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Career advancement doesn't motivate Millennials, study says

Monday, July 9, 2012  
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Millennials -- young workers born after 1980 -- are less motivated by career advancement than by personal values and aspirations, according to a new study by Bentley University.

While Millennials have not rejected the corporate world, they will seek other options, such as starting their own companies, if they cannot find workplaces that accommodate their personal values, including time allocation, relationships and job security, according to a survey of 1,000 college educated women and men by Bentley University’s Center for Women & Business.

These emerging leaders are confident in their abilities and strive for career success, but will not tolerate unpleasant workplaces that do not allow them to be their authentic selves in expressing their personal and family values, according to "Millennials in the Workplace.” Still, they are loyal and dedicated to companies that allow them to stay true to their personal and family values.

The study also found the aspirations of Millennial men and women are converging. Both men and women are family-oriented and seek a personal life beyond work. While women are still being treated differently than men in the workplace, the findings suggest the best path to advancing women in corporate America is to see the problem as a generational issue, not a woman’s issue, because both men and women are seeking the same type of workplace where they can be their true selves. Companies risk the loss of men as well as women by not allowing employees to accommodate personal and family values as part of the way they accomplish their work, the study concluded.

Specifically, the survey also found that family and personal authenticity are key aspects of this cohort’s identity and many are frustrated with companies and corporate structures that are not evolving to allow them to live up to their aspirations. Seventy-six percent of the women and 73 percent of the men see themselves as authentic. They are not willing to compromise their family and personal values.

Consistent with previous studies, the Bentley University study found Millennials place a higher premium on the success of their personal lives than on their careers. But they want to spend time with their families and fulfill career aspirations. Sixty-five percent of respondents said being successful in a high-paying career or profession is either one of the most important things in their lives or very important. More than 72 percent say they are interested in working in a big corporation someday, with 48 percent saying that their ideal career path would be working at only one or two companies over the course of their careers.

When asked what they value most in a job beside enough to pay bills, the top two responses for both men and women were "ensures my family’s financial security for the long run/builds wealth” and "gives me the opportunity to learn and build my skills.”

To achieve career success, most Millennials are willing to or somewhat willing to take a lateral move for the experience or connections they would make (84 percent), to travel frequently (69 percent, to relocate (68 percent), to work long hours and weekends (53 percent), to place their children in daycare or hire a nanny (54 percent) or to take a lower-paying or unpaid job or internship for experience and connection (53 percent).

This group is willing to sacrifice to ultimately achieve security for their families and work where they are valued and providing value. Eighty-four percent say that "knowing I am helping to make a positive difference in the world is more important to me than professional recognition.”

Yet Millennials are much less willing to endure unpleasant conditions on the job, with only 30 percent of the respondents somewhat or very willing to work in an unpleasant work environment to achieve career success. This is a relationship-oriented generation that expects mutual respect, the study found.

Less than 2 percent of survey respondents identified a colleague at work or an employer or supervisor as the person who encourages them to pursue their professional aspirations. They receive professional encouragement primarily from their parents or spouse/partner; 33 percent say they receive encouragement from a spouse/partner, followed by mother (25 percent) and father (16 percent).

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