At Work

Millennials and Their Career Expectations

By: McCrindle

The Millennials, or Generation Y, describes those born between the years of 1980 and 1994. They’re having children of their own and are parents to the youngest generation (Generation Alpha).

While there may be some stereotypes that exist around Millennials (like their love of brunch and “smashed avo”) this generation are now stepping into leadership roles as they progress their careers. In this episode of The Future Report podcast, we sit down with HR consultant Shelley Johnson to talk all things Millennials and their career expectations.

Redefining success

Millennials today are about a quarter of the way through their working life. They are starting to move into leadership positions and executive roles. Some are even on boards. In these roles of influence, many are asking, “What do I want to be doing?” and evaluating what a “successful career” looks like. Beyond traditional forms of success, with greater life experience (including the great reprioritisation brought about by the pandemic), Millennials are defining success for themselves. How? By asking questions like: What do I want to be doing? What energizes me? What is my purpose? What are my values? Where can I have impact? As they get older (and wiser), Millennials are taking the time to ask these questions instead of shaping their careers around external pressures and definitions of success.

Culture and leadership development

In many organisations, people as being recognised as the reason for the success of an organisation. This has big links to an organisation’s culture. In a rapidly changing work environment, where teams are often decentralised, organisations need to work hard at building culture and investing in leadership development. The growth of leaders needs to outpace the growth of an organisation. While it can be easy to focus on seemingly tangible things that are easier to control, like metrics and strategy, a focus on developing people leads to greater team cohesion, outcomes and business success.


As the world of work continues to shift, so too has workers expectations around flexibility. While some leaders want to enable flexibility, if it is within a rigid structure, it won’t speak to younger team members like Gen Z and Millennials. These younger workers are looking for flexibility their way, not in the kind of legacy or structure that other generations have grown up in. Successful organisations should look at this point of tension as one that needs to continually be worked through. Listen to your employees. Younger generations expectations have changed. And if there’s not some meeting of the middle, they won’t be afraid to move on.

Trust, accountability and growth

The characteristics of an engaging workplace, where people grow as a group and achieve goals, is one where there is trust, accountability and growth. How does this occur? When workers exist in the tension of feeling safe, but also stretched. When people feel as if they are growing and receiving feedback in a safe and trusted environment, that is when you have a healthy and engaging workplace culture. While everyone has a role to play in creating an engaging workplace culture, the quality of your workplace is a direct reflection of the quality of your leaders. This can either be confronting or motivating depending on where you are at as an organisation and what your workplace culture is like. The best thing any organisation can do to make their workplace engaging is to develop their leaders.

The tension of family and work

Today, many Millennials are not only career driven and ambitious, they are also parents to young families. As Millennials move into this life stage, priorities shift and decisions have to be made. In her work as a HR consultant and through her own experience, Shelley Johnson shared two lies that Millennials often buy into:

  1. You can do it all. “Doing it all” comes with a big price tag. While the lie is that you can do it all, the truth is that you can choose what you want to do. So, choose wisely. Consider your family, priorities, health and capacity in what you choose to dedicate your time and energy to.
  2. You are what you do. This lie is centred on your value and identity being only connected to your career. And while it is a great thing to have purpose connected to your work, it is also important to safeguard your worth by separating your identity from what you do. In Shelley’s wise words, “who you are becoming is secondary to what you do.”

Article supplied with thanks to McCrindle.

About the Author: McCrindle are a team of researchers and communications specialists who discover insights, and tell the story of Australians – what we do, and who we are.

Feature image: Supplied, McCrindle

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