Millennials Often Prioritize Place Over Position

The Millennial generation, and to some extent those in Generation X, started the important trend that has forever changed the conversation on place. Unlike previous generations, they choose where they live carefully.

Have you ever offered a 20-something or 30-something candidate what you think is a generous and life-changing job offer only to have them reject it, citing the place where your company is located as the reason? If so…well, the good news is you’re not alone, and the bad news is this trend isn’t going anywhere, in fact, it’s growing.

A Gallup poll from 2010 shows that more than 50% of recent college graduates admitted to choosing places over jobs that year. A more recent study by Michigan Future Inc. reported that 53% of students said they chose the place they wanted to live over a job. This general finding has been further replicated in other studies.

Place being equally or more important than job is now found in other demographics beyond the youngest talent. So, in a world where there is a global competition for talent, imagine being the highly-sought candidate with multiple job offers that are equally wonderful. In those cases, place becomes the deciding factor.

Since 2010, I have been talking about this important shift on the American landscape on many public stages. And inevitably, some people look shocked in reaction, although less now as people are increasingly seeing this play out in their own lives. But in the beginning, it really was hard to believe. Historically, people only moved to a place for a job, and the location didn’t really matter.

The millennial generation, and to some extent those in generation X, started the important trend that has forever changed the conversation on place. Unlike previous generations, they choose where they live carefully. Compelling career opportunities still matter, but many young people will sacrifice the best job offer for a better quality of life provided by a particular place. Quality of life matters over the corner office.

And with these creative powerhouses and economic engines making up a majority of the workforce, where they go and what they think is important. So, when CEOs saw this trend play out in their HR departments, they took notice, as did the elected officials and other community leaders around town. Then tourism campaigns and place brands really started to matter as the ripple effects continued throughout the landscape.

So when the Knight Soul of the Community project, for which I was the lead consultant, launched its three-year run in 2010, many perhaps unexpected new eyes focused on research that searched to understand what makes a place lovable and how does that love translate in the local economic development landscape. The timing of our research could not have been better to help answer the questions cities really needed to answer for themselves, and quickly at that time.

In this new reality it doesn’t mean that the job itself doesn’t matter or that everything in the old recruitment and retention playbook needs to be thrown out. But it does mean that the playbook has to be updated to include place. Talent must love or at least be fully intrigued with the city of their job as much as the job itself.


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events