When you’re our age, sometimes it’s hard to remember. Actually, most times it’s easy to forget what it was like to be starting out, to be the kid on the team, to be one step behind, to feel awkward, not to know your way around. It’s easy to forget what being young was like – because it was a long time ago.
In case you’re having trouble remembering what it was like when the way ahead was full of promise, when every task assigned was an adventure, when getting a project to coordinate was like getting a promotion, when a “well done” from someone more senior kept you motivated for days, when turning 25 meant you could rent a car on your own, let me introduce you to Molly.
Molly graduated a couple of years ago with a major in graphic design from a small, excellent liberal arts college in the Midwest. She went on three “study abroad” programs (to Peru, Barbados and Spain) to become fluent in Spanish, was on the volleyball team, danced in a couple of musicals, produced a campus comedy/improv group and got good grades. She was a hard worker in and out of the classroom, working summers in her father’s manufacturing business. A most valuable player in every aspect of her college years.
Before she graduated she had a job offer from an alum who was building a small startup division of a specialty retailer. He needed a Marketing Coordinator who would be a most valuable player for the business and be willing to grow and develop with the organization. A true entry level position. She would have to move to Denver and then to the West Coast to the retailer’s headquarters if the team met their goals.
In the first 12 months on the job, Molly did a little bit of everything including planning logistics for a trade show and designing and producing the division’s first product catalog. She was eager to learn, worked hard and nothing was beneath her. Every assignment was a growth opportunity. Every business trip an opportunity to expand her contacts. She took on more and more complex and critical projects and became the go-to person on the team.
When the team made the move to the West Coast, there was no question that Molly would make the move too. So now, under the full view of the corporate marketing team, Molly has more opportunities to learn, to get involved with bigger projects and to gain valuable experience.
Molly just turned 25, has 2 years of work experience and knows she could probably propel her career forward a couple of notches by leveraging her experience to find that next big step in a bigger company. But she’s not doing that. She’s thrilled with her colleagues and her boss and her company. Her job continues to provide extraordinary experience and skill development and she’s proud of her work, her progress and her company.
But the keys to her “stickiness” are her relationships. The relationships with her new boss, the division president and other corporate leaders who are coaching her and providing her with great learning opportunities and actionable feedback. It’s all about how they care for her as a person and as a professional so why would she consider leaving?
I saw her work first hand last week when she produced an extraordinary marketing event at a company here in Las Vegas that is distributing her division’s products. She was wrangling celebrity chefs, two CEOs, the press, the production crew, her senior management team and the logistics teams from both organizations like a pro. She was confident, on top of every detail, and the event was gangbusters great.
So why discuss Molly? Because she’s a lesson for all of us Boomers who believe all the hype about how different (and difficult) the GenYs among us are. I think it is hype because in Molly I saw myself at 25. And it made me think that, although the context of starting a career has changed significantly in the last 30 years, people are still people. Young people want to learn, want to be trusted, want to try their wings. They want their bosses to invest in them and care about them as people. They want to be respected. That’s what I wanted when I was 25. And 30, and 40, and 50.
I loved talking with Molly and hearing the excitement in her voice, feeling the energy she exuded, and knowing the slight fear of not delivering what was expected – all at the same time. Because I remembered when that was me. Like Molly, I was lucky to have found organizations and bosses willing to create real relationships with me and to provide incredible opportunities for learning and development. To trust in my abilities and to take risks in my intelligence and inexperience.
Strip away all the technology, the mobile apps, the globalized economy, and the effects of the recession and remember what it was like to be an excited, inexperienced kid full of dreams about how our fabulous career would unfold. And then take a new look at the GenYs in your organization and talk with them the way you wanted to be talked to 30 years ago. Create solid, real relationships with them and coach them the way you wanted to be coached.
While my Molly is certainly special, I think there are a lot of Mollys out there. And the key to keeping the Mollys in your organization is creating real, personal relationships with them. Trust me. You don’t want to lose Molly!