Gen-Y: Social Media is More Important than a Job?

November 14, 2011
Gen Y would turn down a job in favor of social media access?

The 2011 World Technology Report (conducted by Cisco) contains some mind-boggling statistics on college students’ and recent graduates’ thoughts on social media and technology. Marketers will no doubt use this study as evidence in the corporate war against social media, but several statistics I’ve seen quoted around the web have got me worried.

Of over 2,800 college students and young professionals in 14 countries:

  • More than 2 of 5 would accept a lower-paying job that had more flexibility with regard to device choice, social media access, and mobility than a higher-paying job with less flexibility.
  • More than half of college students globally (56% of those surveyed) replied that if they encountered a company that banned access to social media, they would either not accept the job offer or would join and find a way to get around it anyway.

Does it strike anyone else as odd that over half the respondents surveyed said they would turn down a job offer if they couldn’t have access to social media at work? Who are these people?

Turns out, we don’t know — which makes drawing accurate conclusions tricky.

The problem with surveys

This study provides a great look into how young adults, technology, and work intersect, but there are some issues with it.

Sample size

There are approximately 7 billion people on the planet; a survey of less than 3,000 is too small to make any sweeping statements about the entire collegiate/young professional population.

College Sophomore Problem

Already a well-documented challenge in the field of psychology, the College Sophomore Problem is applicable here.

College students live in a relatively safe “bubble,” a community unlike that of the real world. Social media is accessible at all times, even in class, and things like rent, utilities, and meals come included in yearly tuition. Getting pushed into the “real world” of bills, shopping and cooking, and the 9-5 workday can be a shock, and alters your priorities.

Which mindset the respondents were in when they answered Cisco’s questions is going to affect their responses. Were they responding with their adult life and career in mind, or are they still in that “bubble” and were just miffed at the idea of not being able to get on Facebook or Twitter whenever they want?

Too many variables

Variables can call into question a study’s results — did Cisco take any of these into account?

  • Respondent’s job or career track - People who want to go into a field that requires social media are more likely to turn down a job that doesn’t allow it, than is someone who is waiting tables.
  • School respondent attended - Individuals who attend Ivy League universities are more likely to have more job offers, and can be more selective than someone who attended a two-year college or vocational school.
  • Respondent’s family assistance - Someone who is receiving financial assistance from parents (or may still be living at home) is more likely to turn down an “imperfect” job, than is someone who is living on his or her own and fully supporting him or herself.

What do you think?

It’s a good bet that the only way to get companies to change their social media policy is for no one to work for a company that bans it — but this study leaves far too many unanswered questions for me to say that the tide is turning in favor of social media in the workplace.

What do you think about Cisco’s survey? Is it evidence of social media’s irreplaceable importance, or are we getting ahead of ourselves?