Patience is Not a Virtue for Gen-Y

I wrote a post last week about how Age is the New Glass Ceiling. In it I openly wondered why companies choose to hire older, more experienced candidates from outside the company into managerial or influential positions rather than promote younger, but successful employees from within.

I received some interesting feedback from readers:

“The one thing I’m finding is that companies tend to be careful of one hit wonders. In the sense that they expect a behavior to be demonstrated consistently (this may mean a year or 2) before you can be promoted. Far too many people (millennials especially) come out of school and because they do well on their first project think they should be promoted to Sr. VP!”

“What would have happened, I am wondering today, if someone had given me the advice I like to give young people who wonder why they are not doing better in their job:

Go to the Mirror, Look Yourself in the Eye, and say This Is All My Fault. Take responsibility.”

“Your post sounds like a bit of belly aching–if you really want to advance your career you NEED to pick up and go to another firm. Every time I have done that I get a 15-20% raise. Guess what–you’ll rarely get that by staying in the same place…”

What I find so interesting about these comments is that they automatically assume my performance at work is not good. Which only serves to prove the point I was trying to make in my post:

I should be judged on the quality of my work–not my age.

I feel I speak for lots of these so-called “demanding” millennials who have been in the workforce for a while, who read the self-help books and blogs like my own who are trying to do everything right, who take every boring project and work late every night, who want to play the game so they can get ahead—and yet are running into a wall when it comes to promotion or recognition for their efforts.

After spending some time reflecting on my post and the reactions it received, I came to a realization about why age is such a frustrating thing for most of Gen-Y:

Age is the one thing we can’t change no matter how hard we try.

I feel that there are lots of mid-level or managerial positions I qualify for based on my skill set, interests and previous experience, however, they usually require 2 – 3 more years of professional experience than I currently have. What exactly can I do about this? Nothing but wait. And I think that is at the root of the frustration for many young people.

Is it a millennial thing? Is it just the folly of youth? Most likely it’s a combination of both. And for a generation that was taught “if you can believe, you can achieve” being told to wait can be a hard lump to swallow.

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2 responses »

  1. As a fellow Gen Yer, I totally agree with you.

    In fact, I was practically forced to leave my previous job, unless of course I wanted to wait 5 years to move up to the next position, which was what the company made you wait, no exceptions.

    I get very frustrated with companies who operate like this. Promotions should be based on merit, not on age or how long you’ve been with the company. If companies want loyal employees, they need to start treating their employees like they’re worth something. B/c when you tell me I can’t be a “Managing Editor” b/c I haven’t been with the company for 6 years (I had to be with the company for a year in order to be promoted to Associate Editor, even thou I came into my first position as Assistant Editor way over-qualified), that doesn’t make me feel motivated and loyal, it makes me want to look for another empployer.

    I blog about Hiring and Retaining Members of Gen Y for; any employer who wants to learn more about this important topic can view my blog here:

  2. Interesting, when I saw the title of your post I thought it would be about how as you get older it is harder to find a job or to move up. I don’t know what your particular situation is, but I think you will find that as you work more you’ll realize how much you still have to learn. You may feel desperate to move up right now, so the best thing to do is to job search, work on networking and polish up that resume. But if you stick around for a little while, then you may also learn. I think it is really common to feel frustrated when you are young and in a first job. But most jobs have positive and negative aspects to them and frequently things move slowly in the world of work. You may be overqualified, you may be great and a star performer, but you probably won’t get a promotion tomorrow. Learn how to do what you are doing even better. Work on some of the core competencies. Dress nicely. Come to work early.
    And to Jennifer–I think you are learning something that I also had to learn–if you take a job that is a pay cut or a title cut you will have to work a while to make up for that, unfortunately. Even if you are overqualified.
    Good luck!

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