Millennial jobseekers say they’re upfront, ‘hungry’ and know their worth as employers learn to adapt


The longstanding debate about whether millennials in the job market and workplace have too much of a sense of entitlement has come to the fore again after a social media post went viral recently.

TODAY’s interviews with both employers and young jobseekers found, however, that there may be more middle ground between these two groups than one might expect.

Commenting on the issue, Miss Sharifah Zahrah Aljufri, 25, who has been looking for a job since May, said people who make sweeping statements that millennials should be more humble and more willing to “suffer” like the older generations are stereotyping the group. She also felt that the generalization of millennials being too demanding is unfair.

Mr Adam Esoof Piperdy, 30, chief executive officer and founder of events company Unearthed Productions, agreed that times have changed and hirers need to accept and learn to adapt to the ways of millennials or risk losing out.

The debate on the matter was sparked by a Facebook post made by Mr Delane Lim, 35, on Aug 29.

Read also: Gen Y Speaks: I am an overseas graduate starting a new career as a prime mover driver. And I’m proud of it

Mr Lim, co-founder of FutuReady Asia, a social enterprise focused on youth and leadership development, asked: “Are we raising our generation to be adult babies? Well, I interviewed 12 local graduate job seekers this week for a job... I’m disappointed with their responses because none of them was hungry for a job.

Hours later, a second post elaborating on the matter attracted the attention of many online users.

He detailed his experiences with seven anonymous Singaporean “young candidates” he had interviewed and gave examples of how the applicants had made a range of requests — including not wishing to work on weekends, asking for transport allowances, a team of junior co-workers to assist in tasks and increased annual leave and salaries. 

Read also: Qualified for the job but not hired — lessons from my interview experiences

Mr Lim also said that during the interviews, he felt that he was the one being interviewed instead, adding that many of these “young talents” are not willing to be humble or suffer. 

“They prefer to work smart (rather) than hard, unlike our older generation. I am pro-Singapore workforce but... they make it harder for us to consider employing them. So stop blaming companies for considering non-locals,” he wrote.

The Pew Research Center of the United States, which has been studying millennials for more than a decade, defines millennials as individuals born between 1981 and 1996. This year, they would be aged between 24 and 39.

Read also: Jobseekers’ Diaries: I was anxious and lost but didn’t give up on my interest in Japanese cooking

When TODAY spoke to Mr Lim on Wednesday, he explained that he was merely sharing his experience and highlighting a gap in expectations between job seekers and prospective employers.

“In no way was my post meant to cast aspersion or to stigmatize any specific groups. I had expected that this post would start certain conversations and debates and a sharing of other people's experiences, as well as take in differing views, but I didn’t expect the hostility of the responses.”

Mr Lim said that he has been “harassed” and subjected to doing with his address and contact details posted online.

Read also: 39% of workers retrenched in Q1 found new jobs by June: MOM

He has also received threatening notes from “keyboard warriors” and social media users who disagreed with his stance have been making fun of pictures of him, his family and friends, he added.

There was, however, a “silent majority” that sent him positive messages, chocolate hampers, and even a S$200 CapitaLand voucher, and he is thankful for their support during what has been a “challenging time”.

Asked if he regrets publishing the post, he said: “This is my DNA and this is my social media personality. I stand by what I said but I could have made my intention clearer through better use of words.”


Ms Muslihah Mujtaba, 26, a former production coordinator who has been on a job hunt since February, said that the younger generation tends to be more demanding than older generations but it is simply because they refuse to “settle for less”.

“It’s not that millennials are not willing to suffer, it’s just that we are more driven in striving for greater income and better opportunities because the standard of living is much higher now and we have invested so much in our education,” she said.

Miss Sharifah, the other jobseeker whose internship stint was shortened due to Covid-19, said that what Mr Lim saw as demands are not unreasonable requests.

“I think it’s perfectly valid for jobseekers to ‘interview’ the employers as well. I see why some job applicants have specific expectations, especially if they had been used to certain (benefits and ways of working) from their previous workplaces, though I also understand that what they want may not always be feasible,” she said.

“As for the claim that millennials aren't ‘hungry’ enough. I think it’s precise because we are hungry that we ask questions and have expectations.”

Ms Yeo Wan Ling, 25, who has been looking for a job since she was retrenched in April, agreed that at the interview stage, job applicants letting the employer know what they need to work well is a healthy form of transparent communication.

Freelance writer Neon Drew, 24, said that Mr Lim’s “entire perspective is centered around this toxic mentality that you're only hungry for a job if you're willing to sell your soul in the name of work”. 

“Having conditions set is not just for our own benefit of work-life balance, but prudence for career longevity to avoid burnout," Mr Drew said.

"Unlike the salarymen era, millennials have the luxury of defining our own passions and decide the trajectory to get there. We are hungry to prove our worth without compromising our own values and principles.” 

He added that the present career landscape and economy are vastly different from the yesteryears, and it would be comparing apples and oranges when it comes to saying what “suffering” is. 

“More importantly, hiring managers need to recognize the recruiting process as an even-leveled plane, as opposed to being on a pedestal where candidates should feel lucky to have the job," he said.

"It works two-ways — as much as a company assessing a candidate is a good fit, we're also extending the same courtesy by applying and offering our skills and services.” 


Mr Dale Tan, 41, owner of an ergonomic office furniture brand, believes that it “takes two hands to clap”.

While hirers should learn to adapt and try to understand the mindsets of this group, young jobseekers should also “do some research” and make appropriate demands and requests. They should not go into all interviews with a “big multinational company mindset”.

“They need to understand that some small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are lean or they are startups trying to find their own footing, so not everyone will be able to fulfill their demands, though we will try our best to understand them,” he said.

When it comes to millennials having certain demands or expectations, Mr Piperdy of Unearthed Productions said that “it is totally fine” and it is only because they know what they want. He said that 13 of his 15 employees are millennials.

“They are choosing a career and they definitely don't want to go into a company where it’s all just going to be, ‘Listen to what I say, this is how you do it, don't drink Starbucks’," he said.

"It’s all about trying to make the best environment for everyone and see how they can contribute new ideas… because these people will be the driving force in about five to 10 years.” 

As millennials are the new generation of workers, hirers should adapt or risk losing out, he noted.

“With no fresh ideas, you won't be able to connect and this has been happening to some of the SMEs right now.”

Mr Sam Too, general manager of online retailer Qoo10, where the average age of staff members is 31, said that employers should remove any biases and not prejudge any candidates.

He acknowledged that some millennials have a “stronger sense of self-entitlement and self-belief, having already formed their own perceptions of their market value from the use of various online sites and tools”.

“Mutual respect is key. We also try to be as transparent as possible. There isn’t much to hide in this modern age of the internet," he added. 

"Managing expectations at the onset and leveling both parties’ expectations as much as possible is important.” 

The end of your academic life is a time of major transition. As you enter the real world of working and supporting yourself, it's important you make the right financial decisions from the start to set yourself up for a more secure future.

To help you do that, follow these six personal finance tips to take control of your money management:

  1. Set financial goals ASAP
  2. Make a budget and start saving
  3. Consider refinancing your student loans
  4. Build up your credit score
  5. Take advantage of tax breaks
  6. Become an investor

1. Set financial goals ASAP

If you don't know what you hope to accomplish with your money, chances are you won't accomplish much. To make sure you're using your hard-earned dollars wisely, take the time after graduation to consider what's most important to you.

Ideally, you should set both long-term financial goals (such as saving enough for retirement by age 65) as well as mid-range and short-term goals (such as saving for a vacation next year or a house in five years).  Be specific in both the amount of money you'll need to accomplish your goal as well as your desired timeline.

2. Make a budget and start saving

Using your money responsibly is key to accomplishing your goals, and a budget makes that possible. Use your budget to assign every dollar a job and don't forget to include saving money towards your goals among those jobs.

To create a budget, start by tracking spending so you know where your money is currently being used. Look for spending cuts to free up cash for your goals and treat savings as a bill you must pay along with your rent and car payment so you allocate funds towards your goals before any unnecessary discretionary spending.

3. Consider refinancing your student loans

If you have student loan debt, repaying it will likely be one of your key financial goals. You need to understand what your payment options are, as well as the type of debt you have so you can develop a smart repayment plan.

Federal student loans offer the borrower benefits including choice in repayment options, flexibility in changing your payment plan or pausing payment, and even the chance to get part of your loans forgiven under certain circumstances. They typically also have low fixed interest rates.

Private student loans, on the other hand, don't offer all of these benefits and you may be stuck with debt at a high rate. If so, refinancing your student loans could help you to save on your monthly payment and become debt-free faster. With interest rates very low right now, you could potentially realize significant savings by refinancing if you're a well-qualified borrower or have a cosigner willing to guarantee your loans.

If you find you can lower your rate, consider applying for a refinance loan ASAP to make your student loan debt cost you less.

4. Build up your credit score

Good credit is the foundation of a solid financial life and you should start working on building credit as soon as possible. Opening a credit card may be the easiest way to do that as you can begin to establish a positive payment history and show you're using your card responsibly.

Alternatively, if you already have a lot of outstanding credit card debt because you borrowed while in school, your high balances may hurt your credit score. A debt consolidation loan could make it easier to repay your debt, while also showing lenders you can be responsible for paying both an installment loan and revolving debt.

President Donald Trump on Thursday encouraged universities and colleges that reopened their campuses this fall to continue holding classes in person despite rising coronavirus cases, claiming colleges pose a lower risk to students than sending them back home. 

“It’s much safer for students to live on campus,” Trump said during a press briefing at the White House. “Rather than the alternative, the alternative is no good ... going home, spreading the virus to high-risk Americans.” He said students want to be in school and their parents want them there as well.

Trump said his administration has reviewed data from more than 20 colleges and “not a single student” who tested positive for the virus has been hospitalized. He presented a slide at the briefing titled “Colleges and universities are extremely low-risk environments” that listed numerous universities with thousands of reported Covid-19 cases but no reported hospitalizations. 

“That’s a lot of people, that’s a lot of students, and not one has been hospitalized,” Trump said.

There have been reports of college students hospitalized from Covid-19 complications; however, the number remains low compared with the number of cases.

San Diego County Public Health officials announced Wednesday that a San Diego State University student had been hospitalized due to Covid-19, according to NBC 7 in San Diego.

In Kansas, Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly said in late August that one of the state’s college students had been hospitalized with complications from Covid-19, according to reports from 41 KSHB in Kansas City, an NBC affiliate. Kelly said the student was believed to have the multisystem inflammatory syndrome, or MIS-C, a rare condition seen among some people who have tested positive for Covid-19. 

A spokesperson for the White House wasn’t immediately available for comment regarding Trump’s statements. 

The president also said he’s “pushing” for Big Ten football to return after it postponed its season in August following a string of Covid-19 cases and fear of a second wave in the fall. Schools in the conference are mostly located in the Midwest, where some states have seen a recent uptick in cases. 

“It would be a great thing for our country and the players and coaches want to do it really badly,” Trump said at the White House. “They have some of the best players, college players in our country and they want to get into the NFL, and they want to make money in the NFL. And they’re not going to be able to do that too easy if you don’t get to see them play.” 

Trump has previously pushed for colleges and universities to reopen amid a string of outbreaks at institutions across the U.S. On Aug. 19, Trump said, “There’s nothing like being with a teacher as opposed to being on a computer board.” He said that the decision to close universities could “cost lives,” saying that young people could spread the coronavirus to older Americans. 

The coronavirus is far more deadly for older people and those with underlying conditions. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in June that the hospitalization rate for people who test positive for the coronavirus in their 20s is under 4%.

However, many infectious disease experts and university officials have still shown concern because the virus could spread to neighboring communities and infect people who are at greater risk. 

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