Advice for millennials in the workplace from the talent community

Last updated:
December 15, 2020
August 30, 2022
min read
Adrie Smith
advice for millennials in the workplace
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As millennials come to dominate the workplace, many employers start to wonder how to “deal” with their generation-specific quirks. For millennials themselves, they might wonder how they can best contribute and be understood in more traditional workplaces. If you’re working in recruitment or HR, you may want to be equipped with a couple of core pieces of advice for millennials in the workplace.

As a millennial myself, I’ll offer up my quick, top eight pieces of advice I’d offer to my fellow generation denizens along with a few gems from those working in the HR and recruitment space.

8 pieces of quick advice for millennials in the workplace

1. Phrase your why questions with care.

Millennials are notorious for asking “why” before taking on a project or task. This can come off- understandably- the wrong way (ever played that game as a kid where you continue to ask “why”?). Make sure to frame your “why” question sensitively. Instead, ask about the context of the project or task.

2. With flexibility comes great responsibilities.

It should come as no surprise that millennials crave (and even demand) a more flexible work environment. Whether that's a dog in the office or working in pajama bottoms from the comfort of home. But flexibility also means that employers are less concerned with hours spent in the office and more concerned with output. Millennials should be wary of in and out of office distraction and taking on more work than they can carry.

3. Ask and take action on feedback.

Millennials are known to crave feedback, especially in a work environment. This can result in endless cycles of brainstorming and troubleshooting. While an open feedback culture is one of the best assets this generation can bring to a workplace, millennials should make sure that their sessions are productive and any feedback comes with action points.

4. Work on finding purpose at work.

Millennials are known to be purpose-driven. But what kind of advice can you offer to a millennial looking to find purpose in their nine to five?

Your 20's are your time to experiment. Try out a new industry, role, even location. It'll help you explore your interests, uncover your strengths and widen your horizon. Then, use your 30's to specialize and do a deep dive in what you're best at and/or passionate about.
Martinique Jobin

Employee success at Frontify

For eager millennials Martinique reminds, "This also goes alongside your studies. After you complete your Bachelor's, take time to work and gain some experience before jumping into your Master's. I would recommend a minimum of 2-4 years of work experience before pursuing a higher degree."

5. Push yourself to shape your work to your goals.

Do you have millennials looking for the extra challenge? Well, get to it and challenge them!

Welcome to the 30s! What does that mean for your life and career? There is no excuse for making mistakes in your CV, neglecting your LinkedIn profile or social media presence. For not pursuing a remote dream job or trying out the entrepreneurial gig.  For not leveraging all the tools and technologies supporting us in what have been craving for as millennials – flexibility, freedom, work-life balance, independence.
Radina Nedyalkova

Talent Advisor and founder of Vox Advisory

For Radina, a personal brand pays off, "Establishing your brand as a professional should be embedded in your career strategy and you need to be able to tell a story about your choices thus far - both in your resume and when applying for a new role. My best advice? Take intelligent risks, as it is essential to understand who you truly are and what are your core values."

6. Don’t forget growth is crucial to contribute.

As the millennial workforce- dare I say it?- ages, remembering that they need to continue to develop themselves and build relationships is crucial.

The basics remain important, show up early, shake hands and make eye contact. It doesn't matter if you are applying for a role or building relationships in your current role. Don't lose the 'growth mindset' after you finish school, if you don't know what it is, research it and demonstrate it.
Danielle Henfrey

HR Business Partner at Shopify

Looking further ahead, Danielle continues, "Companies hire and promote based on not only on previous accomplishments but also on what you will be able to do in the future, ensure you know the type of work that excites you, know the skills you need to develop and seek out the roles that will give you those experiences."

"Be patient… most growth happens through experiences, these come in time. Give yourself time to learn, deliver and then thrive in a role before moving on."

7. Success doesn’t look the same for everyone.

Like many other generations, millennials can get caught up on the ideals of “success”. But what does that mean?

I think my biggest advice is to keep in mind that the various times of our career are needed and that the idea of success that is sold everywhere does not fit everyone... And you won't likely start your job and be a kick-ass star who knows everything. It's normal that you suck at it and it's normal you’ll find managers you don't like so much and or that your learning curve will be different than your colleagues.
Beatriz Lourenço

Head of People Operations at Awayco

8.  Focus on mastering skills, not just learning them.

With the arrival of easy-to-use and quick learning apps like Duolingo, many millennials are collecting new skills like trophies. Here’s one piece of advice for millennials in the workforce that may come as a surprise.

Nermine Fawzy, Senior Partner at FosterEdge, shared a personal story, "I was always very ambitious and keen to learn everything possible. For most of the managers I worked with, they acknowledged that and were happy with my self-motivated learning approach. Now, I have been lucky in my career with managers."

"One of these managers wasn’t really impressed with this and almost dismissed this which was shocking for me. In a performance review discussion, she asked me about the value of all these new skills I was learning, especially the ones I rarely used. Instead, she invited me to select a few that were the most relevant to my work and career aspirations and master those skills. Her advice was to be the person always referenced for being able to do something extremely well, instead of the person who just knew something. Once I mastered a few skills, to select a few new skills to learn and master."

In sum:

Knowing something is very different than being able to use that skill at an expert level and the people around you will definitely quickly realize that.
Nermine Fawzy

Senior Partner at FosterEdge

How can you reward millennials in the workplace?

Do you have a millennial that ticks all the boxes? Becomes a model employee? Well, offering advice isn’t necessary (thankfully!). But there are a few things you can do to reward millennials and it’s not always as straightforward as their generational predecessors.

Johnathan Kidder offered up some suggestions, "With the majority of the workforce retiring in recent years. Millennials have become the main focus when recruiting top talent. With tough competition, millennials in the modern workplace are not just looking for better compensation ranges. There are many other factors to consider like is the work challenging, the culture and overall environment, growth potential, location and commute times, the company’s reputation, and what the team is working on specifically."

Millennial's top concerns when applying for a role are: work-life balance, having no perks, benefits, PTO plans, and overall compensation packages. You have to consider all these areas when recruiting a millennial.
Jonathan Kidder

Founder of WizardSourcer

Worth the investment

While not every millennial is the same, these pieces of advice for millennials in the workplace should help you get the most out of your team. So, what are you waiting for?

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