Career & Professional Development

Helping Gonzaga University Students and Alumni Clarify and Achieve Their Academic and Professional Goals

Month: February 2016

Millennials: Significance of Self-Expression

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Social media has led to a new era of self-image and expression. Millennials have higher numbers of untraditionally dyed hair, piercings and tattoos than any other generation. The growth of social media has been a large contributor to this. “Body art” now has an audience. Millennials tend to feel more comfortable expressing themselves because everyone around them are doing the same.

Platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest allow photos to be posted and individuals to actively engage with published content. Commentary and affirmation are received on photos and users are able to communicate with a global audience. Blogging has also assumed a huge role in the millennial world. Blogs are managed by individuals, groups or companies and may differ from personal dairies of fitness and weight loss to sports, politics, business, and entertainment.

YouTube has also played a large role in the embracement of self-expression. YouTube is a video-sharing website that engages the publics from around the world. Videos may include news streaming, tutorials, movies, animal videos, humorous self-submitted videos etc. YouTube even offers videos of tattoo artists administering tattoos if one is interested in getting their own piece of artwork. According to the organization Generation Waking Up, 53% of the total blogging population is 21-35 years old and over half of YouTube’s users are under 20 years old. In addition, Pew Research found that “three quarters have created a profile on a social networking site and one in five have posted a video of themselves online.”

For many millennials, they view themselves as a brand and social media is simply a means of promotion.

According to salary.com, 42% of managers said their opinion of someone would be lowered if they had visible body art. This is simply a mindset that will have to change if companies want to attract millennials. In general, tattoos are becoming less taboo and more accepted. Employers will often care less about professional appearance and more about the work produced. Of course, the extent of self-expression in the workplace will differ by company, clients and management. For example, an advertising firm may have different guidelines than a more conservative company such as a bank. It is important to remember that these guidelines are not to hinder the freedom of employees but uphold company and brand image.

Forbes found that millennials are also the most ethnically diverse generation which may translate to more prominent cultural expression in the workplace. Whether this expression is displayed by physical appearance of practice the workplace is becoming a reflection of global business.

In a study conducted by, Atenga Inc., “millennials showed they value self-expression up to eight times more than Baby Boomers.” Millennials are immersed in a politically progressive era and are less likely to pass judgement in the workplace.

Millennials: Transforming the Traditional Workplace

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Millennials possess the power of adaptability. This is due to the fact that they were born and raised in a dynamic environment that has learned to embrace change simply because it is inevitable. In many cases change actually excites millennials. According to The Daily Muse, the desire for flexibility in the workplace is attributed to four main reasons: “work-family balance, continuing skills education, the disappearing corporate office, and the company’s bottom line.”

Millennials, just like anyone else, are involved with their families. Whether caring for their children or their parents, millennials are occupied by personal responsibility. Many are also perusing a degree while working. Graduate or undergraduate, this generation is continuing their education. In fact, companies occasionally pay for schooling for their full time employees. Often, millennials report that working in the morning and taking classes at night is the only option for pursuing a graduate program.

Collaboration is also embraced by millennials. Many meetings are conducted virtually due to the continued growth in global business. Companies often have contract employees in other countries and on other continents. Businesses and individuals have realized traveling halfway across the world to attend client meetings is unnecessary when technology can often facilitate the same communication (Skype, Facetime, etc.). This saves both time and resources.

Millennials are constantly in search for work with a purpose. They want to make an impactful contribution the world around them. This desire is what often leads them to smaller companies and startups. In fact, millennials often explain that working for a startup or creating their own is their dream job. When one hears the word startup, they often think of company equity, flexible hours, an energetic atmosphere, and having a voice. Startups are notorious for their reputation of having relaxed environments. They often offer complementary food, drinks, an on-site gym, ping-pong tables etc. Why is this? Newer companies promote an entertaining and interactive workplace to attract top talent. Startups dismiss the traditions of a suit-and-tie workplace in favor of a more relaxed and self-expressive environment.

Many millennials also work multiple jobs. Therefore, flexibility is imperative to their financial stability and professional future. According to The Washington Post, lack of flexibility is a leading reason why millennials have quit their jobs. Ernst and Young found that millennials want flexibility and to still “be on track for promotion.” For millennials, flexibility is an expectation rather than a reward.

Stanford economics professor Nicholas Bloom concluded from a study that working remotely actually increases productivity. Over the duration of nine months, Bloom observed 250 employees of a travel website. Half of the employees worked from home, and the other half worked in office. Bloom found that by diminishing the time it takes to physically commute to work and eliminating the distractions of an in-office environment produced a measurable and positive outcome. Bloom found that the out-of-office employees increased their overall performance by 10% compared to their fellow employees in office, saving the company $1,900 per employee. In addition, not only did their productivity increase but as did their overall job satisfaction.

It is important to understand that employees are the most expensive part of a company. According to Forbes, 87% of companies report a cost between $15,000 and $25,000 to replace each lost millennial employee. Employment Network Hourly, recorded that “full-time telecommuting can save companies between $20,000 and $37,000 per employee per year.” TIME Magazine pointed out, by the year 2025, Millennials will comprise 75% of the global workplace. If companies want to save money and retain talent it is clear that they will have to embrace this change in work culture.

Millennials: Thrifty and Thriving

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According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, millennials are the most well educated generation in America’s history. Education is expensive; this cost translates into high levels of debt and unpaid student loans for graduating students. Millennials value their dollar and are more likely to spend money on advantageous experiences, such as college, than mundane material items.

According to LinkedIn Business, the degrees most likely to be held by a millennial are: information science and technology, computer science, electronics, international business and computer engineering. All of which are deemed extremely lucrative and sustainable careers.

A leading reason for this is that the millennial generation witnessed firsthand the repercussions of the stock market crash and are instinctively frugal with their spending. Bloomberg refers to millennials as the “frugal generation”, and states that they often consider the “resale value” of a product before making a purchase. In fact, a study conducted by Accenture concluded that 43% of millennials identify themselves as “conservative investors.”

This conservative nature has led to an increase in self-employment. Many millennials forgo joining large companies due to the fear of another economic crash. They would rather be self-employed and in control of their own paychecks. Millennials believe that self-employment offers a sense of financial security.

Goldman Sachs found that millennials are also more likely to rent than buy, use public transportation than own a vehicle, and prolong living with their parents in hopes of gaining financial stability. They often maintain the mindset of purchasing what they need, not what they want. Another contributing factor in this decision making process is that millennials change jobs far more frequently than those before them. According to Forbes, 91% of millennials expect to stay in their current job for less than three years. This means that millennials may change jobs 15 – 20 times over the course of their working lives.

It is evident that millennials embrace flexibility in the workplace. This flexibility ranges from a change in hours or location to an opportunity for promotion and balancing work and family life. Overall, flexibility is imperative to this generation. Next week we will be exploring how flexibility plays an important role for millennials and their careers.