Professional Advice for Generation Y: Some Final Thoughts
I originally had planned to cover 3-4 more topics in this series, though I'll be honest, times are a-changin'. The rash of topics I would see articles written on seem to not be as relevant now as they were a year or two ago. As I believed would happen, Generation Y is "growing up". The bad economy and some change in the workplace has sparked some "taming" of the once rebellious nature bloggers have spoken of when it comes to Millennials.
With that in mind, I want to close up this series with some final pieces of advice. Again, I reiterate my goal isn't to berate or "talk down" to the younger generation as others have, but simply help them understand the world we live in compared to the world they grew up in.
So let's get into it then.
Money is important
This isn't some lecture on why you should pay your insurance bill over buying an iPad, or why you should have a savings account. I'm sure your parents gave you that talk already. This is more a shout to those who speak of how the freedom to look at Social Media at work is more important than a good salary. This is aimed at those who think "cool work" is more important than a good wage.
I understand no one wants to spend their life in a boring cube doing mindless paperwork for a decent salary, but I also think it's unrealistic to decide at age 26 to live at home and be a blogger, hoping in a few years you'll blow up into a highly-paid journalist. Look what's happening to journalism now.
My point to this topic is you are educated, skilled, talented...and worth money. I'm not saying you're worth some high salary normally given to specialists or executives, but you are worth more than what a job at McDonald's pays. Don't let employers take advantage of you. If you're taking a paycut to get necessary entry-level experience, do it. However, if you're taking an unlivable salary hoping to work in a "cool job" that one in a million people only make a living in, then you need to rethink it.
You also need to not let the economy tell you that you should work for free or near free. All you do is make someone else money. Like it or not, rent costs money. Food costs money. Life costs money. Your goal is to be able to afford to live, so don't let someone take advantage of you.
Be a little patient
This is in regards to the impatience many Gen Y workers have towards the promotion process. I know we all want a promotion, a raise, and the chance to move up the ladder, but you also have to remember that promotions come based on merit and need. If you have senior-level employees in your group or department, and now you want to be one, you have to ask yourself if the company needs another senior, or a "lowly grunt" to do the work.
We already now see many companies overloaded with management, and understaffed in normal workers. In the economic downturn, I watched many middle managers lose their jobs, and even had to go back to "lowly grunt" in a new company just to work again. There is no stability anymore, so you can be knocked down the ladder as easily as you can climb it.
Now I'm not trying to tell you not to shoot for a promotion, but to be patient. If you've been in a company for 2 years and have not seen a promotion, deal with it. It takes many 7-10 years to get a real promotion. Just focus on your job and how you can be more than your position dictates. Promotions do not go to people who just do their job, but the ones who bring value into the company. Even now, promotions mainly go to valued workers the company doesn't want to lose, but can tell he/she is thinking of leaving.
You also need to be careful not to be taken advantage of, just like I mentioned with salary. Some companies are now dividing up a position into multiple levels, and thus hand employees small promotions which really do not equate to much, but are designed to make the employee feel they have been promoted. A Junior Designer Level II isn't much different than a Junior Designer Level III...you're still a Junior Level Designer.
Should you job-hop your way up the ladder? I see plenty do it, but there comes good and bad with it. Some work their way up to bigger levels, but others are seen as disloyal, and thus companies will be reluctant to hire, or will simply hire them for a short-term need, and then pink slip them when they need to slash the budget. Leaving a company to get a promotion should be the last resort when you can see there isn't any real room for growth.
You are not on the baseball field
I did not want to pull out the Bill Gates line of "you are not special", but when I've read the stories of Millennials growing up with "everyone gets a turn at bat" and "everyone gets a trophy", it did make me wonder what would happen when you all grew to adulthood.
Thankfully most of you did grow up to be balanced and not take success for granted as well as learning from failures, but some unfortunately have not. I'll say what Bill Gates said, you are not special. I don't say this to be cruel or to belittle you, but I say it to simply display how truly harsh and horrible the world is outside of your parents' home.
When you get into the workplace, you won't always get a chance at bat, a chance to get into the spotlight, and you'll even watch someone above you take your fire for their own. Likewise, when you do get the opportunity to go up to bat, you won't instantly hit a homerun and get a reward no matter what.
I grew up on the darker more opposite side of your more "sheltered" upbringing. I was put into competition with others, I lost, was belittled by my peers for not being good at the thing I failed at, and didn't get a trophy. I don't want you to feel sorry for me, but take in the lesson I learned from those days. I learned the only person I really need to compete with is myself. You need to do the same. When I try to learn new practices and ideas in web design, I am not thinking about the younger kids at work who might know more, or a published freelancer who makes loads of money to do designs. I think about where I was, and where I'm going.
The trophies you should mainly get in your life should be from yourself. Forget about your boss, coworkers, peers, friends, family, etc. Always ask yourself how you're doing and what could you improve on. Recognize these things and meet them head-on. If you spend your life looking to others to give you praise, you'll end up empty...regardless if you get loads or little of that praise.
And now to Generation X
I want to close off this article and series with a few choice words to my own generation. I know it sucks how many Baby Boomers in management have seemingly overlooked us for the Millennials, and thus I could understand some levels of resentment. However, I think hating on Generation Y won't solve anything.
Like it or not, we're succeeding now. We've overcome several recessions under Clinton and Bush, and now are pulling into positions we worked hard for. Like you, I've read and seen some of the spoiled behaviors out of SOME of the Millennials, but I urge you to mentor, rather than admonish.
I'd like to believe the Great Recession has brought Generation Y down to Earth. I don't see many young spoiled narcissists at my workplace the way others claim, but instead young kids eager to learn and grow. We in Gen X perhaps didn't get the mentorship we wished for back in the 90s and 00s, but we have the experiences to now help guide these younger workers into building a balanced workplace ideology that even we wanted in our past.
In the end, we need to be a team, X and Y. That's how we all succeed.
Do you have any solid advice for Generation Y?