A simple thought for this week: if you’re a young worker coming into an organization with policies — whether they involve start time, sick days, internet use, music playing, dress code, whatever — that you don’t agree with, don’t just demand that exceptions be made for you because that’s the way you like to work. Instead, start by doing work, and doing it incredibly well. Show off those abilities that make Gen Y a force to be reckoned with. Make yourself uniquely valuable. The best way to get exceptions to longstanding policies to be exceptional.
Because employers are wary and only getting warier. John Barwis of the Holland Sentinel in Michigan in a in a familiar-sounding column called “Generation Y meets real life” writes:
Our Generation Y professionals regularly met in groups to share and track each other’s salary and performance-bonus information. Many expressed the feeling that everyone should receive the same bonus, and that it was impossible or even unethical to differentiate performance. Where did they learn to expect reward for effort rather than results?
I believe as much as the most militant member of Generation Y that old work paradigms need to die off to accommodate this new generation at work, but when you get away from that macro level and down to the micro level, it does become all about results.
Does this require sacrifice on the part of young workers? Sure. In some organizations, it could require many years of sacrifice. (And in some organizations, due to institutionalized bureaucracy and lame duck management, differentiating yourself could prove impossible — or dangerous. But let’s not go there now.) But, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t need to be that difficult.
Even with the economic downturn, employers across the globe are hurting and will continue to hurt in their search for qualified people. That initial period right after you get your foot in the door is CRITICAL, because if your boss or manager starts to see you as expressly and keenly qualified for your job (and, hey, it doesn’t hurt to make it clear that you’re qualified for OTHER, more important jobs within the organization, too) suddenly you’ve made yourself very valuable. You’ve become a rare commodity: a talented knowledge worker in an era where fewer exist.
Don’t screw it up. Remember that, until you define yourself in your organization, there’s very little difference between you and the five candidates they interviewed but DIDN’T hire. So don’t go in and start making even reasonable demands in week one. Because while you know your skill level and know that you, say, can get just as much work done listening to your iPod or working four ten-hour days as opposed to five eight-hour days, your boss doesn’t.
Start slow. Remember the order of operations. Prove to your employer that he or she doesn’t want to lose you, then start defining (with your employer) the work environment you’d like to have to ensure a positive, long-lasting employment. In short: be exceptional, then start asking for exceptions.