Huffington Post published this theory about why Generation Y people are largely unhappy. First of all, there is a little debate about what really is Gen X and Gen Y. The timelines that Huff Post talks about don’t tally with what Wikipedia thinks. But, I digress. Really, it talks about two related concepts. That the relationship between happiness and reality is governed by expectations.
This is somewhat logical and I can get behind it. So far, it’s alright. The second part is that the expectations of Gen Y people are unrealistic!
So, this is where the problem starts. It talks about how Gen Y people feel special and want to cut short the hardworking process of progressing in your career and how that’s all messed up. At the surface, it seems like there is a logic here. But, when you scratch the surface a little, you realize this is total bullshit. This writeup went on to invoke reactions such as this one. Okay, that’s one aspect of it – that Gen Y people are left to deal with student loans and insufficient jobs. While I sympathize with that, that’s not what I’m going to focus on here.
Careers are no longer built in sequential progressions that cause years of hard work to eventually pay off. That’s one way of looking at it and frankly, that’s a broken way of looking at it any more. Places that reward just the sheer number of years one has been working hard at a particular level are likely not innovating aggressively. It is the era where the smarter one and the one that can deliver takes all. This is why it is not at all uncommon for one to be reporting to a past report of theirs, where someone who is younger had an impact that earned them a faster progression than their older boss has had.
Any more, progression is about impact. True, it is conceivable that you might have impact early and might end up with a lot of responsibility when you are not ready for it. That surely happens. However, it cannot be true any more that you keep progressing just because you are working hard. The working hard must absolutely translate into impact or it’s of no value. And not all organizations and managers are good at seeing those two as distinct things. It takes skill to separate the two. Hard work can often be misinterpreted for eventual impact and that’s a problem.
Chamath Palihapitiya perfectly articulates this notion in this video. As he notes, the pedigree you collect via traditional education and methods matters less and less. What you know and what you can cause to happen matter a lot more. Some people have a hard time separating experience and maturity from age and impact. It’s never too early to recognize impact. If you can sense when impact and maturity go hand in hand and capitalize on that talent, you’ll do well. That’s what separates the ones that keep innovating from the ones that stagnate.
No, careers are not built with progressive linearity. Careers are a function of impact and maturity. And it doesn’t matter what generation you are from. It only matters that you can think big and deliver big.