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What are the most frequent career development issues raised by young professionals?


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Millennial vs Gen X - Profile of Young Professionals

Posted 1/5/2017

In March, I attended a recruitment conference in the US where I presented a session sharing insights into millennial candidates. They’re young professionals born from 1985, so up to age 32, which fits with Northeast Quadrant’s target market.

In preparation, I found one of my presentations from 2005, which provided a snapshot of Gen X, the young professionals of that time. It proved an interesting comparison.











Back in 2005, the economy was performing very strongly with unemployment at 5.1%. Young professionals were faced with multiple job opportunities and had the luxury to choose between job offers. There were also more choices in life. At the graduate level, it was a time when universities started offering new degrees. For example, Mechatronics was a newly created engineering degree. And multi-tasking was the buzz word associated with Gen-Xers.

Compare that to today where the unemployment rate is a little higher, between 5.6% to 5.9%. High calibre young professionals are still in demand. But what is different is that Millennials have been encouraged to follow their passion, some say with a sense of entitlement. We see that in graduates who have completed degrees for example, in sports management, forensic science or law only to find that there aren’t enough jobs in those fields and they need to reassess. There is also a greater interest in start-ups over a traditional corporate career.

When it came to choosing employers, Gen X wanted jobs with challenge and responsibilities. They wanted career path flexibility. So, they might join a company as a Marketing graduate but after two years would like to “try” HR. Remember that was a time when they could pick and choose. They also wanted to work with employers who were committed to corporate social responsibility. And they wanted employers where international assignments were a possibility. Interestingly, they didn’t necessarily want to work overseas. They just wanted it as an option.

Millennials still want challenge and responsibilities in a job. But their definition of career success is different and the time horizon to achieve it is a lot shorter. For example, a Gen X marketing graduate would say they want to become a Marketing Director in 10 to 15 years. A Millennial will say it’s to become a Brand Manager and reassess from there.

Millennials are interested in corporate social responsibility but go a step further by participating in those activities. And work-life-balance is very important to them. They will work hard to do the job. But their non-work interests are just as important and won’t compromise that for the job. Maybe that’s a sense of entitlement to have a balanced life.

The other interesting comparison is how young professionals find jobs. Back in 2005, job boards and email communication were the dominant technologies. Recruitment agencies were at their peak and LinkedIn was still in its infancy. Now job boards are increasingly irrelevant. Active job seeking Millennials google search for jobs (“Brand Manager FMCG Sydney”). While employers directly reach out to passive candidates through LinkedIn. And text is the preferred communication method.