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Millennials’ Career Perspective and Psychological Contract Expectations: Does the Recession Lead to Lowered Expectations?



The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of generational, contextual, and individual influences on Millennials’ career expectations.


Two matched samples of Millennials graduating in 2006 (n = 787) and 2009 (n = 825) filled out a questionnaire regarding their psychological contract expectations, career strategy, and optimism about the labor market in completely different socioeconomic contexts.


Recession is related to lower levels of optimism. During times of recession, Millennials lower their expectations regarding the work-life balance and social atmosphere. However, their expectations regarding job content, training, career development, and financial rewards remain high, suggesting that these expectations are largely embedded within the generation. Moreover, Millennials’ expectations are significantly influenced by individual variables, careerism, and optimism.


This study suggests that managers need to focus their limited resources during times of recession on meeting Millennials’ high expectations regarding their development and careers. Because violating these high expectations can have detrimental effects on a number of outcomes, organizations are encouraged to discover creative and inexpensive ways to provide Millennials with meaningful work, plenty of learning opportunities and career development.


By comparing two matched samples of Millennials in two different situations, this study was able to disentangle generational, contextual, and individual influences on Millennials’ psychological contract expectations.

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Correspondence to Sara De Hauw.

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De Hauw, S., De Vos, A. Millennials’ Career Perspective and Psychological Contract Expectations: Does the Recession Lead to Lowered Expectations?. J Bus Psychol 25, 293–302 (2010).

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  • Millennial generation
  • Psychological contract
  • Economic recession
  • Optimism
  • Careerism