June 23, 2022

Corporate ladders, culture wars or pragmatism? What’s driving millennial professionals?

70% of millennial professionals say they value quality of life over career success in study.

It’s back to basics for millennial professionals.

Years of societal, economic and cultural turmoil have turned millennial ambition into a desire for the simpler things. And with that, a challenge to traditional assumptions that America’s biggest cities still have a monopoly on the best companies and the best talent in a given industry.

In a recent Bailey Lauerman study of 1,500 working millennials, 70% said they value quality of life over career success when considering a new job search. And they’re wondering if they can find that quality of life in the large metropolitan areas that have traditionally attracted top talent.

The lure of the big city has lost its luster.

In the 2022 study, nearly three-quarters of urban millennials stated they have already considered or planned a move out of their city. The reasons why? A lower cost of living (39%), greater sense of security (34%) and a desire to escape urban hassles (23%). In fact, 59% of all millennial respondents across the country felt that “the wow-factor of living in a big city has lost its luster.”


“Millennials have become more pragmatic when it comes to both career ambition and the place they’ll call home,” says Greg Andersen, Bailey Lauerman CEO. “They’re looking for a whole-life balance and the chance to make a difference in ways that are more grounded than pure ambition.”

Economic concerns are clearly influencing their thinking. According to Politico, millennials are “behind in almost every economic dimension.” A Harris Poll for the American Institute of CPAs found that 68% report debt as having a “negative impact” on their daily lives (compared with 59% of Gen Xers and 48% of boomers).

A leveling of the perceptual playing field?

For decades, big cities and big-city companies have owned the quality attributes that all but a few smaller markets lacked: better companies, better talent and better diversity. But ongoing talent migration, distributed workforces and the normalization of remote work may be starting to erode the perceptual attributes long owned by larger markets.

While 30% of nonurban millennials felt that working in a large urban market would create “access to a wider range of jobs,” only 10% of millennials living outside of America’s 10 largest cities felt that “working with better companies” would be a potential draw to urban living. When considering potential urban colleagues, only nine percent felt “working with better-quality talent” was a compelling draw.

Of these findings, Andersen said, “Clearly, nonurban millennials don’t believe all the blades of grass are greener elsewhere. While they see some benefits of a big-city job, they also feel good about where they’re from and content with where they are. It’s more about the quality of life they see right in front of them.”

The research does identify reasons why nonurban millennials would consider urban-market jobs.


Are cultural differences between large urban markets and the rest of America overstated?

While the culture wars dominate cable news, social media and political platforms, millennials don’t seem too concerned about how that might shape their perceptions of where they hang their hat.

Among the 24% of urban millennials who said they’re not considering a move out of a major U.S. city, the negative perceptions of smaller cities and towns don’t seem to be big factors in their thinking. Only 15% of respondents worried that a move out of a major city would make them “too far removed from culture/trends,” with 12% concerned about a new destination being “too slow-paced” and 9% saying their surroundings in a smaller market would be “too conservative/traditional.”

A re-stirring of the cultural melting pot.

Positively, independent of their perspectives on remote work or personal relocation plans, both urban and nonurban millennials see remote work as a way to improve workplace diversity, with roughly seven in 10 believing “remote work will make the workplace more inclusive and diverse.”

Andersen observes, “I think shifting populations and remote work will amount to a re-stirring of the cultural melting pot, with long-lasting benefits for all of America. New people come with new trends and ideas and beliefs. Obviously social media has allowed that to happen virtually, but when it reshapes local populations and workplaces, it then reshapes local culture and local ideas.”

To get in touch with Bailey Lauerman CEO Greg Andersen, email [email protected].


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