10 Common Characteristics of the Millennial Generation

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated June 7, 2022

Published February 4, 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

The Millennial Generation, a demographic categorization for those born between 1981 and 1996, is frequently a topic of debate. This generation has often been depicted in a negative light. Conversely, millennials are also described as one of the most adaptive and creative generations. When you present those traits positively and confidently, you can increase the likelihood of impressing future employers.

In this article, we discuss 10 core characteristics of the Millennial Generation and how to showcase these traits in your resume, cover letter or interview.

Read more: Core Values: Overview and Examples

What is a millennial?

What is now known as the Millennial Generation was first referred to as Generation Y, referring to those born between 1981 and 1996. "Millennial" became a popular term since this generation was born near the end of the millennium. It is the most populated age group in modern history.

Millennials were born into a technological world and came of age in a new millennium. They also were old enough to experience and comprehend 9/11.

This generation has witnessed technological growth and development. As a result, they are considered more progressive, creative and far-thinking than earlier generations. Many millennials may also identify as being more concerned with intrinsic and moral values over extrinsic and material ideologies, according to Pew Research Center.

Characteristics of the millennial generation

Besides being the first generation to witness the advent of technology like the internet, virtual reality and artificial intelligence, there are other character traits that millennials may share, such as:

1. Values meaningful motivation

Millennials value meaningful motivation. They may be characterized as being motivated by creative work, sharing their gifts and making an impact on others and within their communities. Oftentimes, these intrinsic motivators can be seen in a millennial's approach to their careers. Many can frequently be found working toward helping others, imparting inspiration or working to improve on a community or worldwide issue.

Additionally, many millennials aim for goals that further meaningful work rather than monetary gains. While this generation's professional drive often helps them advance in their careers, many seem to do so for reasons other than a salary increase or monetary bonuses.

2. Challenges hierarchical status quo

Millennials are known for their resolve in sharing their opinions and ideas, as well as challenging their superiors when they feel it is warranted. This characteristic comes from the idea that what is best for the company results from active listening, collaboration and considering all points of view.

Millennials also seem to prefer working across many functions, offering creative solutions and moving away from the boundaries of professional status and level. Additionally, this generation seems to believe that approaches such as these are more beneficial to the workplace than merely following orders passed down from the top of the professional hierarchy.

3. Places importance on relationships with superiors

Millennials have shown that when it comes to their careers, they prefer a supervisor or manager that they can connect to as a mentor. This generation strives to be comfortable working with their superiors and asking for advice and counsel about their career development. In addition to receiving advice and feedback, millennials emphasize building rapport as well as pathways for frequent communication with their managers.

4. Intuitive knowledge of technology

As many millennials grew into adulthood, they witnessed the expansive growth of technology. They may even be the first generation to be fully globalized online during adolescence and early adulthood. With that growth, millennials have developed the ability to quickly adapt and change according to new technology. Smartphones, virtual reality, interactive software and even artificial intelligence may continue to see millennials adding to their development.

Read more: Technical Skills: Definition and Examples

5. Open and adaptive to change

Not only are millennials adaptive to change, but many also embrace it. Oftentimes, this generation has ushered changes in business, technology and the economy. Most seem to recognize that these industries are constantly changing and that the methods of working within the modern-day career field must change with them. Being adaptive to a continuously changing atmosphere allows this generation to advance and take on a variety of roles.

6. Places importance on tasks rather than time

Millennials seem to be more task-oriented rather than time-oriented. This can appear in the form of productivity with producing results, as well as placing a higher priority on the quality of a product, deliverable or otherwise task-related output. This generation emphasizes working toward an end product rather than how many hours it takes to produce it. More often, millennials may want to be flexible in their schedules, working outside of a traditional "9-to-5" career so they can pursue things outside of work.

7. Passion for learning

Not only are millennials open to change and adaptive, but they also seem to possess an extraordinary passion for learning new things. This generation exhibits deep curiosity about the world and displays the desire to further develop skills and knowledge that can help them within their professional lives. Millennials seem to understand the importance of setting and achieving goals, both for personal growth and their careers.

Related: Interview Question: "What Are Your Future Goals?"

8. Receptive to feedback and recognition

Rather than waiting to be reviewed on a biannual or annual basis, millennials appreciate regular feedback. This generation values input, advice and mentorship from their managers, and they seem to be receptive to feedback on a weekly or daily basis. Performance management and development can often be priorities for millennials, resulting in the need to hear from their supervisors about how they are performing in their jobs.

Additionally, this generation seems to thrive off open recognition, so positive praise in the workplace can benefit their motivation. Millennials generally appreciate knowing that what they are doing is making a difference and that their talents are valued.

9. Free-thinking and creative

Millennials grew up during the time of transition from conventional methods to modernized and technologically advanced ways of working. Because of this innovation, they may be more imaginative in their thinking. If problems arise in the workplace, millennials typically can come up with creative solutions.

10. Values teamwork and social interactions in the workplace

This generation tends to place importance on working within a team environment. Collaborating on projects, problem-solving with different points of view and creating innovative approaches to their work fields may be cooperative endeavors that millennials undertake while working on a team.

In addition to productivity and quality results from their teams, many millennials may also desire a social atmosphere in the workplace. Qualities like fun, relaxed and comfortable can be used to describe most millennials' idea of a fitting and optimal workplace.

Read more: 6 Qualities That Make a Great Team Player

Tips for highlighting millennial characteristics

You might consider how you can highlight your millennial-related skills and traits that reflect these strengths when applying to jobs. No matter your age or experience level within the Millennial Generation range, the following tips can help guide you through showcasing your best qualities:

On a resume

Consider highlighting your accomplishments that relied on your adaptability, creative problem-solving or expert technical skills. Be sure to include a quantifiable result so a hiring employer can see how your past performance or productivity may benefit their organization.

In a cover letter

After your initial introductory paragraph to a potential employer, you might include a section to describe how your characteristics can benefit their company and your traits meet the required skills outlined in the job description. Additionally, you can relate your core strengths to how you see yourself providing specific results for their business.

During an interview

You might consider focusing on a few key traits that specifically apply to general interview questions, such as "What are your strengths?" and "Why do you want to work here?" For example, if you're interviewing for a role in digital marking, you might describe how your natural curiosity and motivation for learning new skills helped you develop an innovative approach to building a new content management system for your past employer.

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