10 common characteristics of millennials (with definition)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 21 April 2022

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, which is also known as Generation Y, is one of the most creative and adaptive generations in human history. This is especially true when it comes to their careers. In this article, we look at the 10 most common characteristics of millennials and how to demonstrate these attributes in a cover letter, on a CV and during interviews.

What is the millennial generation?

The millennial generation, or Generation Y, is the population of those born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s. The millennial generation is the most populated demographic cohort in modern history. Having been born at the start of the Internet age and a new millennium, Generation Y has lived through some of the biggest technical growth and development eras. This is a reason why they are often viewed as being more creative, progressive and far-thinking than earlier generations. Millennials also tend to prioritise moral values over material ideologies.

Related: Millennials vs gen Z (definition and differences)

Common characteristics of millennials

Along with being the first generation to experience advances in technology, such as virtual reality, artificial intelligence and the Internet, millennials also have a variety of traits which distinguish them from other generations. The most common characteristics of millennials are:

1. Being open and adaptive to change

Not only are most millennials comfortable and adaptive to change, but they also welcome and embrace it. It's common for this generation to promote change in technology, the economy and business. Millennials tend to notice that these industries are changing all the time and that the methods of working within them can change too. By being able to adapt to an ever-changing atmosphere, millennials can gain an advantage over other generations when applying for newly created jobs.

Related: How to overcome resistance to change at work in 6 steps

2. Having a passion for learning

Along with being able to adapt to situations, a common characteristic of millennials is having a passion for continuous development and learning new things, both personally and professionally. Millennials show a new curiosity about the world that wasn't seen in previous generations while having a strong desire to develop skills that can help them progress in their professional lives. Millennials also place importance on setting and achieving their goals for both their career and personal development.

Related: Interview question: 'What are you passionate about?'

3. Valuing social interactions and teamwork in the workplace

Generation Y puts a significant amount of importance on working in a team by bringing new, creative and innovative approaches to the way they work. They also collaborate well together on projects and bring different views when it comes to problem-solving. Alongside the quality of results and their productivity within a team, millennials also crave a social environment in the workplace. Millennials may describe their ideal and optimal workplace as relaxed, fun and comfortable.

Related: Teamwork skills: definition, types and tips for improvement

4. Being creative and free-thinking

Millennials tend to be more innovative and imaginative with their thinking than other generations. This may seem to come from the sheer amount of different technological tools available today or because millennials grew up in the middle of the transition from conventional working methods to new technologically advanced methods of work. This has resulted in millennials typically being able to come up with innovative and creative ways to solve problems that arise in the workplace.

Related: Best practices to boost your creative thinking skills

5. Valuing meaningful motivation

Most millennials set goals with more meaningful motivation over traditional motivation. Millennials enjoy making an impact on their community and those around them by doing creative and fulfilling work and sharing their talents. These more meaningful and intrinsic motivators have a great impact on millennials' approach to their work and careers. Millennials are often involved in work helping others, giving advice or inspiration or working towards helping and improving communities or worldwide issues. Alongside this, many millennials' goals tend to offer rewards in more meaningful work or development rather than monetary rewards.

Related: Extrinsic vs. intrinsic motivation (and why it's important)

6. Being open to recognition and feedback

Millennials favour regular feedback over waiting for an annual or biannual review with a superior. The millennial generation values advice, input and mentorship from their managers and colleagues and is highly receptive to continuous daily or weekly feedback. Performance development and management may often be a priority for millennials, which requires managers or supervisors to provide them with feedback on how they're currently performing in their roles.

Related: How to ask for feedback after an interview

7. Having an intuitive knowledge of technology

Many millennials grew up witnessing the fast and extensive growth of technology. Due to this growth, many millennials have developed the ability to change and adapt quickly to new technology as it's made available to the public. Virtual reality, smartphones, interactive software, and even artificial intelligence may see further development from the millennial generation.

8. Challenging the status quo

Most millennials have values and love sharing ideas and opinions with others, but also believe in challenging their superiors when they feel it's necessary. While some may see this trait as a lack of respect for authority, this characteristic of challenging the norm stems from the idea that active listening, collaboration and seeing all points of view is what's best for the company.

Most millennials enjoy working on several tasks or roles, offering creative and innovative solutions that push and move the boundaries of professional status. Gen Y believes that this approach has more benefits to the workplace rather than following the traditional methods passed down from the professional hierarchy.

9. Placing importance on tasks over time

Many millennials are more task-oriented than time-oriented. They tend to place a high priority on producing high-quality products or services. Generation Y is more concerned with working more efficiently over how many hours they have spent on a job or task. Most millennials want to achieve a healthy work-life balance, working as few hours as possible while still completing their jobs to a high standard, so they can have more time to pursue personal goals outside of work.

Related: A guide to 21st century skills (and why they're important)

10. Valuing relationships with superiors

Millennials have frequently shown, in their career and workplace, that they value advice and training from their manager or superior. Millennials have prioritised being comfortable working with their managers or supervisors while also being able to ask them for advice about their career development. Alongside receiving feedback and advice, Generation Y values rapport building to create an open line of communication with their superiors.

Related: Guide: common millennial characteristics and work tips

Millennials education

When analysing the common characteristics of millennials, it's worth looking at the education of millennials in more detail. The number of young adults that hold a bachelor's degree or higher has climbed steadily since 1968. Young adults are now better educated than their grandparents. In particular, Millennial women are much better educated than women from previous generations. In 1968, only 11% of women had a minimum of a bachelor's degree compared to 43% of millennial women.

Highlighting millennial characteristics

The following tips can help you to demonstrate the most common characteristics of millennials when applying for jobs:

In your cover letter

Once you've completed your introductory paragraph to a potential employer, consider including a section to demonstrate how your millennial characteristics may benefit their company while being sure to relate your traits to the skills required in the job description. You can also highlight how your strengths can provide specific results for the employer.

On your CV

When writing your CV, it's important to include accomplishments and skills gained from previous roles. You can demonstrate your millennial characteristics by highlighting times when you relied on your creative problem-solving, expert technical skills or adaptability. It's vital that you include examples of your achievements from your previous experiences when looking to show potential employers how your past productivity or performance may benefit their company.

Related: The ultimate guide to CV basics (with example)

During the interview process

When preparing for an interview, focus on some key characteristics that allow you to answer general interview questions, such as 'Why do you want to work for our company?' and 'Tell me about your strengths?'. For example, if you're interviewing for a role in a digital marketing agency, you could highlight your passion and curiosity for learning new skills. This can include those gained while working in a previous role, which allowed you to create a new and innovative system for scheduling and managing content.

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