Here’s The Downside to Millennial Ambition

July 21, 2016

1:40 pm

Ambition is one of the few traits that we’re encouraged to take on – from those just entering the workforce to entrepreneurs looking for their next venture, ambition is what helps us push forward and create the careers that we’ve always wanted. However, ambition isn’t always a great thing. As the Harvard Business Review finds in their latest study, making career the sole purpose can be detrimental for millennials and those just beginning their careers.

The Long-Term Effects of Millennial Ambition

Millennials are among some of the most ambitious members of today’s workforce, which is great news for the economy. However, how will this rise in ambition affect other aspects of our lives, like marriage or starting families?

As the Harvard Business Review finds, this obsession with career advancement can have steep consequences in other parts of our lives, including the increase of stress and decrease of a well-rounded life outside of the office.

In the study, looking at group values were found to have telling signs on how ambition is already having some of these effects on millennials, with almost everything being tied to career: “‘positive interactions with colleagues,’ ‘having a low-stress commute, ‘getting a new job, ‘being satisfied with an existing job.'” The ones that weren’t related to the professional life involved recovery from career stress: “sleeping” and “relaxing in bed.”

Reducing stressors was found to be a popular long-term goal, but still, the majority of those surveyed were still found to be surrounding lack the work-life balance that other generations have exhibited:

The long-term goals that were more typical of Millennials seem to target the same general objectives of reducing stress and worry and exercising more, although Millennials were more specific. For example, Millennials were much more likely to mention specific wellness goals, such as yoga, than to simply say they were hoping to get more fit. But in this study too, Millennials were more likely to talk about work. They mentioned finding a new job with better benefits, more pay, better hours, and more work-life balance, as well as work that was more intrinsically rewarding. This, again, was much more typical of the Millennial age group than older or younger groups.

But, Ambition Isn’t All Bad

Millennials may not be the only ones suffering from the negative effects of ambition, but they are the most vulnerable to it. However, taking steps against reducing stress and having a better work-life balance can still be done now. Employees can make a change by setting boundaries with their work and personal lives, or encouraging more time to bond with family and friends outside of the office. Making these changes can be difficult if you’re used to dedicating your time to the hustle and advancing your career, but it can make all the difference when it comes to using your ambition to your advantage.

Image via Stocksnap

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Cameron is a tech and culture journalist, comic book enthusiast, and lives near New York City. A graduate of Stockton University, she's using her words to shift the world of online journalism, one byline at a time. When she's not writing, she can be found reading sci-fi novels, collecting succulents, and planning her next obnoxious hair color. Cameron is an editorial fellow at Tech.Co. Send your tips to or tweet @BlkGirlManifest.

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