A Parent’s Advice to Gen Z About Starting Their Career
As the working world continues to change as members of the workforce come and go, two things remain constant. People desire to be compensated for their work and want their career to provide fulfillment and genuine interest.
As a parent observing Gen Z entering the workforce, I’ve noticed some of their flawed notions about work and career. I believe that these notions are leading to the overwhelming sense of job dissatisfaction and career crisis that this generation is experiencing. If some of these notions resonate with you, it might be time to rethink your approach so you can make the most of your career journey ahead.
The Corner Office Isn’t Entry-Level
Even if you are in a high-demand industry and graduate at the top of your class, we all must pay our dues. No executive, director, or manager will be handing out office keys to someone untested in the corporate environment. Be prepared to take on grunt work for six months to a year before asking for a higher-level job. Even prodigies have to practice to polish their skills.
Your first few jobs out of school are your chance to really prove yourself. Make sure that you are performing your job duties with integrity and beating your manager’s expectations. If you don’t know what those are, find out. Show up on time. Be a diligent worker and exhibit work ethic. You will never be promoted if you can’t work with others in a respectful, collaborative way. So, leave the ego at the door. These are all entry-level skills in the corporate world that will build your reputation. Work with consistent effort on what is in front of you, and whatever you want to be tomorrow will soon show itself.
Others’ Opinion of Your Career Doesn’t Matter
Everyone wants a cool job. The younger you are, the more it seems like having the cool job and title matters. The good news is, your job doesn’t have to be a fashion statement, a declaration of your personal values, or an obligation to someone else’s goals for you. A wonderful way to hate your life is to go into a line of work to please someone else. Life is too short to go into a field because it will make you look important, or get you gold stars from your parents.
If you need career guidance, getting a mentor or coach to offer unbiased advice can be extremely valuable. Avoid asking too much advice from someone with pre-existing expectations or knowledge of you and your circumstances. Opinions of friends or family can often be too colored by their experience with your history, leading to advice that might keep you stuck. Ask someone you admire if they will mentor you. If you have the ability, hire a career coach and do the work they assign you. A fresh perspective on the choices facing you will help you build a strong long-term career plan rather than focusing short-sighted social gain.
Progression Takes Time
While you may have worked hard to get the degree that got you the job, recognize that as a Millennial or Gen Z, you’re amongst the highest-educated working cohort the world has ever seen. Now I’m not saying that the degree wasn’t worth it (student loan balances notwithstanding), but after graduation, your degree is just the foundation you’re building your career on. You don’t walk off the stage and straight into the middle of the corporate ladder. You still have a long way to go.
Take advantage of learning while the stakes are relatively low. Employers are always on the lookout for talent that delivers value, not just takes a paycheck. So, make sure you are reading up on your chosen field all the time, keeping up with changing trends, technology, and making yourself a subject matter expert. You don’t need to wait for your employer to provide training. If you do, you will fall behind the up-and-comers behind you.
How do you know you are ready to move to the next step? Here are some benchmarks to keep in mind:
- Your job duties no longer challenge you
- You do not have a career path that will increase your responsibilities and wages
- Your manager is blocking your advancement, even after you’ve shown proficiency in your current position
- Your skills don’t feel truly utilized
Sometimes Work Is Just Work
There will be times that you will be in a job for the sole reason that it pays the bills. Unfortunately, that happens to most of us at one point or another. It’s frustrating, but we’ve all been there. Going to a job that feels like a grind is not the end of the world. It’s just doing what you need to do for now until something better comes along. The key is to be ready when that opportunity presents itself.
When you’re in this season of life, make sure that your true skills and interests are being developed outside of your job. Don’t let your job take over every inch of your mental and emotional space. Decide what you want your future life to look like and figure out what it will take to get there. Carve out time to pursue those goals. Make the most of your time away from work. Future you will thank you for taking the initiative to lay the groundwork for the future you truly desire for yourself.
When you start to realize what you want (and sometimes this comes from learning what you don’t), you’ll truly start to design your own career path.