BUSINESS
04/28/2013 06:31 pm ET | Updated Apr 29, 2013

Happiest Cities For Young Professionals: Forbes

Planning to relocate or settle down? When you think about where you’d be happiest, Riverside, Calif., Philadelphia, and Phoenix probably aren’t the first places that come to mind. But as it turns out, these three cities are where some of nation’s most satisfied young professionals live and work.

That’s according to CareerBliss.com, an online career site that just released its list of the 10 happiest cities for young professionals, based on analysis from more than 45,000 employee generated reviews between April 2012 and March 2013. Young professionals, defined by CareerBliss as employees with less than 10 years’ experience in a full-time position, were asked to evaluate ten factors that affect workplace happiness. Those include one’s relationship with the boss and co-workers, work environment, job resources, compensation, growth opportunities, company culture, company reputation, daily tasks, and control over the work one does on a daily basis.

They then valued each factor on a five-point scale, and also indicated how important it was to their overall happiness at work. The numbers were combined to find an average rating of overall employee happiness for each respondent, and then sorted by location to find which cities had the happiest young employees.

“The new generation of young professionals not only finds happiness at work important–they demand it,” says CareerBliss chief executive Heidi Golledge. “If a company wants to find and retain the best talent, they need to work on building a culture of happiness within their organization.”

She says young employees tend to keep their résumés active on job boards just in case something more fulfilling comes along, and they are typically two to three times more likely than their parents to jump jobs for more career happiness. “In short, they take the right to pursuit happiness to heart and will typically not stay at a job with poor conditions for very long,” Golledge says. “They will even relocate to get out of an unhappy work environment.”

Happiest Cities For Young Professionals: Forbes

If you’re one of those young professionals looking to move to a happier place, you might consider San Jose.

Heading the list of the cities with the happiest young professionals, San Jose, Calif., earned an overall score of 3.94 out of 5. Workers there expressed the most optimism in ‘The People You Work With’ and ‘The Company You Work For’ categories, which scored 4.30 and 4.25, respectively.

Matthew Mahood, president and chief executive of the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce, says a lot of high tech companies in the area recruit and hire young talent. “They want the best and the brightest,” he says. “Many of these companies pay well for college graduates with degrees in math, science, engineering, software design, marketing, and analytics. Many start-ups, and even more established companies, have created a new work culture that is very relaxed—no set work hours, flexible work spaces, collaborative approaches, employee cafeterias, work out centers, etc.—so employees can spend a lot of time at the office and not feel like it’s all work, all the time.”

The California metropolis is home to several major corporations and universities, including Apple, Cisco, Intel, Samsung, Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Oracle, HP, Yahoo!, IBM, Stanford University, the University of California at Santa Cruz, Santa Clara University, and San Jose State University, among many others.

“Life here in the Silicon Valley is exceptional,” Mahood adds. “There are lots of great companies to work for, and they are hiring. They pay well and the perks and benefits are good. We also have exceptional weather; beautiful parks; the ocean and mountains are nearby; theater; great restaurants and nightlife; a diverse culture; and a lot of beautiful little neighborhoods.”

Earlier this year, the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif. metro area ranked No. 1 on ManpowerGroup’s ranking of the best cities for jobs this spring.

Things are sunny for young workers in other parts of California, too. San Francisco ranks No. 2 on the list, with a bliss score of 3.93.

Young professionals in San Francisco are most content with the people they work with and the company they work for.

“San Francisco is a great place to live, work and play,” says Bob Linscheid, president and chief executive of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. “Not only is it one of the most iconic cities in the world, it is also the innovation capital of the world – attracting the doers, dreamers and entrepreneurs who are changing the world.”

Linscheid says San Francisco’s diverse culture, unique character and lively neighborhoods make the city a top visitor destination and a “leading urban center recognized across the globe.”

“Young professional are happy in San Francisco because of the opportunities available to them and the high quality of life here,” he adds. “By any measure, San Francisco’s economy is outpacing the state and much of the nation. In addition to the high-quality of life provided by the city’s unique neighborhoods, its world-class arts and cultural institutions, and thriving restaurants, entertainment and nightlife, among many other things, keep the city exciting.”

Wells Fargo, Charles Schwab, Gap, Inc., Levi Strauss & Co., Salesforce.com, Twitter, and Zynga are among San Francisco’s largest private-sector employers. “The area also has a burgeoning bioscience and health care sector with top employers including University of California San Francisco, California Pacific Medical Center and Kaiser Permanente,” Linscheid adds.

In total, four California cities made the list; San Diego ranked 6th, while Riverside landed the No. 7 spot.

“California is home to some of the best universities and largest technology companies in the world,” says Matt Miller, chief technology officer at CareerBliss. “In the fast and competitive world of technology, we see more and more companies hiring young talent right out of school. Jobs for software engineers and designers are in high demand and have helped fuel this trend. In addition, tech companies are investing in young talent in an effort to have employees grow and develop with the company.”

Rounding out the top three cities is Washington, DC. Young professionals in the nation’s capital gave their city a score of 3.85—citing the company they work for, the people they work with, and the work they do as the factors they’re most content with.

“DC is now offering a lot of amenities that did not exist here ten years ago,” says Barbara Lang, president and chief executive of the DC Chamber of Commerce. “We have world-class restaurants, lounges, museums—places where young professionals can connect with other young professionals. It has become a hip city.”

Lang says the federal government is “obviously one of the city’s largest employers.” But outside of that, universities and hospitals are the biggest private employers. Large corporate employers include Verizon, Comcast, Fannie Mae, and Pepco, she says.

“We’re seeing a lot of growth and success in professional and financial services,” she adds. “Technology businesses and startups are also getting a lot of support here. And, of course, hospitality is another perennial growth industry in the area.”

So, what is it that makes young professionals so content in their careers?

No—it’s not a fat paycheck. In fact, generous pay has little or nothing to do with what keeps the young workforce in one place.

“Salary has the least impact on happiness for this group,” Golledge says. “As professionals begin their careers, they seek a company culture that embraces their individual work style. Our data consistently shows that the work environment, co-workers, and the way one works have the biggest affect on overall happiness.”

She adds that companies are beginning to embrace the idea of employee happiness and starting to realize how important it is for their business. “Knowing where to open up their next branch to attract young professionals and happy workers is key to their success For readers and folks who want to improve their careers, it is important to know where the opportunity to have a happier future lies,” Golledge says. “Understanding where their peers have found happiness and what types of factors impact their happiness is a valuable resource when deciding where to take their next career step.”

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