In typical generational studies, Gen-Yers appear to be that ungrateful generation expecting to waltz their way to the top in about a quarter of the time it took everyone else. So it begs the question, who do these people think they are?
These people are overachievers. If you think about it, they have been “in training” for leadership since they can remember. Everything from being the line leader in elementary school, the team captain for varsity lacrosse, and the sorority president has put them in shape to be the next corporate leaders.
Let’s look at what it takes to get into college nowadays. If you want to go any of the Top 50 Schools from US News and World Report, there’s a pretty high bar to reach. A perfect GPA doesn’t cut it anymore; you have to have over a 4.0. SAT scores are just the beginning, add in SAT II, AP, and dual-enrollment grades. At least one sport of some kind should be there, but if you have two or more you move back to the middle of the pack. Check off Editor-in-chief of the newspaper or yearbook, exec board of four other organizations, plus multiple honor societies. Get creative by starring in the annual musical or have pieces exhibited in a major art museum. Outside school, start the volunteer hours early, and even better if you can start your own program or build houses in another country. Be a leader at your place of worship or other community group. Throw in being a dutiful family member, and you got a pretty good idea of the next class of college freshmen.
And then what happens in college? These overachievers join groups, building more leadership skills.
Yet for some reason these prior exercises do not matter. Graduates from the top universities in America walk into their first job only to file and set appointments. They get bored, move around companies, and begin to get frustrated. They can’t break that “entry-level” barrier.
The other side sees Gen-Yers as commitment-phobic, unwilling to stick it out with the company long enough to make some traction. There is also the school of, “Well I had to pay my dues, so they should too!” And again, we get ungrateful attached to this group of young workers.
If we can, let’s go back to what it took to move up in a company a previous generation or so ago. Technology was pretty non-existent, so it literally did take hours to complete a task. There was not the same kind of demand for a work-life balance, and parents rarely spent time with their children. The number of employees with higher-education was down, and the rigor in universities then is not what it is today. Tuition debt was almost unthinkable. And (sorry ladies), it was a pretty “Good Old Boy” kind of world, and in some cases it still is.
Now, let’s look at today. We have a group of overachievers who can multi-task like nobody’s business. Technology allows for tasks to be completed in seconds instead of hours…so why would someone sit around for the hours it used to take? Move on to the next thing. Almost all young workers start at a financial disadvantage, with debt of some kind. And it is still a game of who you know.
Can you blame Gen-Yers for wanting to move ahead? They’ve had responsibility since a young age and have needs that demand they start moving up to get paid more. Sure there is a lot of attraction to promotions and getting bonuses and such, but those bonuses pay off loans and credit cards. They also want to do something else to get noticed, like lead a new project, instead of spend late nights at work.
And if all that is asked of some of these amazing young workers is to file and answer the phone, then it appears your organization does not value the hard work it took that employee to make it that far. No matter the generation, no one likes being undervalued. So why risk it?