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I’m 27 and that makes me a zillennial — right in between the Gen Zs and the millennials.
Since I finished university at 22, I have been adulting for just over five years and have had my fair share of job experiences — each lasting not more than two years.
From my teens to early adulthood, I was taught that life was all about working hard. Do your best to survive and your eventual reward is a comfortable life.
We were normalised to thinking that overtime work should be worn as a badge of honour and would get us a promotion. Have you ever been told that even if you’d complete your tasks for the day, you should never leave the office before your boss?
I was once shamed for leaving work on time despite completing my tasks for the day! I also used to fear taking the annual leave I was entitled to because I would be judged for “not being a team player”.
In the past, I always had to choose between being underpaid, being overlooked (for promotion) or being part of a toxic workplace culture.
Looking back, perhaps that was my fault for accepting the first job offered to me and not seeing my worth in the industry. I admit that I didn’t want to fulfil that stereotype that the older generation typically had towards us: Entitled. Uncommitted. Spoilt.
I ended up just enduring my time at work, neglecting my personal growth and welfare and being miserable — because that was what I was told adulting should be, paying my dues.
@ourgrandfatherstory SHE REALLY SAID “I GOTTA PUT ME FIRST” when she ignored the work texts after 7pm #fyp #foryou #foryoupage #edutok #tiktoksg #worklife #work #life #burnout #singapore #japan #fired #workplace #workplaceproblems #hustle ♬ Originalton – ayooo
When the pandemic hit, I had the opportunity to slow down and live the balanced life I’d always wanted.
I found more time to work on my mental and physical health, spend more time with my family and friends, and even had the energy after work to go for dance classes!
That’s when it hit me. The pandemic gave me a chance to break this cycle of toxic work culture. I was determined to find a job that prioritised kindness in the workplace and a healthy work-life balance.
Younger generation outlook toward work
@itsclarity.co On work-life balance — *sends video to boss* #careertiktok #adulting #worklife #wfhlife #productivity #podcast #tiktoksg #fyp #foryou ♬ original sound – itsclarity.co
In retrospect, we millennials and zoomers are fortunate to have the luxury of choosing our workplace environment. Generations before us had different challenges. They worked to put food on the table and barely had the time to even think about mental wellness.
That would have contributed to the different mindsets that so differentiate younger Singaporeans from the Gen Xs and boomers.
Today, the workforce culture has evolved and the pandemic has had a big role in the transformation. Hybrid work has become mainstream and companies could risk losing up to 39% of their employees if they were to refuse it.
About two in five workers in Singapore said in a recent survey that they would not accept a job if it did not offer flexible work hours or work-from-home options.
And according to a survey by mental health advocacy organisation Silver Ribbon (Singapore), respondents prioritise a sense of fulfilment and work-life balance more than salary when picking a job.
We now have the opportunity to break those toxic cycles our grandparents and parents had to endure as the world adapts to a healthier work-life balance.
Shamed during my job hunt
During my pandemic job hunt, one hiring manager shamed me for my lack of commitment to a company and asked me unreasonable questions, cooking up rhetorical situations in which I had to show how I was able to prove my loyalty and commitment.
“You seem to have the habit of switching jobs after two years. That’s the problem with youngsters nowadays. How am I supposed to feel confident about hiring you?” she said condescendingly.
I was taken aback by her quick judgement. I knew then and there that I would’ve suffered under her wing. I know I wouldn’t have been happy working with her. Even though I felt that I had dodged a bullet, she killed my confidence for the next upcoming interviews.
@karishmairl HERES HOW TO ANSWER! 👀 #career #9to5 #interviewquestions #interview #tech #techsales #workingintech #corporatetiktok #careeradvice #TurboTaxAndRelax #jobsearch #fyp #fypシ #xyzbca ♬ Drake – Instrumental – TQuality Beatz
It took a while for me to find my confidence again. Scrolling through social media, reading online articles and talking to friends gave me a wider perspective. They corroborated and validated my feelings on the struggles of finding a job today as a zillennial.
It needs to be said here that the stereotypes facing younger Singaporeans can be overly harsh. We are not lazy or fickle. We yearn for a fair salary, proper progression and positive workplace culture — like everyone else — it is just that we have different priorities.
According to The Straits Times, it is a norm for millennials to job-hop within a few years into their jobs. Millennials and Gen Z’s shouldn’t apologise for our tendency to job hop. I spoke to some of my peers and here’s why.
1. It takes two hands to clap
Instead of jumping to negative conclusions about the younger generations about their work ethic and discipline, older managers and executives should perhaps look deeper at the company’s work culture.
Nurturing a workplace that practises mutual respect and understanding between employees and management is crucial in determining an employee’s commitment to the company.
One friend asked: “Why is it that we have to stay in a company for a certain number of years? What if I don’t like the work environment?”
More companies should promote healthier workplaces where employees feel safe enough to express their concerns to their managers and colleagues.
Millennials and zoomers tend to question more about what the company has to offer during an interview, instead of the other way round. In other words, how can the company contribute to their personal growth, just as they are working to add value to it?
A friend shared: “I look at the company’s recognition and what it does. I look towards how they can help me grow and hone my skills.”
2. The workforce mindset has evolved
Most of us prefer not to let jobs consume us and become our only identity.
Let’s be honest, we work to pay for expenses or to reward ourselves with nice things. It is a source of income for most. It’s only a bonus if they happen to love their jobs.
Gone are the days when people would proudly announce “my job is my life!” anymore.
Gen Zs and millennials have evolved to compartmentalise work and personal life — a definite challenge during the pandemic as we started working from home! — as we believe the two shouldn’t integrate to the extent where it could spark off an identity crisis if we lose our jobs.
Yet with that comes its own share of problems. A friend of mine, a self-proclaimed workaholic who has several side gigs, shared that she gets worried by uncertainty.
She told me: “How do I know what my future would be like? Especially when the future is more uncertain and the jobs I do now might not at all be needed in the future. How to know if I’m relevant? How to know that I can sustain this job? So many questions, with little to no answers. I’m anxious, for sure. But I’m even more determined to pursue and adapt to the work I want to do.”
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Another friend also strongly believes in having a healthy work-life balance but is afraid that in a competitive industry with an abundance of talented people, she might have to make more sacrifices.
“How can I enjoy myself on my days off, knowing that there might be hungrier people out there, more willing to sacrifice their personal time to get ahead?”
For instance, people in the marketing industry who mostly work in social media most often find it difficult to set the boundaries between scrolling for fun or staying ahead of trends for work.
3. Sincere employees will let our work speak for themselves
We prefer to “work smart” and have evolved to focus more on self-actualisation than achieving a certain type of lifestyle.
Contrary to popular belief, millennials do work hard when they’re led by kind leaders who trust, and respect yet challenge them.
Sincere employees will become motivated to work hard to prove their worth in the company during allocated working hours. Good leaders will acknowledge and respect that.
With that being said, more companies have already adapted to the evolved workforce mindset — even agencies who are notorious for sucking the life out of you!
A friend who works in a PR tech agency constantly boasts about her bosses who put their employees’ welfare as a priority: Their clients are clear about their working hours and should not expect email responses after 6pm or during weekends.
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It is possible to work hard, play hard and not lose ourselves while adulting.
I’m fortunate to have found an organisation with leaders that constantly make me feel valued, and find ways to hone my skills. In return, I feel motivated to work hard to achieve organisational goals.
It just takes a little bit of kindness, compassion and understanding from both sides!