Published February 21, 2013
Every generation has a reputation. The “greatest generation” was frugal. The “baby boomers” were big spenders. Gen X was full of “free spirits,” and Millenials are being labeled as “deservers.” And experts say to blame the parents.
Millenials were raised by parents who made them feel they were special and entitled, according to Alexandra Levit, author of MillenialTweet: 140 Bite-Sized Ideas for Managing the Millenials.
“Their parents made them feel they were deserving of good things just by being alive,” Levit says in an email interview. “[Now] in their first jobs, they have to do certain things and yes, wait awhile, to accumulate the experience and expertise to be ready for the next level. This is a new phenomenon for a lot of them.”
Experts say Millenials’s “deserver” attitude into the workplace could hold them back and hurt long-term career growth.
Many are looking to fast-track their careers, according to Jared O’Toole, co-founder of Under30CEO, and may be unaware of how to reign in their eagerness.
She says there is a fine line between ambition and entitlement.
“They are trying to be aggressive, and I am all about aggressive,” O’Toole says. “It’s tough to move up in the business world, and it’s fast-paced. But you don’t want to come off as cocky. On the other hand, you won’t be handed things you don’t ask for.”
Millenials are driven and innovative, and many have dedication to advance the companies they work for and not just their own careers, according to Levit. However, she warns a sense of entitlement will most certainly hold this generation back in the work place.
“Managers have seen it for too many years and have no patience for it these days,” she says. “What Millenials can do is channel their drive into learning as much as they can in their present positions so they will have the right skills to get ahead.”
To be fair, not all Millenials carry around this “deserver” attitude. Dan Schawbel, author of the upcoming book Promote Yourself: The New Art of Getting Ahead, says the recession has put things in perspective for this age group because they faced such a bleak labor market after graduation and are saddled with college debt.
“Hiring managers still see a sense of entitlement,” he says. “But if you look at the economy and what it’s done, that’s changed the entitlement aspect. They aren’t getting jobs, they aren’t buying houses, and it’s hard to feel entitled if you aren’t getting anything.”
He adds that having a high impact early in a career is tough to do, so not all “deservers” should be faulted.
“A lot of them are looking to have an impact on day one. They want to have opportunities to have influence. But it’s hard to do that in corporate America, you have to pay your dues.”
So for Millenials feeling ambitious, but looking to steer clear of cockiness, here are five tips for getting ahead:
No. 1: Prove your worth. Show management your value by doing more than what’s asked of you, Schwabel suggests. “If all you do is what’s asked of you in your job description, you are easily replaceable.”
Levit adds, “Meet with your managers to establish clear growth goals that you can work toward every day.”
No. 2: Help other people out. “Team player” is a description worth having attached to your name, O’Toole says. It shows you want everyone to succeed and aren’t scared of sharing your ideas or letting others succeed alongside you.
“Office gossip can turn against you if you don’t walk that line,” he says. “Many people are good intentioned, but you don’t want to come off like a know-it-all. Don’t be the person hiding things from your team.”
No. 3: Own your failures. Admit when you are wrong and work to fix the mistake, recommends O’Toole. Once the issue is rectified, prove that you have overcome and learned from the mistake. “Showcase you are not perfect, but you have learned how to get it right. It makes those around you resolve that issue of cockiness.”
No. 4: Make your manager look good. At the end of the day, your managers hold a lot of power in determining your future with a company, so strive to reduce their workload, make them look good to their bosses and make good impression.
“If you are a high performer, good managers will take care of you and take you with them if they move up,” Schwabel says.
No. 5: Respect the chain of command. “Millenials must recognize there are people in the room with two months, two years or 20 years more experience than them,” Levit says. “They have to have deference to these people.”