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So much has been written about millennials and their preferences and attitudes towards work and as I review these thoughts about millennials, there are three things that strike me:

Three things about millennials

  • The first is that they recognise that they have to manage their own working lives, their own careers.
  • The second thing is that they look at their relationship with employers in a very different way than we might have done 10, 20, 30 years ago. They see their relationships with employers as temporary and conditional rather than permanent and based on blind loyalty.
  • The third thing I think that I notice about millennials, is that they are looking for purpose in their work.  It is not enough just to be very well paid.  They care about a whole set of other things, in particular the ‘Why?’ of the organisation where they work.  They also want to know how their employer is going to meet what needs they have for learning and development.

So, are we all millennials now?

As I look at people coming into a 2nd Half Career (perhaps between 45 and 55 years old), I review their LinkedIn profiles.  I see that the tenure they have with each employer is getting shorter and shorter.  Earlier in their careers they might have stayed for five years to ten years with regular promotion over an extended period.  Now each job lasts for just two and three years, maybe eighteen months, or perhaps a series of appointments not much longer than a year.

When I talk to people who are thinking about their 2nd Half Career, they are starting to think about their ‘Why?’. They are questioning ‘what is all this for?’.  They begin to wonder whether professional success and financial reward, at any cost, is enough.  Perhaps their ‘Why?’ is a legacy for their profession, industry or community.  More personally, part of their  ‘Why?’ can be about a legacy through their family and relationships. They want to explore if their ‘Why?’ needs a different kind of workstyle for their 2nd Half Career.  They challenge the assumption that their career is all about working harder, working longer, earning more and rising further up the greasy pole.

Slowly the realisation dawns that the organisations that they are working for are not actually serving them.  Work becomes more demanding.  Stress and tension increase.  Objectives and goals are less realistic.  Core hours are extended by technology requiring ‘always on’ commitment.

Earlier in their career, they had access to training and new experiences. When did they last have an opportunity to develop their own career?  Where are the learning opportunities to do new and interesting things or to move to different posts?  Who will offer those things that will continue to challenge, develop and grow them for the next 10-15 years?

The harsh reality

In summary, employers are demanding more and more and offering them less and less.

So, I think that actually we are all millennials now.  We are looking for purpose.  We want our employers to give something back.  We see our loyalty to our employer is no longer reciprocated.  We are forced to move from one employer to the next, more and more often.

Adopting the millennial response

But perhaps we have not adopted the millennials’ strategy for survival and success.  Millennials are always looking for the next thing.  They are highly networked and create support systems outside of their work environment.  They keep aware of trends going on in their chosen profession or industry.  They are very happy to move sideways into a different job, role or activity.  They continually invest in their own personal development.  They will do that in their own time with their own money.

So, as you enter your 2nd Half Career, recognise not only that you are adopting many of the mindsets of millennials, but also that it is time to adopt their strategies.  You have the maturity, knowledge, skills and experience to exploit these strategies even more powerfully than the millennials themselves.   

Make the millennials’ strategies your own so you can have an enjoyable, rewarding and sustainable 2nd Half Career.


Charles McLachlan is the founder of FuturePerfect and on a mission to transform the future of work and business. The Portfolio Executive programme is a new initiative to help executives build a sustainable and impactful second-half-career. Creating an alternative future takes imagination, design, organisation and many other thinking skills. Charles is happy to lend them to you.