Millennials and Their Struggle with Today's Workplace

Millennials have a combined student debt of $1 trillion and a staggering 16.3 percent unemployment rate, The Huffington Post reported. With these statistics, finding a job is more important than ever. Unfortunately, this is no easy task for millennials, as they are often seen as inexperienced and unprepared for the workplace. Due to the difficulty of finding work, millennials often settle for less than they expected and/or desired in their career.


Millennials at Work: Values, Expectations, and Reality

What's important to millennials in their prospective careers? According to an MTV "No Collar Workers" study, reported by TIME, millennials would rather have a job they love than one that provides a substantial paycheck. In fact, half of millennial respondents stated that they would "rather have no job than a job they hate," and loving their job was revealed as the most important factor of job desirability. Other significant factors included having a job "where my creativity is valued" (83 percent) and more visibility into the impact their work makes. 90 percent of respondents said that they are "motivated to work harder when [they] know where [their] work is going" and want managers, supervisors, and executives to listen to their ideas.

The data shows that when millennials enter the workforce, they want to hit the ground running, so to speak. They are motivated less by money and more by personal fulfillment and the impact their work makes to the company's bottom line.

Once they've determined which line of work they want to pursue, how do they select an employer? A PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) survey, "Millennials at work: Reshaping the workplace," offered further insight into what constitutes an attractive employer for millennials. Opportunities for career progression was the most attractive selling point of an organization, with 52 percent of respondents agreeing on its importance. Competitive wages and other financial incentives (44 percent) in addition to flexible working arrangements (21 percent) were other key factors.

However, the survey also found that young workers often end up working in organizations that do not meet their preferred standards. 72 percent of millennials reported compromising on what they want in an ideal employer. 32 percent of survey respondents accepted a lower-than-expected salary, 15 percent worked outside of their preferred sector, 14 percent worked outside of their preferred job role, and another 14 percent experienced more limited opportunities for career advancement than expected.

What Can Millennials Do?

Amidst high unemployment and unmet career expectations, Forbes offers some advice to millennials on how to better position themselves in the workplace. First, millennials are not as inexperienced as they are often portrayed to be. Dick Batten, head of recruiting and organizational effectiveness at New York's Karp Resources, commented that "[m]any 20-somethings undervalue their own paid and unpaid work despite the wealth of knowledge and skills acquired from such positions." Pursing internships and volunteer work and participating in student organizations during college are just a few examples of how many young workers have exhibited a strong work ethic, leadership qualities, and problem-solving skills helpful for their careers. Millennials should highlight this experience and the major workplace qualities gained through it.

Second, young employees generally don't have as many responsibilities as older, more experienced workers do, so they are more available to travel and even relocate, if necessary. Having such flexibility can be an asset for a company.

Third, millennials can take advantage of the fact that many companies want to market to their generation. They know how their generation thinks and should "capitalize on being a part of such a hot target audience by regularly offering insight to [their] employer as a member of that group," advised Shara Senderoff, co-founder and CEO of Intern Sushi.

Additional traits that millennials should emphasize include their willingness to learn, their adaptability with industry changes, their tendency to multitask, their ease with technology, and their experience working in teams. Tim Elmore, founder and president of Growing Leaders, a nonprofit mentoring group, expands on the importance of Gen Y's long-term experience with group projects, stating that this generation's "ability to work harmoniously as a team will completely alter the way the workforce operates…Especially as the marketplace grows increasingly global, an office rookie can demonstrate a collaborative attitude by being a proactive, productive team member." Elmore recommends that millennials demonstrate the positive qualities they gained from team projects by sharing ideas, encouraging fellow team members, and being accountable.

Finally, millennials should implement their desire to innovate and be creative. As Amy Lynch, co-author of The M-Factor: How the Millennial Generation Is Rocking the Workplace, notes, "Millennials are not locked into limited, linear patterns of thinking about industry issues or challenges." They use their creativity to find solutions to problems. Innovation is very attractive to hiring managers, and to show their enthusiasm, Forbes suggests that young workers should say, "I never hear 'it can't be done.' I just find a way to do it."

"Marketing to Millennials - Social Media Matters," The Huffington Post, Kim Garst, September 19, 2013, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kim-garst/marketing-to-millennials_b_3951404.html
"Millennials at work: Reshaping the workplace," PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2011, http://www.pwc.com/gx/en/managing-tomorrows-people/future-of-work/millennials-survey.jhtml
"Millennials vs. Baby Boomers: Who Would You Rather Hire?," TIME, Dan Schawbel, March 29, 2012, http://business.time.com/2012/03/29/millennials-vs-baby-boomers-who-would-you-rather-hire/
"Why Millennials Aren't As Useless As You Thought," Forbes, Jenna Goudreau, July 6, 2012, http://www.forbes.com/sites/jennagoudreau/2012/07/06/why-millennials-arent-as-useless-as-you-thought/