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5 unique challenges for millennials in the workplace

Every generation faces its challenges, both in the workplace and out in the real world. Millennials, often criticized for our narcissism and impatience, have been shaped by rapid advances in technology, which have affected our brains and how we communicate. Beyond that, our parents have raised us to have high expectations for our lives and our careers, teaching us to believe we are special and deserve the best. Pair that with a highly-educated workforce and not enough jobs, it’s no wonder millennials face unique challenges in the workplace.


1. The search for “purpose”

We’ve been taught that finding a job we are passionate about is the key to success. The problem is that there just aren’t enough jobs out there for all millennials to find a position that is full of both internal and external rewards. Entry-level jobs can seem especially mindless and insignificant, which is why it’s vital for millennials to think about their medium and long-term goals instead of freaking out about not feeling a sense of purpose during the first years of their careers. Purpose comes with years of experience and investment towards goals and a healthy work/life balance.



2. Millennials are impatient

Millennials are the generation of instant gratification. We can communicate in a matter of seconds with people living halfway across the world. Watching our favorite TV show just takes a quick search on our Netflix account and we can order our Uber ride home while we’re paying for our check, eliminating our lives from nearly all wait times. The problem is that successful careers don’t work like our smartphones – they require years of investment, patience and an acceptance that not all work well-done comes with instant rewards or gratification. Sometimes we have to take pride in our own accomplishments, keep our heads down and enjoy the little things.


challenges in the workplace


3. We’ve been told we’re special

Thinking they were empowering us, many of our parents told us when we were kids that we are special. That we can achieve anything we put our minds to. That anything is possible. While these are all very nice sentiments, this isn’t true. Through hard-work, patience and dedication we can achieve more and learn more – but being “special” has nothing to do with it. After we’ve grown up being told all about how special we are, we realize in university and at the workplace just how big the world is and that maybe we’re not as special as we’ve been told. Combine this realization with Facebook and Instagram culture which is all about showcasing the best aspects of our lives, we have turned into a generation with very low self-esteem, higher rates of depression and higher suicide rates. We all think everyone else is doing better than us, obsessed with the contest, instead of swelling with internal pride based on our own achievements thanks to our hard work.


4. Technology has affected our behavior and brains

Millennials are finding deep, meaningful relationships hard to make, thanks to our reliance on technology – especially our smartphones. When we use our iPhone, when we see “likes” on Facebook, little bursts of dopamine are released in our brain. We slowly develop an addiction to receiving these likes, external validation, making it easy to prioritize our phones instead of human relationships. Millennials, in fact, find it most difficult to build meaningful relationships in part because technology has gotten in the way. While we’re at dinner or at a conference, we turn to our phones, instead of living 100% in the moment and focusing on the people in the room. Once we start to look at our phones as interfering with our human connections, then we’ll be able to learn how to live fuller lives filled with community.


challenges in the workplace


5. We’re obsessed with making an impact

Millennials feel passionately about making an impact wherever they work. The problem is that a true impact cannot be made in a matter of months. Seeing how your work affects an institution can take years. However, with a focus on human relationships while performing your job as well as you can, you’ll see that there are other impacts that are just as important and rewarding – a human impact on office culture and on the personal happiness of those around you.



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1. based on 014/365 – day n nite, by Keirsten Marie, CC-by-2.0

2. based on Millennials Jam Workshop: Youth and ICTs beyond 2015, by ITU Pictures, CC-by-2.0

3. based on Cognizant Quality Engineering & Assurance Summit – Boston, by Cognizant Technology Solutions, CC-by-SA 2.0

Photos and blog by Elizabeth Trovall

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The International Internships Blog is a collaboration by The Intern Group staff, alumni and current participants to give you career advice & tips, program information, & so much more!