Career Expectations of Millennials and Why You Should Care

I’m still taken aback when I interview someone for a position and very early in the conversation they ask what I have to offer in the way of future career opportunities, promotion prospects and further education funding (or a similar career-oriented phrase). Invariably this ‘someone’ is in their twenties. These are great questions but am I being old fashioned about the timing? Is it wrong for an applicant to be figuring out if their career development needs are going to be met at this organisation before I have decided they are the person I want to hire?  Or do I just need to better understand what’s important to the Millennial generation?  Are they really any different than Gen X or Baby Boomers in what they want from the world of work?


The term Millennials is generally used for individuals born between the mid-1980s and 2000. They are a sizable demographic in the workforce already and by 2020 will make up over a third of the global workforce.  This is being accelerated by an aging population that is leaving the workforce at an ever increasing rate. But are the Millennials really any different?


On the surface it would seem not; ‘alignment with organisation’s values’ and ‘career opportunities at the organisation’ show up in study after study as the top drivers of engagement regardless of age demographic.  But Millennials specifically say they would prioritise the sense of purpose around people rather than growth or profit maximisation, according to the 2016 Deloitte Millennial survey.  So perhaps the values are different.


A recent study on Millennial Careers by ManpowerGroup shows that Millennials understand the need for continuous professional skill development to remain employable. Ninety-six percent want lifelong learning and four out of five say the opportunity to learn a new skill is a top factor when considering a new job.  It should not come as a surprise that Millennials are redefining job security as career security.


And they are confident in that assertion – a full sixty-two percent believe that if they lost their main source of income tomorrow they would find equally good or better work within three months. No wonder they want to know what know about the development opportunities I’m going to provide. As in-demand talent drives the shift towards a more individual-focused job market, development opportunities, training and clear career paths that improve employee engagement become crucial. As traditional career ladders give way to the career lattice, a higher proportion of Millennials know that the right experiences, learning and growth opportunities help them navigate individual-focused careers.


So maybe on reflection it’s good that I’m asked early on. Attracting and retaining talent is a two-way process after all and I better have a clearly articulated proposition on what I have to offer too.