Career Conversations with Millennials: A Few Observations

By Sunitha Narayanan

According to Millennial Branding, a millennial research and consulting firm, there are about 80 million millennials and 79 million baby boomers in the United States today. By 2025, millennials will represent about 75 percent of the U.S. workforce. They are seen as smart, savvy, early adopters of technology YET also described as stubborn, casual and opinionated. This category of students and potential business and community leaders continue to excite, perplex and expand us as career professionals.


This year was challenging as I navigated the dual role of being a parent and career coach for my children who are completing their freshman year in college. I have a sharp and steep learning curve before I claim an expert level proficiency in either of these roles! During this personal transition, I accepted a career coaching assignment at the Career Services office at a local university and erroneously thought that this would give me collateral with my own children. Hope springs eternal, doesn’t it, when as parents, we try and establish professional credibility with our teenagers? However, these roles offered me interaction with millennials, which resulted in observations worth sharing.


National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) 2010 Student Survey shows that the more frequently a student uses career services, the more likely s/he is to receive a job offer. For first year students, engaging in career conversations seems to make little sense. The first year is about experimenting with decisions, keeping parents at bay, forging new relationships and celebrating the lack of high school structure. Even when there are dedicated programs such as the First Year Experience, students seem to adopt a cavalier attitude towards it, with mixed emotions of irritation and half-heartedness. How might the role of the career professional interact with such millennial students?

Make it Real – Today, this very moment, right now is what makes best sense, rather than next semester, summer and beyond. I find that having clear conversations around what is going on in classes and with relationships with friends and faculty, the easier it is to take the conversation towards interests and values. Even when students consistently say, “I don’t know,” “My major stinks,” “There aren’t jobs out there,” or “My parents want me to...” they still will engage in and think-aloud of that ideal life they would like to have, if only the “adults” would leave them alone. A couple ideas for making it real include:

Students love analyzing this exercise and will bring out stories to either support or vehemently disagree with the information they have gathered. Gradually, they deepen their self-awareness, adding to their arsenal of likes/dislikes and a fit between interests and choices made.

Make it Happen – This generation is confident, connected and open to change YET to have their uninterrupted attention in a one hour appointment can be challenging. I find that even before one idea is discussed completely, another bright idea beckons them. Sometimes, I race to keep up in a maze of ideas. When I force a pause, I recognize that each idea, as brilliant as it is, lacks a follow through piece. Two practices that help me tether these conversations include:



Make it PersonalThe preference for texting and email leave face-to-face conversations a poor second. I believe this gives me an opportunity to encourage building personal relationships.

I believe getting buy-in with a population that is savvy, opinionated and functions in a world of texts, tweets and email is mostly exhilarating with moments of exhaustion. What do you believe and what has been your experience with Millenials?



Sunitha NarayananSunitha Narayanan is a certified career coach with a passion for connecting people and their talents to life and work opportunities. She is a co-active coach, empowering her clients to believe in their dreams, set actionable goals and actively create joy in their work lives. She is with Promark Company, a Career Partners International firm that offers executive coaching, leadership development and outplacement services. Learn about her interests by visiting her LinkedIn profile at http://www.linkedin.com/in/sunitha4 She can also be reached at Sunitha.Narayanan@promarkcpi.com


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Len Gomberg   on Friday 10/04/2013 at 06:36 PM

Great exercise suggestions. Loved the Asking Exercise. I believe Millenials have had to adapt earlier to economic uncertainty than their predecessors. Exercises and/or conversations that eke out responses to how they deal with uncertainty could be very telling.

Courtney Carroll   on Saturday 10/05/2013 at 11:05 PM

Thank you for writing an informative article with great suggestions.

Sunitha Narayanan   on Monday 10/07/2013 at 11:54 AM

Thank you, Len and Courtney for reading and your comments. And, to those who responded via email to me.

This is a wonderful community where we can all share and learn from each other!

Judi Heile   on Monday 10/07/2013 at 01:37 PM

Your creative suggestions are so welcome as we strive to serve our traditional students in their career development process. Thank you, Sunitha!

Sarah Bell   on Wednesday 11/13/2013 at 03:22 PM

Hi Sunitha, I like your observations and exercises as well. The "using your technology" one in particular provided a remedy to my irritation when I see them open their computer to show my their resume (which I so much prefer in hard copy and then have to have them print). Now I have a way to see it as a tool that is quite positive and creative. Thanks! - Sarah

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