Early this summer, Joshua Pelton decided that he was meant to live in Orlando, Florida. So he quit his sales job in Detroit, packed his car with all the belongings that fit, put the rest in storage, and drove southeast daydreaming about sundrenched winters and packed nightclubs.
"I didn't have much of a plan, but I knew I wanted to be here," said Pelton, 24, who, in his emphasis on where he lives rather than what he does there, is typical of his generation.
Time was when applying for a first job meant papering the country with resumes and migrating wherever the best offer might lead. But this latest generation of graduates has already shown itself to be a peripatetic bunch -- traveling more widely and moving farther from home for college.
Add to that the emphasis that Gen Y puts on quality of life -- perhaps more than any group that has come before -- and it would follow that Gen Y looks for work differently, too.
"To our generation, it doesn't make sense to have a great job in a crummy city," said Mark Van Dyke, 25, describing his decision to move three years ago from the suburbs of Chicago to Bellingham, Washington, where he worked low-paying retail jobs before switching to marketing at Logos Bible Software.
It was all worth it, he said, because his new hometown is "on the Pacific Ocean but driving distance from snowboarding on Mount Baker."
Sixty-five percent of 1,000 respondents aged 24 to 35 who were asked by the Segmentation Co, a division of the marketing consultant Yankelovich, said they preferred to "look for a job in the place that I would like to live," rather than "look for the best job I can find, the place where it is located is secondary."
They also told researchers that places must be safe, clean and green. The most-cited quality was tidiness and attractiveness (78 percent) followed by "will allow me to lead the life I want to lead" (77 percent).
Urban leaders are increasingly courting young workers, because as baby boomers retire, Gen Y will have to fill the gap. Across the country, cities are scrambling to become a place that recent grads want to be.
In the last decade only 14 urban areas nationwide saw more of these workers move in than move out: Las Vegas; Austin, Texas; Phoenix; Atlanta; Raleigh-Durham and Charlotte, North Carolina; Salt Lake City; Portland, Oregon: Denver; Orlando; Nashville, Tennessee; Dallas-Fort Worth; Miami-Fort Lauderdale; and Greensboro-Winston Salem, North Carolina.
So -- how to join that list?
"That's the question all our members are asking," said Carol Coletta, the president and chief executive of CEOs for Cities, a Chicago-based association of urban leaders.
Her group financed the Yankelovich study, titled "Attracting College-Educated Young Adults to Cities." Its advice? Spread the word that you are, in the words of the report, "clean, safe and green." Those qualities won't seal the deal, but without them, this age group won't even look.
This philosophy is leading cities to market themselves aggressively to young workers. Orlando, for instance, paid for its own investigation to find out what they want. The results convinced the city council to authorize US$1.1 billion in July to build an arts center, an event center and to upgrade a sports arena.
Boston's mayor set up a task force to poll young adults about their needs, and intends to have their answers inform his development plan.