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Millennial Women Are Shifting Life Goals Post-Pandemic

african american woman sitting at her computer with flowers and a candle

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Key Takeaways

  • A new report shows Millennial women are shifting perspectives around career goals and work-life balance.
  • The immense pressure and stress of the pandemic has compelled women to consider what really matters when it comes to the future.
  • More than ever, women from this age group are prioritizing flexibility and fulfillment in their lives and careers.

A record 4 million Americans quit their jobs in April 2020, according to the Department of Labor, in what's now being referred to as “The Great Resignation.” The pandemic has upended life as we know it, and people are rethinking their priorities.

Honing in on one group specifically, a survey of 1,000 women aged 13–39, conducted by research and insight company YPulse, looked at the impact of the pandemic on the shifting life goals of Millennial and Gen-Z women.

“Gen-Z and Millennial females are from the most anxious generations to date, and then they are more anxious than Millennial and Gen-Z males,” says MaryLeigh Bliss, a youth and pop culture expert at YPulse. “So, I think that these are two generations of women who are potentially questioning what is the right thing for them.”

The report reveals that women aren’t just rethinking career goals, some are reframing their lives entirely.

Stress as a Springboard

A new, and necessary, focus on mental health is a major contributor to this trend. The report shows that Millennial women are more likely than their male counterparts to feel like they have no control over the chaotic world around them, which adds to this increased sense of anxiety.

“The immense chronic stress experienced over the pandemic, or, rather, trauma, which many people experienced for both extended and acute periods of time, is experienced by the mind and processed into the brain in a negative way, which has the potential to affect how we run our daily lives, including the huge mental demands required for the kind of pivotal changes the pandemic has brought on in many people’s lives,” says neuroscientist Caroline Leaf, PhD, author of “Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess.”

MaryLeigh Bliss, Youth Insights Expert

Gen-Z and Millennial females are from the most anxious generations to date. So, I think that these are two generations of women who are potentially questioning what is the right thing for them.

— MaryLeigh Bliss, Youth Insights Expert

Countless families have spent the past year and a half juggling the priorities of work, childcare and public safety, and Millennial women were twice as likely as their male counterparts to leave their jobs. One of the main reasons for this was to take care of their children and household.

Although we are still living through a pandemic, many people are beginning to consider what a post-pandemic world could look like. For Millennial and Gen-Z women specifically, the report reveals that, moving forward, life and career goals for this group might better align with their values and desires.

New Career Paths

Another reason Millennial women were twice as likely to leave their jobs was dissatisfaction with the conditions, the report says. But these kinds of shifts are happening for more than just Millennials.

Sophia Husbands, a 42-year-old living in the UK, was working as a contractor pre-pandemic. She was beginning to feel the burnout of a quarter-life crisis, and when Covid-19 hit it catalyzed her decision to push forward with a start-up idea she’d been mulling over.

“I thought what can I do as an individual?” Husbands says. “I had the idea some years before to create a job board for people who wanted to create a sideline job or gig. And I thought, why not start working on this and making it happen?”

Janette Marsac, LMSW

During the pandemic, many had the chance to peek behind the curtain and see what life was like not working 50+ hours, not commuting 10+ hours, and what work-life balance truly felt like.

— Janette Marsac, LMSW

The report shows that shifting priorities are the main motivation for a change in work lifestyle. According to the report, the number of Millennial women who plan to start their own companies increased by 20% since 2019, while the number of women who now view starting a business as a personal life goal increased by 26%.

Even outside of embarking on a personal business endeavor, Millennial women are changing their minds about work lifestyle. According to Bliss, 40% of employed Millennial women want to continue working from home post-pandemic, and 67% of this group consider a flexible schedule and the option to work from home as very important factors when considering their career and future.

Janette Marsac, LMSW—whose online therapy practice Forward in Heels focuses on women experiencing anxiety, pain and depression—points out that the pandemic provided an eye-opening experience for countless women who’d been living in a state of near-burnout.

“During the pandemic, many had the chance to peek behind the curtain and see what life was like not working 50+ hours, not commuting 10+ hours, and what work-life balance truly felt like,” Marsac says.

Combatting the Quarter-Life Crisis

Reassessing values and goals periodically is an important and necessary exercise for living a more fulfilling life. Completing this exercise might’ve looked differently this past year, as countless people have been pushed to the brink thanks to stress, anxiety and fear.

“It is important to remember that toxic stress, depression and anxiety are signals of a mental mess—something that we, as humans, all experience,” Leaf says. “These feelings are not something we should be ashamed of. However, they do need to be managed because, if left unmanaged, they can increase our vulnerability to disease and contribute significantly to blocking our goals and feeling fulfilled.”

Natalie Underdown, PhD

The pandemic has brought mental health to top of every progressive, people-focused organization’s priority list.

— Natalie Underdown, PhD

Leaf recommends a brain detox, which involves processing trauma and stress with compassion, as well as building better habits by breaking negative behavioral patterns. Some bad habits are so ingrained that they can feel like a natural part of you, but Leaf assures that they’re not.

“They’re destructive habits that can cause lots of toxic stress in our brains and bodies, as well as in relationships and life,” she says. “They need to be identified, uprooted, and reconceptualized into constructive habits.”

Actively aligning your values, dreams and goals with your work and lifestyle can ease your mind as an individual, but individuals can’t improve conditions of the country’s world culture alone. Companies, who are largely responsible for creating a toxic culture in the first place, must also accommodate this shift toward mental wellness in the workplace.

“The pandemic has brought mental health to top of every progressive, people-focused organization’s priority list,” says executive coach and organizational psychologist, Natalie Underdown, PhD, founder of The Nu Company. “The companies who foster psychologically safe cultures where mental health is the priority will not only out-perform their competition, but see serious ROI when it comes to engagement, retention, and discretionary effort of their people.”

What This Means For You

Along with causing immense stress, the pandemic has provided an opportunity to examine your priorities and realign your values with your lifestyle. Looking at the anxieties of the past year to reassess your habits and work-life balance can help you thrive on the other side of this experience.

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  1. NPR. As the pandemic recedes, millions of workers are saying 'I quit.' Published June 24, 2021.

  2. YPulse. Life plans, rewritten trend report: an in-depth look at a major shift being fueled by Gen Z and Millennials, and what it means for brands. Published January 7, 2021.