What Do You Want To Be Known For?

Is there a difference in work ethic across generations?

Some say that work ethic has decreased from Gen X to Gen Y. Others say that it varies by individual and their upbringing. Millennials need to be aware of potential generational biases and even seek to overcompensate in order to prove such theories do not apply to them.

To combat this type of thinking–whether you are a Baby Boomer, Gen X, Y or Z–ask yourself: What do I want to be known for?  A hard worker? A leader? Someone loyal and willing to do whatever the job requires? Next, think about what you don’t want to be known for: lazy, not being a team player, dishonest, disloyal, or a bridge burner.

Burning bridges

burning-bridgeAt a recent sports industry meeting, two people on the same day separately voiced similar complaints about the need to teach today’s young adults about how burning bridges early in their careers can come back to bite them. This got me to thinking about the generational attributes I have been reading about and what we can do to help educate future generations.

The first story I heard was about a young worker who moved from organization A to organization B. After being in the new position for six weeks, the worker received a call from organization A and decided to move back. This turned out to be a rather abrupt move that left organization B in a lurch. The second story I heard was about a recent graduate hired by an organization that they really wanted to work for. This person did a great job and was promoted after just a few weeks, only to decide to depart for a job with an external client.

In both situations the organizations put their faith and resources in these young workers, but were left in the lurch. Even though organizations move on, they will never forget how these two young workers handled these situations. The industry is so small, it is virtually certain word travels around to others. In any case, future interviews will be difficult because hiring managers routinely contact previous employers.

Short term vs. Long term

In the short-term these situations may not seem that crucial. But, it could come back to haunt them in the long-term. Let’s play this out hypothetically using the first example. Once the worker went back to organization A, they stayed there for five years until they got tired of the winter weather.  During that time the president of organization B decided to move to California and run organization C. Since the worker was seeking employment in a warmer climate they applied for a job with organization C. The new president of organization C saw their name come through and remembered how they handled things five years prior. They told their hiring managers not to bother interviewing this candidate and also told their friends at organizations D, E and F (also in California) that they would not recommend this worker. Organizations D, E and F shared this information with their friends at organizations G, H and I who then pass the information to organizations J, K and L. At this point it is very difficult for the worker to get an interview in the industry, let alone in their preferred state of California.

Here’s another real life example. A professional sports organization hired a college student for an internship. The intern turned out not to be very reliable and folks in the organization decided this person was not cut out for full-time employment. A few years later the former intern realized they were not mature enough to handle the work while they were an intern and called to apologize. When they called they explained how they have matured and are ready to take things seriously. Do you think the organization hired them for a full-time opening? No way! This is very unfortunate, because even though people may change, they already made negative impressions.

Who are you?

In my nearly 20-year career I have seen a variety of scenarios similar to these play out, not many of which are positive. The time to take personal responsibility for who we are and what we want to be know for starts now.  Am I a team player? Am I clear about my goals and aspirations? Am I easy to work with? Will my coworkers and managers give me a good review and 100% recommendation?

We should all ask ourselves these questions. If we present ourselves in the best way possible, it really doesn’t matter what the studies say about generations. What matters is who I am and how others see me.

Treating others how we expect to be treated should be toward the top of everyone’s list. As long as we always remember this, we won’t need to worry about making poor decisions that have negative repercussions down the line.

Cover table source: http://www.fdu.edu/newspubs/magazine/05ws/generations.htm



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