What Millennials really want at work

Five steps to ace that job interview
Five steps to ace that job interview

A new study reveals what you probably already know: If you're a Millennial with a job, work isn't living up to your expectations.

It turns out that young people, while enthusiastic workers and successful employees, have a lot of anxiety and uncertainty about their work, according to a new study from strategy firm Department26.

"When asked about their first job out of college, most of them said it was pretty much a disaster, a huge let down and an impetus to do something different," said Betsy Wecker, insights director at the strategy firm and author of the study, which included a survey of 1,000 Millennials and in depth interviews with 26 young people.

"Millennials don't believe in money," says Wecker, "they believe in themselves."

Here's what they're looking for, according to the survey:

Wealth (not money)

When you talk about wealth with Millennials, money may not even be a part of the discussion.

"We found this generation values wealth -- defined as experiences -- over money itself," says Wecker.

"Retirement" as a concept doesn't rate. Neither does "nest egg."

The most important thing isn't building up this huge stash of money just to have it, Wecker says. "For Millennials the goals are totally different: if they can pay their bills and travel a little, what matters most is that they are doing something inspiring that they feel passionately about."

Those surveyed ranked "being in a role I'm passionate about" above salary and other benefits. When asked what they value most, "freedom" was often mentioned.

And companies may find those young people will walk if they don't see the meaning in it -- no matter how much they are paid.

Transparency, feedback and vision

Transparency is the Millennial standard operating procedure in the workplace, according to the report, in addition to having a clear vision for the future.

"Contrary to what people believe, they aren't afraid of criticism," says Wecker. "They are actually looking for feedback."

The report shows the want for near constant feedback, which legacy organizations might not be prepared for. Working with younger employees means quieting their anxieties by providing transparency and a clearly articulated vision of what's next, the report says.

Vision from leadership that clarifies the future is appealing to Millennials and can increase retention, according to the report.

"They are looking for really strong leadership with audacious goals," says Wecker.

The company entrepreneur

In order for Millennials to feel empowered in the workplace, according to the report, they need to be treated like the entrepreneurs they imagine themselves to be.

Not that many are actual entrepreneurs.

Despite an overwhelming drive to brand themselves and be their own boss, few Millennials actually run their own show. The report says this is due in part to their high levels of indebtedness and their resulting risk aversion.

"They want to be building a life of their own design," says Wecker. "But that still may be working for someone else. They are looking for an environment where they feel like they are trusted and have some ownership over their work."

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