Check out our post about Millennials in the work place

M illennials, roughly speaking those born between 1980 and 2000, get a bad rap. Embracing an entitlement culture, hoping to make an impact quickly but not without the comforts of modern civilization – that is the cliché portrayal of what some call the Peter Pan generation.

Best-selling author Simon Sinek, in an interview on millennials in the workplace remarks pithily: “They want free food and bean bags.”

But cliché aside, what do millennials really look for in an employer?

The World We Work In

The answer is linked to ongoing changes in the world of work. While there are many different views regarding the impact of technology, social media, and so on, a few things are given.

Unlike their baby-boomer parents, millennials do not live in a world where you leave suburbia each morning, commute to an office building, and for 40 years sit behind a desk from nine to five – only to retire with the proverbial golden watch your boss gave you.

Just as the Internet has empowered the consumer and upended all kinds of markets, today the job market is candidate-driven. Millennials, especially the best and brightest have a choice. Look no further than the large numbers of freelancers in the US economy. By some estimates, they have reached more than 30 percent of the workforce. Many – if not most – do independent contract work because they want to.

An info graphic showing how millennials work today vs 20 years ago

Three Things That Make Generation Y’ers Happy

However, that still leaves 70 percent who are looking for employment. But not the same way Mom and Dad did. For millennials active in the job market today, three things count:

  1. The realness factor, otherwise known as authenticity. Marketers have learned that consumers do not want to be talked into buying with false promises. Instead, they look for genuine, relevant, and helpful experiences. Likewise, companies must understand that the story they tell and the actual day-to-day must coincide.
  2. Flexibility. Millennials are the first generation where working anywhere, anytime has become a reality. When companies like Netflix offer “unlimited vacation policy” how can you justify that your employee must ask if she needs two hours off to take her child to the pediatrician.
  3. Purpose. In a world where a sense of purpose from ‘outside’ like religion or societal norms is lacking, people look for meaning in their personal lives. For millennials it’s about more than just putting food on the table. They want to be alive also when they’re at work. The “Three Boxes of Life” – education, work, retirement – described by author Dick Bolles in 1978 have all but disappeared. Now it´s just one life where learning, leisure, and work interact.

Jobs are not (yet) going away. You still need to get recruited by someone. But that someone better be real, flexible and have her “why” figured out.

And if somewhere along the way there is free food and bean bags, so much the better!