You are the CEO of your life

To millennials, work is more than just a job

These are the words spoken by one millennial to another during what sounded very much like an encouraging coaching session. This conversation occurred at Starbucks, and I was close enough to two passionate young professionals to capture some of their thoughts.

It seems Millennial B is unhappy and unfulfilled in her current role. Millennial A was just not hearing this. She said:

  • “I worry about you. Life is so short, it’s valuable.”
  • “Do not work for some micromanager who doesn’t understand you.”
  • “This is not your company. It’s not your passion.”

Millennial B said that when she joined this particular company, she intended to stay there for two years. Yet she was finding her current situation difficult. Millennial A encouraged her by saying, “Hey, we have connections all over. I can help you. We can find you something else.”

She went on to say, “I’m not going to let people tell me how to live my life. You shouldn’t either.”

As a side note, I also picked up from Millennial A that she loves what she is doing. She is very passionate and very willing to work hard. She also shared that she makes a lot of money. The one thing she appeared to not be willing to negotiate is flexibility in her schedule. It seems she has an event coming up. She is excited to celebrate her golden birthday in style…by taking three weeks off for a substantial trip. This is a big deal for her. She went on to share with her friend, “I will turn 30 only one time. I’m currently in a position to take time off to celebrate this. I do not have kids yet. Once I do, I will not be able to do this again.”

She said that she went to her boss and essentially said, “I’m going to do this. You can grant me this opportunity or I’m prepared to turn in my two weeks’ notice.” She was very pleased to share with her friend that her boss responded with “I totally get it. We can do this.”

Now, I’m obviously not privy to just how they worked this out. I do know, however, from listening to her recount this scenario that she is very pleased. She went on to share with her friend, “I’m learning to be direct about what matters to me. We can always go somewhere else.”

I realize that many baby boomers are struggling with this type of mindset. But this young professional’s leader seems to understand the importance of retaining a valued employee.

On this same day, I was visiting with a prospective client and the owner of the company and the HR manager were talking about their desire to do some reinventing in their longstanding “policies.” The story: Recently, an employee was on a phone call while working on the line. The manager of this employee approached him to restate the cell phone policy. “You’ll have to put your cell phone in your locker until break.” Ten minutes later, the employee quit.

The response of the business owner was spot on: “We have to revisit our cell phone policy because this is not going to go away. We have to find a way for our employees to keep their phones with them.” Another leader who understands the importance of retaining valued employees.

I get asked this question often: “Are millennials really that different?” Yes.

I just came across a fantastic report from Gallup titled “How Millennials Want to Work and Live.” I encourage you to look this report up. The chairman and chief executive officer of Gallup, Jim Clifton, said “Millennials will change the world more decisively than any other generation. Millennials are altering the very social fabric of America and the world. Defined by their lack of attachment to institutions and traditions, millennials change jobs more often than other generations – more than half say they’re currently looking for a new job.”

The essence of this Gallup report is,

“The Six Big Changes Leaders Have to Make”

  1. Millennials don’t just work for a paycheck—they want a purpose.
  2. Millennials are not pursuing job satisfaction—they are pursuing development.
  3. Millennials don’t want bosses—they want coaches.
  4. Millennials don’t want annual reviews—they want ongoing conversations.
  5. Millennials don’t want to fix their weaknesses—they want to develop their strengths.
  6. And, one of the most important discoveries…“It’s not just my job—it’s my life.”

Organizations and leaders need to take action…do something with the information we are continuing to learn about this generation. Enjoy!

-Aleta Norris is a co-founding partner of Brookfield-based Living As A Leader, a leadership training, coaching and consulting firm. You may send questions to her at To read all of her columns, visit the knowledge portal at

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Aleta Norris is a partner and co-founder of Living As A Leader, a national leadership training, coaching and consulting firm. Living As A Leader supports the development of leaders in more than 125 organizations across the country. For several years, Aleta has been researching and speaking about the critical responsibilities organizations and leaders share related to the attraction, retention and engagement of the emerging workforce.

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