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Ellen

I think worst case is that you just get used to it after 5 years--that does happen in some cases. But more hopefully what happens is that you learn to choose your battles and accept some of it, take advantage of the opportunities that do come your way, and fight back when it's worth it.

Ron Shewchuk

Kristen, I think the Gen Y kids don't mind stuffing envelopes as long as they know they're working for a meaningful cause. I think they care more about why they're doing something than previous generations.

And, David, thanks for the curmudgeonly observation, which is half true. After five years you might also get to have some control over what you do, along with the opportunity to give some advice that gets heeded. But maybe that's more like after 20 years...

David Murray

"Understand that the first five years of your career will be extremely frustrating, with low pay, tons of boring work and very little influence."

And after five years you'll get used to these conditions, and your frustration will abate.

Kristen

Ron - as usual I agree with everything in your list. Particularly the part about volunteering. I have made that same suggestion to several younger people who've asked me for advice about building their career in communications. Most charitable organizations or not-for profits have minimal (or no) communications staff and would be extremely grateful for people willing to volunteer those services. The benefit in return, as you mention are valuable.

As far as this issue in younger people with "envelope stuffing" I have to concur with Susan. I've been in communications for over 15 years now, all of my jobs have been mid- or large-sized corporate environments, and I can confirm that I STILL need to stuff envelopes, or photocopy stuff or do all kinds of other "junior" tasks when getting the project done requires that.

All I have to say is the new generation sure are lucky they have patient and generous parents. If I had blithely quit a job every time someone asked me to do a task I thought was beneath me in my 20's, I can assure you MY parents wouldn't have allowed me to live with them rent-free indefinitely (nor do I think they should have!).

There will always be parts of every job you don't like and wish you didn't have to do. Even self-employed people have to do, and put up with, things that aren't so much fun. It's called growing up and being responsible. This generation have been able to stave that off longer than past ones thanks to very generous parents, but eventually they will have to join the rest of us - especially if Mom and Dad lose the house.

As Colleen says, all of us who have jobs should be grateful for it, instead of whining about having to "pay dues". Sheesh!

Colleen

Good advice all the way around, Ron.

And I can tell you that my two Millennials - both victims of the economic downturn and back in my house - would gladly stuff envelopes if it would produce a regular paycheck.

They're not in the communications/PR field but still the eldest has sent out her resume for about 100 positions and has received minimal response although there is an interview coming up. The younger has sent out almost as many copies of his resume and has had only one response (but no offer). Grim times.

Ron Shewchuk

Interesting thought, Susan. From everything I've read (and know as a parent) about Gen Y, they're not going to be putting up with stuffing envelopes. Until a few months ago at least, if their employer didn't meet their expectations, they would happily cross the street. But in the current downturn, which is turning out to be huge, I wonder how the Millennials will cope. Gen X-ers have been through this, with a really crappy job market at the start of their careers. It will be interesting to watch what happens to the new kids now.

Susan

I agree that it the "pay your dues" is annoying, but it is a reality. To keep myself going I would tell myself, "You'll never stop stuffing envelopes". I figured it was a part of the job, as I was always with smaller companies where one had to do everything. (This was before heavy duty technology was made easy and way before social media came about.)

I wonder how this attitude will affect the new generation coming into the industry?

Ron Shewchuk

I agree with you completely, Christy. As a lifetime job-hopper I've never been someone to advocate just sticking with something for the sake of paying dues. I guess what I'm really talking about is that, early in their careers, young communicators are often much smarter, and more capable, and more sensitive to an organization's problems than their employers. But because they are so junior in a world where the seniors have all the power, their ability to change things for the better is extremely limited, and that can be very frustrating. I'm not saying it's acceptable or fair, but it's something people entering the field should realize is part of the experience they're going to have.

Christy

The only one I have issue with is the second to the last bullet about coming to realization that the first five years of your career will be boring and tedious.

I hate that this mind set is in place that you have to stay in a slow moving, underpaid job for five years to 'prove yourself'. One should never settle, even if it is the beginning of your career. You should always look for that opportunity to take on more responsibility and get ahead. If someone has great potential and is a high performer out of the gate, ready to take on more..then why does he or she have to sit in a job to 'get experience' or 'prove themselves'. It's a waste of talent. The only way to learn and get rewarding experiences is to continually be developed and challenged.

I often see a lot of entry level, high performers leave companies because they get frustrated or bored by being told over and over that they need to 'pay their dues' and get in their five years just like the generation before them. They end up leaving for another company who's willing to give them the opportunity to move ahead.

I just think companies need to do a better job of developing young talent and promoting within. There's a stereotype about Millennials that they job hop every three years - well that's true, because they are constantly told by their current employer that they need more experience - so they end up leaving.

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