The Millennial and the IC – Reflections of One Another in the Workforce


The explosive growth in the numbers of workers electing to become independent contractors (and companies seeking to engage them) is a defining characteristic of the modern American workforce. At the same time, the Millennial generation is poised to replace the retiring Boomer generation as the largest segment of the American workforce.  So perhaps it is not a coincidence that the typical IC and the typical Millennial have a number of traits in common. Is this a function of the workplace trend influencing the workforce or is it the workforce itself shaping the nature of the workplace? Here are the similarities we’ve noticed. You decide.

Both Millennials and IC’s tend to view work as a project or series of projects with defined starting points and ending points. For a Millennial worker, those ending points often end up being further out. For example, a front end developer might seek to change jobs after several years once they have gained mastery of a specific technology or gained greater on the job experience. Independent contractors measure the duration required to complete a specific task(s) with set deliverable time frames. Often, a 1 to 2 year project is the perfect length of an engagement for a Millennial to gather the experience they will want to add to their portfolio for the next engagement.

As alluded to at the beginning, growth of both ICs and Millennials in the workforce is happening at a very rapid pace. Here are the details. Over 50 million millennials are currently in the workforce and they’re entering at a greater pace than the baby boomers are retiring. They have already surpassed the Gen Xers in the workforce in sheer number. Similarly, over 30 million Independent contractors are now in the workforce either full time or part time. And independent contracting continues to grow with the rise of on-demand gig economy opportunities with outfits like Uber/Lyft. Also helping to swell the ranks is the growth of professionals commanding salaries of over $100,000 annually who are turning to consulting as ICs in ever growing numbers.

Here’s another way the IC and the Millennial are simpatico. Neither group conforms broadly to rigid work schedules. The standard work week and 9 to 5 hours structure is no longer relevant. Many millennials are part of dual income households and as such, can afford time between jobs.  The younger generation and companies leveraging ICs generally seem to be more comfortable with the understanding that work must be flexible with the ‘where and how’ tasks are completed. Both share the expectation that there won’t be negative consequences for failing to work within a set schedule or during “office hours”. Both groups believe flexible work hours make them more productive.

Another commonality is seen in selectivity. Independent contractors are selective when joining organizations and allocating their own time to complete tasks. They’re used to working around their other client commitments and personal time.

There are some places where the contemporary IC and the Millennial often differ.  One such difference can be seen in skills versus experience. Millennials are considered by many to be the nation’s most highly educated generations with innate mastery of technology having never lived in a world that wasn’t wired. However, they have understandably limited workplace policy and culture experience. Moreover their skills in all areas frequently reflect youthful impetuousness and not-fully-matured perspectives; clearly traits that are refined only through the passage of time in the workforce. Conversely, independent contractors are also typically educated but come with experience and professional refinement if they’ve been in the workforce for long enough. Independent contractors are most often viewed as subject matter experts for having worked with multiple clients across various verticals in a specialized skill and that’s why they’re frequently engaged to bring their expertise to project work.

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