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Why Millennial Women Are Burning Out At Work By 30

BurnoutI just hung up with my 26-year-old friend, Lisa, and let out a big sigh. She's sounds headed for burnout. She can't foresee having kids anytime soon because her boss is so demanding. She feels like she's in constant overdrive and she's barely spending any time with her husband. I could hear the frustration and unhappiness over the fact that her life wasn’t supposed to turn out this way.

Larissa Faw at Forbes.com has intrigued me with her take on why the Millennial generation of women who seem to “have it all” are burning out at work before they reach 30. She writes: one reason that women are burning out early in their careers is that they have simply reached their breaking point after spending their childhoods developing well-rounded resumes. They work like crazy in school and enter the workforce exhausted. Faw points out: No other generation was reared to excel at the same level as Millennials.

Faw also notes another reason for their frustration: Many also didn’t think of their lives beyond landing the initial first job. “They need to learn life is a marathon, not a sprint,” says Kelly Cutrone, president of People’s Revolution PR and author of Go Outside If You Need To Cry.

 Even those who did plot out their lives past the initial first career have unrealistic expectations about full-time employment -- underestimating the actual day-to-day drudgery.

Then they encounter what my friend is experiencing. They struggle over their next move. "Simply quitting or changing careers isn’t an option because the education for their professional jobs has burdened them with substantial student debt. Also, while earlier generations may have opted out of the workforce through marriage or motherhood, these paths aren’t viable for these self-sufficient women, who either are still single or unwilling to be fully supported by men," Faw points out.

Faw includes some findings: Millennials are less likely than Gen Xers, Boomers, and Seniors to say they are doing a good job managing their stress. Some 53 percent of entry-level jobs are held by women, but that drops to 37 percent for mid-management roles and 26 percent for vice presidents and senior managers. And,  men are more likely than women to do things that help their personal well being at work such as going to lunch or taking breaks, thus negating burnout

As a first step, these women are requesting more flexible schedules or seeking different work responsibilities. Some employers are compliant. I just attended the Work-Life Focus: 2020 and Beyond Conference by SHRM and FWI, where we heard lots of speakers talk about big changes in workplaces where Millennials dominate.

The flip side of this trend toward burnout is that Millennial women are highly educated  and they've been trained to lead from a young age. They may have debt but they are more nimble than other generations and determined. They know how to negotiate to get their needs met. I think they're the ones who are going to convince businesses to operate differently -- maybe even get them to rethink how and where work gets done.

Readers, what do you think? Do you think Millennial women are burning out faster than previous generations? Do you think Millennial women have the ability and desire to change workplace attitudes and reverse the trend toward fewer women in the higher ranks?  


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Joe   Russell

doing what one does as a permanent occupation or lifework: career diplomats.

Tegan  Walton

Have you ever wanted to get good at office life, stress and work, stress management and relaxation.


I don't know that it is faster. I think that millenials are more stuck (careerwise, I would contend that other generations felt stuck without a career) than previous generations. Right now I am 30 years old exactly. I just had my first child which led to discrimination at work. So it ultimately wasn't a great experience. I literally texted my boss that I wasn't going to be at work before seeing my baby and between passing out from blood loss. But with a house that is over 20% underwater, daycare costs, student loans, etc I can't do anything different. I can't make a career change and I can't stay at home. I am stuck. If I had options than maybe I would choose to stay here but I don't even have that choice.

Cindy Goodman


I think you summed it up well. I would bet that many younger workers are in the same boat as you.

Mollie   Woodward

life beyond life is called a second life where you always dream what you wish to do.


No other generation was reared to excel at the same level as Millennials.

Seriously? Previously we were all told to be useless slackers by our parents? I thought this was the generation that gave everyone a trophy, because everyone's a winner...helicopter parents? Any of this ringing a bell?

Elise Nixon

The greatest or utmost degree or point, being working mom is very difficult.

Alicia Blain

Nice article, Cindy. I work with both Millennials and leaders in organizations hiring Millennials so I see firsthand the conflict that often arises when the two converge. From my experience with Millennials, especially Millennial women, I’m not so sure they are burnt out as they are extremely frustrated with corporate America.

For all the popularity that the topic of Millennials has and all the hype about how organizations need to adapt to this new workforce, the reality is that behind corporate doors, nothing has changed. Organizations continue to run like they did 30 years ago when most Boomers were just starting out.

That creates a lot of friction and problems for Millennials because they don’t come from that world and don’t really get how to succeed there. I find that many Boomer leaders suffer from a bad case of split personalities. One part of their personality is the parental one that Millennials are most familiar with. The one that was extremely involved in all aspects of their lives growing up. It’s the one that earned Boomers the term, helicopter parent. Millennials love that personality and have come to depend on their parents as advisors in all phases of their lives.

But then Millennials run into the “other” personality which is the corporate one. This personality doesn’t acknowledge the parental one that has invested so much time guiding Millennials. This personality expects Millennials to “get with the program” and “tough it out”. They pull Millennials back to the way they were led years before instead of pushing themselves to lead a different way in the 21st Century. There’s a real disconnect between the 2 personalities that understandably leaves Millennials confused, frustrated and unclear as to what they have to do to succeed in the workplace. Then we wonder why they burn out.

In my work with Millennials, I see many of them opting out of corporate and going into their own businesses even in this tough economy. This past year I interviewed many Millennials who did just that and the majority of them were young women. Technology has removed many of the barriers of entrepreneurship and Millennials, especially Millennial women are choosing to go that route. Many are also choosing to leave the US and try their luck overseas. Unlike the generations before them, Millennials have more options at their disposal than just the corporate track. I think as their frustration with outdated corporate structures increases, Millennials will either band together to fix the problem or try their luck somewhere else. Either way, it will be an interesting ride.

Philadelphia House

Maybe they don't have time anymore for themselves

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