The Office Rookies Who Ask for the World

Young workers are likely to ask for a promotion after just one year—here’s how they should handle the big request, and how bosses should handle them.

It can be an awkward standoff.

After only a year on the job, more young employees are approaching their managers for a promotion, asking, “All right, I’m ready. What’s next?” says Christopher Kalloo of New York, who heads college relations for a big retailer.  New hires have little patience with entry-level tasks, he says. “They want to help with strategy. They want to help drive the business.”

Some managers say they’re taken aback, wondering, “Who do these rookies think they are?”

More than 75% of Gen Z members believe they should be promoted in their first year on the job, according to a recent survey of 1,000 participants ages 18 to 23 by InsideOut Development, a workplace-coaching company. Employers see similar patterns among younger millennials in their late 20s and early 30s.

The trend has managers scrambling to manage young employees’ expectations without driving them out the door. Many are finding new ways to respond, by carving out step-by-step career paths for restless new hires, or handing out new titles or small bonuses.  A few hold “workversary” celebrations for employees passing the one-year mark to recognize their accomplishments on the job.

Young employees who push too hard risk derailing their careers by projecting a sense of entitlement.  Alex Klein, a vice president and recruiter at VaynerMedia, an 800-employee global agency based in New York, says new recruits are constantly questioning him about promotion opportunities.  Many also ask to be considered for a raise earlier than the agency’s customary timetable.

“Those are great questions to ask.  I want to hire people who want to grow,” Mr. Klein says.  “But you also need to leave the employer with the impression that you want to earn it.”

Their impatience can frustrate employers.  Joseph Cacciola was dismayed when a talented recent college grad he’d hired grew restless after six months.

“She was having these crises of confidence, saying, ‘Well, you haven’t offered me a promotion, so I interviewed someplace else,’ ” says Mr. Cacciola, a senior vice president for an entertainment company in New York. He arranged for her to take programming courses at the company’s expense, but she still left for a higher-paying job because he couldn’t offer her as big a raise as she wanted.

“If you try to do everything you can and it still doesn’t work, I’m kind of like, ‘Well, all right, so be it,’ ” he says.

Competing to advance comes naturally to many new hires. “This generation has been given permission by their parents and teachers and other authority figures to just go for it, go for the gold, ask for whatever you want,” says Julie Jansen, author of a career book, “I Don’t Know What I Want, But I Know It’s Not This.”

Years spent in school, with its year-by-year advancement schedules and frequent feedback, leave them ill-prepared for a workforce in which promotion rates vary widely by employer and industry, says Jill Tipograph, the New York-based co-founder of Early Stage Careers, which helps prepare college grads for the workforce and mentors them on their first job. “Young employees just think, ‘Oh, I’ve been here a year, so that means I’m getting promoted, right?’ ” she says. “Promoted to what?”

Of course, many young employees with student-loan debt face genuine financial pressure. Only 30% of those surveyed by InsideOut are confident they’ll be able to repay their loans.

Employers should temper and shape new hires’ expectations by offering frequent feedback, clear information about realistic career paths and opportunities to build new skills, says Jody Michael, a Chicago career coach.

Ruben Moreno, who is 50, says he began a few years ago to see more recruits push for titles that exceed their skill level. “The first time I ran into one of these, I thought, who does this person think they are?” says Mr. Moreno, who leads the human-resources practice in Knoxville, Tenn., for Blue Rock Search Group, an executive recruiter.

“Historically, the company taps you when they think you’re ready. Today, it’s, ‘What nifty promotion do you have for me?’ ” he says. He now presents new hires with specific, step-by-step career paths, and meets with them at least quarterly to talk about their careers.

Joshua Jones, 31, was promoted twice in five years at a previous employer, an eyewear retailer, but he left because he wasn’t satisfied with advancement opportunities there. When he joined Blue Rock last year as a recruiting manager, he told Mr. Moreno, “I have a clear set of goals. If I’m not reaching them, I want to move on,” he says. He did so well that he was promoted after six months, to director of executive recruiting.

Managers at companies with flattened hierarchies, where promotions are harder to come by, are offering more lateral moves. Ali Conn, 30, says she has spent almost seven years at a software company in Chicago because her managers helped her find new challenges, including roles as a team leader and a budget adviser. “I like to feel I’m making a huge difference,” says Ms. Conn, now a project manager there. “I don’t want to feel stuck in a role for more than a year, feeling I haven’t contributed anything.”

Other employers create new titles for young workers. A 20-something man Mike Ruane placed in a sales job early last year was up front about his ambitions, asking, “What progress can I expect there?” says Mr. Ruane, a principal search consultant with M&F Talent Partners, a Chicago firm that recruits employees for suppliers of software and equipment to the legal cannabis industry. Just 13 months later, the sales rep got a small increase in his commission rate and the promotion he wanted, to lead a team. His new title would position him for a better job if he decided to change employers.

Other employers offer special recognition when employees pass the one-year mark. Tyler Do, digital marketing manager at Egnyte, a Mountain View, Calif., content-management platform for businesses, received a gift of Tazo tea with balloons. His boss, Colin Jordan, was behind the gesture, and tweeted a smiling picture of Mr. Do with the present.

Such recognition can help satisfy young workers’ yen for feedback. Managers are always looking for ways to motivate and engage them, because the company’s future depends on them, says Su Murthy, Egnyte’s vice president of human resources. “We’re always looking at those points where we can celebrate their journey.”

Avoid the Entitlement Trap to be promoted as rapidly as possible:

* Research the career paths of more experienced co-workers.

* Talk at least quarterly with your manager about your progress and goals.

* Never ask for a promotion unless you can present evidence that you’ve earned it.

* Seek out opportunities to learn new skills on your own.

* Find a colleague willing to mentor you and explain the workplace culture.


This article was written by Sue Shellengarber for the Wall Street Journal.  See original post here:

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