As a millennial myself, I certainly understand the frustration when it comes to the longing for the fast track to career advancement. However, as it’s often liked to say about us, that “entitled” mentality only leaves us disappointed and agitated in our roles. That’s a term I really hate: entitled. Let’s say “energetic” instead. I can definitely say I feel energetic about my career and the possibility of where it could lead. But like all things in life, it’s important to simply enjoy the journey. So join me as I reflect on and give suggestions toward climbing the millennial career ladder.
Pointers on Climbing the Millennial Career Ladder
1. There’s no such thing as a career ladder.
No, you read that right. It’s not really a career ladder anymore. Career paths are not exactly carbon copies of each other. Every one is going to look different. The image above, while it may appear condescending, is actually fairly accurate. Success rarely comes in a straightaway fashion. There will be ups and downs, path changes, adjustments, maneuvers, and so on and so forth and what have you. All organizations and businesses work differently, and all are of varying sizes. There may not exactly be a clear-cut path to the top, and what even is the top? This is going to be defined differently for everyone, and therefore, it will look differently for everyone. The so-called millennial career ladder, to quote Sheryl Sandberg, is more like “a jungle gym.”
What do you want? I feel like Ryan Gosling in The Notebook as I type this. But really, what do you want? What do you want for yourself for the next forty or so years (ouch, that hurts, doesn’t it)? What is it that will get you out of bed in the morning excited to come to work? What is it that will challenge you and force you to develop as an individual? What is it that you want to accomplish in the span of your career? Do you want to be a CEO some day? Do you want to own land? Do you want to be a partner in a business? Do you want to learn Adobe AfterEffects (one of my current goals)? Do you want to travel the world? Do you want to make a difference in someone’s life? Do you want to make a new discovery? Do you want to spend your days with animals? Do you want to meet farmers from all over the country or just all over the county? Make a list. Jot down your dreams and hopes for your career. Develop the path for your millennial career ladder. Or, look to the next step to help make that happen:
Ask for guidance! How obvious, right? I know this is fairly characteristic of millennials: I desire mentorship, coaching, and guidance very much in my role. I certainly don’t know everything, and I certainly don’t always know what I want or what’s best for me. Find a trusted superior or someone who has a little more experience than you do. It doesn’t have to be your boss or even your colleague (although this is helpful and important if your goal is truly to advance within your role or company). Talk to them about what you would like to see happen in your career path. Ask for direction and guidance and make a plan for how that can happen. It might have very loose definitions, but just having someone that knows that this is what you desire and this is what you want from your career creates a high level of accountability for both yourself and your mentor (possibly supervisor). And take note: if your supervisor doesn’t seem to care or is not invested in your growth, that’s a good sign to take your journey elsewhere.
4. Look for ways you can grow professionally on your own.
Like I said, there may not be a clear-cut path to success. And there may not always be a way for you to advance the way you maybe desire. But that doesn’t mean you can’t grow or develop as a professional. Find your own ways to advance. Going back to the ask, ask your supervisor if you can attend a conference or professional course that will give you new perspective, networking, or skills that will help you develop. Or teach yourself a new skill or method that can also prove to your manager or supervisor that you’re driven. Determine a solution for a challenge that no one else can solve. Form a connection that will benefit your business or organization. There are lots of ways to keep growing even if you’re not getting a raise or promotion.
5. Find the role that allows for growth and contentment.
I’m going to encourage you to really look for the role that is most attractive to you right off the bat if possible and do what you can to get it (create a brilliant resume, give a great interview, display your interest). I’m not saying it will happen that way, but don’t discount anything. Do what makes you happy without looking at the starting salary or perks (although those matter too). It’s hard to tell what a job is really going to be like until you’re in the role itself. But when you have a good feel for it, unless you’re very uncomfortable and unhappy, don’t job hop it right away. Give it time. Learn from it and grow. If you find you are not content or if you stop growing, then hop to the next “ladder.” Do what you need to accomplish your goals and follow your millennial career ladder.