Millennials and Career Shift
Posted: Aug 22, 2020
The concept of "generations" is rooted in sociological theories. Members of the same generation share common experiences, such as events and circumstances, and tend to exhibit a general range of shared characteristics, beliefs and behavioral patterns. Although definitions of specific generations may vary across different countries and cultures, there is awareness that the Millennials (those born on or after 1980 to 1995) are a unique generation, having beliefs, values and attitudes different from those of previous generations. Members of a generation experience similar life events or circumstances at similar times in their lives (for example, living through the events of September 11, 2011), and thus form similar values, beliefs and attitudes.
The generational construct has been deemed to be a meaningful variable in organizational research and has been used to predict a host of individual and work- related outcomes such as work values, employee motivation, career and organizational commitment, work ethic, job satisfaction and turnover intentions. Although empirical evidence on the Millennials is accumulating, extant findings have been contradictory, lacked unity.
Millennials and careers often provided limited evidence of differences among the different generations. Although a great deal of research on work values and attitudes has been conducted, comparatively little research has been undertaken to examine the career attitudes, experiences and outcomes among the millennial generation. Furthermore, the abundant literature concerning the changing nature of careers (for example, studies concerning boundary less and protean careers) consistently suggests that the "new career" will be shaped increasingly by individual values and goals, rather than by organizational needs (that is, "self- directed"), and that individuals will continue to change jobs and employers more frequently throughout their careers (that is, "mobility preference"). An understanding of the career attitudes, experiences and outcomes of the Millennials within the context of boundary less and protean careers would help employers manage the new workforce to ensure organizational success.. While we cannot compare the full career course of Millennials to that of previous generations until they have progressed through their entire career cycle, we can compare the generations at their current career stages for evidence of differences.
Millennials are largely the children of the Boomers, and this generation has grown up in an era characterized by globalization, rapid technological advancement and increasing diversity. They tend to be technologically savvy, are socially conscious and have expectations for greater equality in the workplace. According to career development theory, the oldest of the Millennials are completing the career exploration stage and are moving into the establishment career stage, at which point their career values and attitudes will be fairly mixed. Studying the Millennials during their career exploration stage gives us an opportunity to examine them in the period that is the most influential in establishing their career outlooks and beliefs.
Recent research studies suggest that Millennials are ambitious, have unrealistic career expectations and would not accept a less than ideal position as a career starter. Likewise, Millennials tend to be motivated by career progression and advancement more than previous generations. Although Millennials value leisure time more and rate work as less central to their lives, research suggests few differences in work ethic across the different generations.
Millennials do report high levels of satisfaction with their jobs, recognition and career development. At the same time, they also indicate lower organizational commitment, and are less willing to remain with the same organization, compared with previous generation of workers. For the Millennials, career success may be defined in terms of career satisfaction, and one may be expected to work for multiple employers to acquire a broad range of experience for personal fulfillment. Thus, there is an indication that boundary less and protean career attitudes may be more prevalent among the Millennials.
Conceptual background and hypotheses
Careers research and theory have consistently indicated that we are in the midst of a shift in the nature of careers, away from the traditional career, focused on linear, upward progression, to one that is characterized by the pursuit of individual values and involving more frequent movement between jobs and employers. Within this context, and amid the generational shifts that have been documented by commentators and researchers, it is appropriate to investigate potential inter- generational shifts in career attitudes, experiences and outcomes
Career anchors represent an individual’s career self- concept: what drives and gives direction to one’s career. They are conceptualized in terms of a person’s perceived: (1) talents and abilities, (2) values and (3) motives and career related needs. An individual’s career anchors are accumulated over one’s life and career experiences and are helpful in guiding his or her career choice and decision making. In plain terms, a career anchor is the one thing around which a person’s career decisions are primarily centered.
Career anchors have been found to be useful for predicting a willingness to undertake international assignments; self-employment; joining the public sector; vocational choices in different cultures, and different personality types.
Given that Millennials are tech savvy, exhibit high self- esteem and individualistic tendencies, value work/life balance and are socially conscious, we can predict the following:
Millennials will score higher on technical/functional competence pure challenge, lifestyle, autonomy/independence, entrepreneurial creativity and service/dedication anchors than previous generations. Furthermore, Millennials’ search for international opportunities, interest in higher education, and lack of loyalty and strong external locus of control may also suggest the following:
Millennials will score lower on geographic security, job security and general managerial competence than previous generations.
Met expectations are conceptualized as "the discrepancy between what a person encounters on [the] job in the way of positive and negative experiences and what he[/she] expected to encounter". When an individual’s expectations are not met, the propensity for the individual to withdraw from the organization increases (Irving and Montes,. Research has documented that the degree to which one’s expectations are met is related to job satisfaction, organizational commitment and turnover intentions. The Millennial generation, who exhibit relatively high self- esteem, and having been told they can do anything they want in life, form high expectations of their careers, compared with previous generations. Given the work values and "supersized" expectations among the Millennials and the high probability that these expectations will not be met in the workplace, we have reason to believe that:
Millennials will report greater unmet expectations with respect to their career goals than previous generations.
The concepts of boundary less and protean careers have been touted as the "new career" pattern by a number of researchers. Individuals holding such career attitudes are more likely to follow their own values in guiding their vocational behaviors. Accordingly,
Protean careers are self- directed and value- focused (for example, individualistic), and may well resonate with the Millennials given their search for meaningful work and purpose- driven careers. Furthermore, protean careers are also subjectively perceived and evaluated. As individuals increasingly look for developmental opportunities, balancing work and play, and career enjoyment, such career attitudes also lend themselves to greater organizational mobility as individuals feel greater insecurity and are more inclined to cross organizational boundaries to seek fulfillment and balance in their work lives. Research emphasized that unmet expectations would lead to dissatisfaction and withdrawal behaviors. Given the congruence between boundary less and protean careers with the attitudes of the Millennials, we anticipate that:
Millennials will report greater job and organizational mobility when compared with previous generations.
Traditionally, career success is often measured in objective terms such as pay, promotion and occupational status. More recent research has focused on subjective career success, which is the idiosyncratic evaluation of one’s own career.
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