You’ve got the job. You’ve arrived at your new workplace. You’ve toured the coffees and teas in the kitchen. You’ve shaken hands with your colleagues.
Fast forward a few months, or perhaps even a year or so… and there are question marks in your head.
Question marks concerning YOUR performance.
You’re doing what the job description asked for in the original posting. You’ve got the relevant academic background. You’re at your desk on time and deliver on your deadlines…
And yet, you get the distinct feeling that you’re still… not quite living up to expectations…
Which also means you’re probably not getting the kind of professional attention to be entrusted with greater responsibility, promotion and professional advancement.
Actually, it’s only TOO familiar, given the stories I hear from the young professionals I mentor. And yet they can’t seem to figure out what they’re doing wrong.
My feedback for them is that it’s often what they’re not doing that might be holding them back.
Of course, there are many employability traits and soft skills that can make you shine in your career, and I explore them in other articles on this blog.
But in this post, I’d like to mention the three traits that most often come up, whenever I talk candidly with Human Resource officers about skills gaps in their hires.
This translates to the ability to remain focused and productive in times of adversity, to keep going in the face of obstacles and challenges and to display adaptability during unfamiliar or unforeseen circumstances.
Which is a fancy way of saying: being tough-minded.
Now, I’m not implying today’s young professionals don’t have the CAPACITY for resilience. Many DO in fact, express tough-mindedness and adaptability in times of challenge in the workplace.
But unfortunately, as hungry to find meaning, grow and develop at their jobs as Millennial hires may be… and as quick to learn and implement new technologies as Gen Z recruits are… both generational cohorts can struggle when they are professionally tested and placed under pressure, and when their managers and coworkers are unavailable to provide guidance or support.
Yet resilience is precisely the skill they would need to express at such times, and precisely the attribute that would draw a manager’s or HR officer’s appreciation and attention.
You would think problem-solving is in our nature. A basic part of the blueprint of being creative, thinking beings… and it is!
After all, the ability to provide innovative solutions to problems is one of the reasons Millennials are so entrepreneurial… at least when it comes to brainstorming and collaborating among themselves.
But place them in a traditional workplace, with top-down power structures… and it seems that natural, innovative problem-solving impulse often shuts down.
Which means there has to be a compromise.
Millennials and Gen Z employees need to remember that traditional organisational structures are not going to fade away overnight, and that they need to find the self-motivation to express their innate problem-solving powers irrespective of their environment.
On the other hand – and as I tell senior management and HR officers at every EVOLUTION corporate training I deliver… they have to be willing to LISTEN to the solutions that their younger team members propose, while empowering them to act on their most promising suggestions!
Either way, the greater the problem-solving capacity that a young professional demonstrates in the workplace, the greater their chances of being selected for career advancement.
And then there’s self-motivation. Human Resources, management and senior executives all seem to be united on this front: new hires need more of it! It’s also referred to as ‘taking initiative’.
Again… there are a number of things to say about this.
It’s definitely NOT that my Millennial and Gen Z mentees are lacking in passion, or ideas for how to change the world, or to up-level their own high performance.
And yet… their willingness to take initiative and be self-motivated in the workplace often gets road-blocked.
Part of the reason comes from not having the same support and mentoring system that was familiar and available while they were still at school, thanks to the undivided attention and guidance they were used to receiving from parents, teachers and friends.
And part of it is the fact that their suggestions and ideas are often not taken seriously in more conservative job sectors and traditionally-minded industries.
Once again, young professionals would still give themselves a massive career advantage by developing, expressing and continuously raising the bar on personal self-motivation at EVERY stage of their career, and developing the resilience (see above) to keep going and giving their best – even at times when the support and guidance they crave is not forthcoming.
To take a fitness analogy… if you don’t keep flexing your self-motivation muscle, you can’t rely on its strength when times get chaotic and more is expected from you than you had anticipated.
But on the other hand, if senior management has no intention of allowing Millennial and Gen Z hires to act on their initiative and self-motivation, and never creates opportunities (and rewards) for their young talent to exercise their self-motivation, they will either continue to see roadblocks on this front… or, eventually, their employees will take their obstructed self-motivation to a different workplace.
In our professional, as well as our personal life, it always pays to grow our resilience, problem-solving and self-motivation abilities… But such traits express themselves best when all stakeholders commit to empowering their expression!
To work with me one-on-one to take your professional and personal performance to new levels, please check out the LIMITLESS track of my services at: https://www.leonidasalexandrou.com/services/limitless/