The Professional Workforce and You: Where Do You Fit In?

Millennials are defined as a group of people born from 1980 to 2000, and according to Time Magazine, they are often described as, “self centered, under-achievers, and have an overwhelming sense of entitlement”.  Millennials are known for, “expecting to be able to make their own hours, caring more about how well they get along with their manager, wanting to move on from positions in a year or less, and [being] the most educated generation thus far.”


On the other hand, there are also those members in the workplace that belong to Gen X, which is anyone born from 1960 to 1980.  According to Value Options, members of Gen X are known for, “learning independently, high productivity, the first generation to have the advantage of flexible work hours, and the choice to pursue diverse fields that would still lead to a great amount of success; such as technology.”  From personal experience as a Millennial in the workplace, I believe that there are many things that Millennials and those in Gen X, could learn from one another.


Gen X and Millennials Have Similar Career Goals

According to a recent study done by IBM, Millennials have varied and diverse goals, and want to succeed in their career development just as much as those in Gen X.  “Both generations desire financial security, leadership, promotions, career-based recognitions, and [they] understand that the only way to reach these goals is through the pursuit of hard and honest work.”  Both groups are also interested in working with and making a varied number of connections with a diverse group of individuals.  With the upswing in the utilization of technology, both generations can benefit from applying the knowledge that Millennials have regarding technology, and incorporate this into a company’s business model.  Through my experience with a new company, I have been surprised by the large amount of similarities between Millennials and Gen X.  There are also many differences as well, which create a well-balanced workplace.  Millennials have a fresh outlook and knowledge about current innovations, and those in Gen X know what has been working for the company throughout time, and what ideas may not be applicable for the company.


Millennials genuinely want to learn from their co-workers in Gen X

According to a recent survey, when Millennials were asked if they should listen to authority in the workplace, 41% said that they “agree” with the statement, 30% of Baby Boomers answered “agree”, and 30% of those in Gen X also answered “agree”.   This research shows that across the board, multiple generations- including Millennials- believe that they have something to learn from more experienced generations.  Managers can take this information  to understand that even Millennials want to listen to advice from Gen X to help shape their career trajectory.   I also agree with the results in the survey and would also say that I, too, hope to gain feedback and advice from authority figures in the workplace that belong to Gen X.  I think the feedback that I have received has helped me to learn and grow in the workplace and understand how a large institution operates.  Gen X has been able to develop in a career field for a longer period of time, which means they posses a greater amount of insight and perspective that younger generations, including myself,  can gain to develop professionally.


Self-promotion is not always a bad thing

According to research recently conducted by the U.S Chambers of Commerce, Millennials are generally known for their altruistic qualities, which has previously been shown to be a common trait that Millennials and those in Gen X have in common.  On the other hand, Millennials have also been known for being self-involved and narcissistic.

“…There is a trend in Millennials towards personal branding.  On the surface it appears as self-promoting, but looking a bit deeper, it reveals a method for young people to identify their passions and determine the most expedient path forward, rather than having others set a path for them.”

Self-promotion is especially beneficial in terms of resume writing.  It is very important to let your employer know everything regarding your previous experience that applies to the job posting, and self-promotion is a large part of moving up the corporate ladder.  Especially in Western cultures, there is a large value placed on personal gain and self-promotion.  In order to succeed in a company with Western ideals, it is important to adhere to these cultural norms. I have heard time and time again from other employees that it is very important to disclose everything about yourself that relates to the job posting, because this technique will lead to better chances of getting hired.  I personally find it difficult to talk about myself, therefore this is one aspect of Millennial culture that I have to become accustomed to incorporating into the workplace.  Some members of Gen X may not understand this aspect either, and hopefully it will help knowing that not everyone in either generation is the same in this regard.


Millennial generation is redefining what it means to be independent

According to research recently reviewed by the U.S Chambers of Commerce, despite the fact that the Millennial generation is currently known for having parents who hover too much and do not allow for their children to fail to gain personal development and be independent, these close bonds have helped increase the number of jobs available in family development programs.  Even though Millennials are generally known for being less independent than those in Gen X, recent research would indicate that this fact is not true for Millennials in the workplace.  Millennials have become increasingly more independent due to an increase in virtual learning and using classes online to teach yourself.  “Virtual learning is on the rise, with 31% of all higher education students now taking at least one course online.”  Being able to create one’s own schedule and develop the ability to complete a certain amount of work done in a certain time frame is a very important quality to obtain in the workplace, and also indicates independence.  If an employee requires too much training and “handholding”, this is inefficient, not only for supervisors, but also others working on a project.  I have especially noticed that you have to strike a balance in the workplace between being independent and teaching yourself, while not being afraid to ask questions.  I have learned that it is important to first try and teach myself and work through the problem before seeking out help. It is also equally important to know when the turning point is where I have tried every solution that I can think of, and still nothing is working.


How to appropriately present yourself on unfamiliar platforms

This generation of young people are one of the first generations to have an effortless accessibility to social-media.  While expressing yourself through this platform can make some seem self-involved, if social media is used effectively, this tool could allow employers to look upon a candidate fondly.  The tendency to share almost everything directly online can easily translate into our work lives.  Employers now have the ability to look at a candidate’s twitter, facebook, instagram, etc. before actually hiring them.  If the candidate is not posting ideal material, it is possible that an employer is no longer going to want that individual to be apart of their company.  When a company chooses to hire an individual, this individual is now a representation of the company to the outside world, and therefore should appropriately represent themselves on social media platforms. Working for a University, I had to quickly learn that I now represent something larger than myself, and have to be even more careful of how I am presenting myself through social media platforms.  As a millennial in the workforce, it is important for me to understand that everything I post on social media can either reflect negatively or positively upon my personal brand, as well as the company I represent.

What have you noticed about Millennials in the workplace?  Tell us about your stories in the comments below!




Allen, E., Seaman, J.(2011). Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States.

Baird, C. (2015). Myths Exaggerations and Uncomfortable Truths.

Sanburn, J. (2013). Millennials: The Next Generation. Time Magazine, 181(19).

Retrieved from

Smith, J. (2014, November 18). 8 Things You Need to Know About Millennials at Work.

The Millennial Generation Research Review

Haley studied Northern Arizona University, where she pursued her degree in psychology. She hopes to one day be able to study human behavior in the workplace as an industrial/organizational psychologist, where she wants to improve individual performance and health, while at the same time benefiting the organization as a whole.

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