Until recently, the dominant workplace narrative about Millennials was that they were opportunistic job-hoppers. But a new report from Deloitte tells a different story: Rather than plan to leave their current companies within the next 24 months, as they had in recent years, Millennials increasingly see themselves staying with their employers for five years or longer.
The trend toward workplace longevity benefits both employers and Millennials. But commitment doesn’t guarantee upward mobility, as people often find that promotions don’t always come when they’re ready for them. Ageism is sometimes responsible for this lag. Executives at traditional organizations tend to equate years of service with aptitude. They assume that older employees possess stronger skills and deeper knowledge and, consequently, typecast Millennials as too green.
Oftentimes, though, it’s not external factors that hold Millennials back. More companies are aligning themselves with a purpose and values that match what Millennials want, such as relationships, freedom, doing what’s right, and innovation. Working is no longer just a job but more of a passion or mission for such employees. And if an individual or team of passionate people rises to the occasion by bringing massive value to the company, it would be difficult for the business to ignore.
If you’re struggling to advance at your company, focus on aligning your passion with the business. Then, the position you have won’t matter. Nor will your age. Ultimately, managers promote people who are promotion-worthy, and the following strategies can help you ensure that you are:
1. Check your entitlement at the door. As a Millennial, nothing aggravates me more than hearing peers complain about a lack of opportunities when they’ve done nothing to warrant special consideration. You don’t get anywhere in life by expecting accolades to be handed to you.
I’m keenly aware when employees at my company mail in their performances and then expect commendations. I try to work with these people to find out how to better motivate them, but I don’t have time for anyone who thinks the world owes him something. As one of my mentors for human resources put it bluntly, “The world — or you, as their manager — doesn’t owe them shit. … Tell them to focus on being so good at their job that you can’t ignore them.”
2. Become a reliable team player. Instead of hotfooting it out of the office once you’ve hit your deadline, ask a colleague whether there’s anything you can do to help wrap up a big project. When your boss asks for volunteers on a new initiative, get involved. And do the things you say you will, because trust is everything among co-workers.
Most important, don’t bail on promises because you mismanaged your time or lost interest in an extracurricular assignment. If you feel overwhelmed, use a system such as Asana to track all your projects and goals so that people don’t have to nag you for your work. Not only will this self-management help you become more reliable, but it’s also great practice for navigating multiple responsibilities in future roles.
3. Start preparing for your next position now. Don’t expect that every piece of your career will fall into place automatically, but do plan for the role you’d like to take on within the company. What attributes and achievements will your manager want to see before promoting you? Identify areas of weakness and strategically improve them by completing online courses outside of office hours or requesting to be put on assignments that help you develop those skills. Be candid with your manager about your ambitions, and ask for recommendations on how to improve.
When possible, you can also show initiative by suggesting new ideas or introducing helpful new tools to your team. If you’re not using them already, communication and collaboration platforms such as Slack and Bonusly could be game changers for your organization. Your boss won’t soon forget your contribution.
4. Hone your social skills. Note that I didn’t say “social media skills.” Your boss isn’t going to be impressed by your looking at Instagram all day. I’m talking about in-person communication and rapport-building abilities.
Whether you love to chat up your co-workers or are as introverted as they come, you must be able to connect conversationally. I’m a geek, but I have social skills because social skills are important. So if networking makes you skittish, practice in low-stress settings by asking colleagues to go for coffee or grab a beer. As you cultivate a more comfortable interpersonal dynamic, you’ll be seen as a stronger candidate for new positions.
The higher you rise in an organization, the more employees you’ll have to manage and the more clients you’ll need to meet. Managers are more inclined to promote people who have the personality to do both comfortably, especially as automation is putting a rising premium on such uniquely human skills. But don’t get so busy socializing that you forget to execute. Figure out how to make 16 hours of work fit into eight finished off with a glass of wine.
5. Stop comparing yourself to others. When you apply for a promotion, you need to sell yourself — your skills, your achievements, your unique approach. If you went on a date and all you did was compare yourself to the others out there, you’d come across looking pretty egotistical and insecure. So why take that approach in business?
Instead of obsessing over what others are doing, focus on work you’re doing that aligns with your passions. Nearly 88 percent of Americans fail to reach their full professional potential because they’re not passionate about what they do, but standing apart is as simple as finding the right work and going all in on your job.
If you keep missing out on promotions, your employer may not be the problem. Turn your gaze inward to fix the problematic habits you may have developed. A few adjustments could tip the scales in your favor the next time an opportunity comes around.
Shawn Freeman is an entrepreneur and founder of TWT Group Inc., an IT services company in Calgary, Canada. He founded the company to make IT simple instead of infuriating, believing it should be the easiest part of anyone’s day. TWT has seen significant growth since its inception and is now serving more than 125 clients. You can follow Shawn on LinkedIn.