many sectors and tend to be filled by older workers. Recruiting, which appears further down on the list, is another managerial task often associated with the roles distinct to the older cohort.
This analysis provides a glimpse into how the roles of younger tech workers differ from those of older tech workers. It also suggests how younger workers’ skill sets will change as they age. As older workers leave the labor force, younger tech workers will need to adapt their skills to step into the more senior leadership occupations left vacant. This will make room for the generation after Millennials. It will be fascinating to see what skill sets this emerging generation will bring to the labor force and what valuable contributions they will make to the tech world.
This analysis is based on job seeker click activity during the first quarter of 2018, using a job title list we previously determined to be in tech. We identified the most distinct tech job titles for the two age cohorts by first calculating the share of each cohort’s total clicks that went to specific job titles. We then compared those shares with the shares of the overall population’s clicks that went to those titles. For each age group, those tech job titles that received a higher click share than the share among the total population were deemed distinct to that age cohort. To determine the skills most closely associated with job titles distinct to each age cohort, we identified the skills that appear most often in the job descriptions of those job postings.
Daniel Culbertson is an Outreach Economist at the Indeed Hiring Lab with a focus on the US labor market. Daniel previously specialized in regional analysis and forecasting as an economist with Moody’s Analytics and holds a M.A. in economics from the University of Delaware.