Millennials suffer a lot of criticism. By now, we’re all familiar with the stereotypes: they are lazy, they’re entitled, they constantly need to be told how special they are. We’ve heard them all too often over the past few years, and Generation Y has certainly had their fill when it comes to tired, negative generalizations.

Rather than regarding them all with derision, it is perhaps more prudent to really examine the qualities of an average millennial. Consider their outlook on life, their approach to career development, and question: what can we all learn from this generation?  Perhaps we can take a step further to assess to whether ‘millennial’ is, in fact, a demographic, or whether it is simply a state of mind?

I have personally been hiring, onboarding and coaching millennials over the past few years and here are the valuable lessons I have learned from this young group of people.

Millennials prioritize development above immediate success

Contrary to popular opinion, millennials do not expect success to be handed to them on a silver platter. Nor do they want this. More than any other generation, development is something millennials not only value but actively seek in a career opportunity. They are constantly looking for skills and strengths they can improve upon.

According to a Gallup poll, 87% of millennials claim development is a crucial part of any job. Their desire for self-improvement doesn’t just end with marketable skills; they’re constantly looking for ways to improve their lives. This demonstrates a genuine thirst for knowledge that would serve us all well and make us more content, rounded employees, managers, and leaders.

Millennials are intrinsically motivated

Millennials don’t just work for a paycheck. They want to be part of a larger team. They sincerely want to work for companies that match with their personal set of values, and they motivated millenialswant their contributions to mean something. In fact, according to a Deloitte study, millennials would be ready to leave a company if they were asked to do work that went against their personal ethics. This strong sense of morality and authenticity are things that create powerful, meaningful company cultures and ultimately spell business success.

Millennials know the value of authentic communication and feedback

Millennials largely grew up in an era of digital communication. It is their second nature. They’re accustomed to real-time communication and feedback. This has changed the way we work and has challenged some major HR processes we’ve used for decades. Millennials want a relationship with their manager, so more and more companies replace annual performance reviews with regular feedback sessions,  which allows for more fluid conversation. It also facilitates the exchange of real-time feedback which, despite what you may have heard, millennials are eager to take on board. They are aware that they need constructive criticism in order to improve their existing skills and they regularly seek it out.

Millennials aren’t afraid to take a chance on a career transition

Millennials have a strong reputation for job hopping, but rather than looking on this unfavorably, we should respect their willingness to take calculated risks. Instead of simply remaining in a situation that isn’t right for them, or stagnating in a comfort zone that isn’t offering them any challenge, they embrace the power of career agility. They have the courage to explore the benefits that accompany career transitions. They are cognisant that careers are not necessarily linear paths anymore. Opportunities for improvement might come from an unexpected source or might require a slide down the corporate ladder. For millennials, this is completely acceptable as, in many cases, they don’t care about job titles. They want to develop experience, learn and grow along the way.

Millennials are accountable  and positive

More than 77% of this generation believe they have firm control over their career steps. They’re independent and they have an enviable ability to see the silver lining around every cloud. They dream big and they chase their ambitions, determined to turn their dreams into reality. These are qualities that every single leader needs in spades.

In order to compete and succeed in this dynamic business environment, rather than echoing predictable jokes at the expense of millennials, we would be better served turning to them for serious development lessons. In so many ways, regardless of age, we could all exude the millennial spirit.


About the Author: Ida Banek is a senior HR leader with 20 years of experience in HR. Ida has strong expertise in strategic talent management, with a particular passion for developing young talent. Ida’s company, GRIT International, helps global companies and eager individuals take control of their own careers.

By Noel Cocca

CEO/Founder RecruitingDaily and avid skier, coach and avid father of two trying to keep up with my altruistic wife. Producing at the sweet spot talent acquisition to create great content for the living breathing human beings in recruiting and hiring. I try to ease the biggest to smallest problems from start-ups to enterprise. Founder of RecruitingDaily and our merry band of rabble-rousers.