Last week I went to a movie on a Tuesday afternoon. I finished working for the day and felt I could use some “me time” to watch one of the Oscar-nominated movies. Later that evening, learning I took two hours off surprised my dad. I asked how was it different than taking an afternoon off to play golf – something he does frequently. Causing every Millennial stereotype possible to buzz through my head, he said:
“Because I’ve paid my dues.”
I’m not going to hide how that made me feel. I was pissed. Not because my dad was judgemental (we all get used to that, right?) But because this Millennial stereotype — which is based on some Industrial Age foundation — needs to die a quick death.
Conventional wisdom says you must pay your dues over time to get ahead. And yet, as many of us are learning in the Social Age, time should not gain priority over the quality of experience. A timer should not get to dictate how long you have to stay in a position gaining experience before you get rewarded with a promotion. People like Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Steve Jobs didn’t pay their dues in the traditional sense. They worked hard and earned success on their own time frame.
And so will I. Along the way, the relic notion of calendar measurements will not imprison me.
Experience is What Matters
I know the counter-argument is “experience doesn’t just happen overnight.” While this is true, it really isn’t that simple. On-the-job experience is a great way to learn about an industry. That’s why internships are so important. It’s one of the only foolproof ways to know what you’re really getting into out in the real world.
But what if you start at the bottom and excel in your position? Right away, you’re ready to take on more responsibility and learn new aspects of the job, company, and industry. Time is not a factor! Are you not allowed to get a promotion in two months because it generally takes everyone else six months? Measuring the time it takes to gain experience is arbitrary; it has nothing to do with seniority.
My work will not be judged by how long my butt has been in a certain seat… but by how I work my butt off.
The “Way We’ve Always Done It” Thinking
“Our interns always take six months to get a promotion.”
“You have to be in your position for one full year before you can move up.”
These two seemingly harmless ideas can be detrimental to a company in today’s fast-paced business world. When employees ask “why do I have to wait?” the answer will most likely be because “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” Red flags pop up. Alarm bells start to ring. Your fight-or-flight instinct probably engages.
‘The way we’ve always done it’ is an excuse holding us back.
I’m not sure I should be measured or judged by a decades-old excuse.
Next Steps When Faced with This Millennial Stereotype?
If you’re ever in this situation, push back. Challenge the status quo. Using quantified proof, show you’ve gained the expected experience and you’re ready to do more. What do you have to lose? A job that doesn’t appreciate your value and impact?
Maybe that is how you feel now?
I was there. In been-there-done-that fashion, I was in the position of doing senior work but perceived as a junior employee. Stuck in that Millennial stereotype time-warp, I heard that I needed to “pay my dues” — and not just by my father.
So I did what was right for me. Now, I’m a freelancer. I’m my own boss. I bust my ass day in and day out so I can get to where I want to be. There is no one setting limits on me, or controlling expectations of my career, but me.
Now if only that movie had lived up to expectations!
About the Author: Lauren Kirkpatrick is YouTern’s Social Media Manager. She graduated from San Diego State in 2011 with a Bachelors degree in Public Relations and the University of Southern California in 2013, with a Masters degree in Digital Media. In her personal life, Lauren is never more than 3 feet from her iPhone or Macbook – she says “they have their own side of the bed” (and our guess is they probably also have their own iNames!). Lauren is a sports junkie, TV aficionado, and expert baker. Follow Lauren on Twitter!