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Before 30-year-old Anna Lee Salas became an online freelancer on, she worked as a design officer for a top mall chain in the Philippines.

She was always fascinated with beautiful houses and interiors and also had a passion for drawing. Becoming an architect seemed to be a natural choice for her.

Her passion though didn’t cloud her pragmatism. She knew that her chosen profession was not for the faint of heart, what with the industry being a male-dominated territory. “In the field of architecture, being old in the industry is an edge. You would probably gain respect if you’ve been practising for a very long time — especially if you are female,” she feels.

Despite the challenges, Anna was not about to give up. Even though she finally quit her job after seven years of employment, her careful decision was a result of her coming to terms that online freelancing would be a better path to hone her craft.

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“There are no challenges for women architects online. I think the clients like females better because they have sharper eyes and are more creative than men,” she says.

The opportunities she discovered through online freelancing had been a welcome change for Anna. She now earns as much as 60 per cent of her total income working on projects from, crediting the international exposure as crucial for updating her design ideas. She enjoys the flexibility as well. “I can even take a vacation and do my work there — just a laptop with internet connection will do,” she enthuses.

Anna is not alone. She joins the rank of millennial professionals that are redefining work that the previous generation had embraced.

The great millennial discontent
“Millennials are more likely to leave if their needs for support, appreciation and flexibility are not met,” warns NextGen, PwC’s two-year global generational study which covered 18 global territories.

“Millennials want more flexibility, the opportunity to shift hours — to start their work days later, for example, or put in time at night, if necessary,” it says.

The study recommends using technology to give millennials more flexibility and increasing work efficiency: “To millennials this is an absolute must — they expect to have access to the best tools for collaboration and execution.”

Deloitte’s The Millennial Survey 2014 echoes this sentiment: “Many of the most talented members of the millennial generation decide to leave large organisations and instead work for themselves. Roughly 70 per cent of millennials see themselves as working independently at some point, rather than being employed within a traditional organisational structure.”

The exodus is not just because millennials are being disillusioned with old work setups; many of them are discovering that work and passion do not have to be two different things. Hiraa Khan is one of them.

Advocacy work had always been close to Hiraa’s heart since high school. She had volunteered for homeless shelters and food banks in Bay Area, California. After working in Google, she joined non-profits in Pakistan and India before deciding that she can do more.

“I realised how little awareness there was in the industry about the use of mobile technology for engaging donors and supporters,” says Hiraa and tells why she launched GiveMob, an iOS and Android application she outsourced on that allows users to donate to their cause of choice without the use of credit cards.

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Deloitte’s study makes a succinct observation of the attitudes young professionals like Hiraa possess toward changing communities for the better: “Millennials see a large gap between the potential of business to address the challenges facing society and the actual impact it is having. … Millennials want to leave their mark on the world by working for organisations that benefit society, encourage innovation, and provide them the opportunity to expand their skills. More than previous generations, they are ready to work independently if their needs are not being met by a traditional organisation.”

It’s no longer just work — it’s a calling
Just last month, news went around that Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson has allowed unlimited leaves for his staff, adopting video streaming company Netflix’s policy to provide more freedom for its staff.

Explains Branson in his blog: “It is always interesting to note how often the adjectives ‘smart’ and ‘simple’ describe the cleverest of innovations — well, this is surely one of the simplest and smartest initiatives I have heard of in a long time(.)”

Virgin — along with many other businesses all over the world — might actually be pulling a smart business move by accommodating the clamour of millennial professionals for more liberty.

Coupled with the wide adoption of freelancing platforms like by millennial professionals and startup entrepreneurs, the trends after all suggest that the incentives companies gave to the previous generation of workers no longer work for today’s working youth. Thus, it’s about time businesses thought of ways to attract fresh talent into their fold.

With work and life becoming more and more blurred, the desire to do better work nowadays goes beyond just making the boss happy. A job is no longer just a job: it’s the millennials’ quest for a more meaningful life.

The views expressed are of the author, and e27 may not necessarily subscribe to them.

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