The Plight of the Young Professional

In the course of my reading about leadership, I came across a very interesting paragraph. This is what it said:

“We have worked with a large U.S. not-for-profit organization struggling with high turnover in its workforce. Talented young people are coming to work there, staying a few years, and then leaving for a job in a similar field. Nearly everyone in the organization pays lip service to the idea that, owing to high turnover, the talent pipeline is too narrow to ensure that the organization will have enough strong, qualified, experienced senior managers in the future. Panel discussions on retention have abounded. Task forces on retention have proliferated. New Incentive programs have emerged. But nothing much has changed. Why? Middle and senior managers do not want talented young people to stick around for a long time, nipping at their heels, pushing them up or out, or questioning and changing the organization’s orientation and purpose. The organization is the way it is because the people in authority and longtime employees want it that way. They prefer a world where they can perpetuate the revolving door and wring their hands about it.” (The Theory Behind the Practice: A Brief Introduction to the Adaptive Leadership Framework, p. 6)

That bold and italicized portion speaks to me because it’s exactly why I’m leaving my company for new ventures. I am a very talented (sometimes not so humble) worker with fresh ideas and perspectives that are shut out because I work in an organization that is afraid of change. While they attempted to utilize my skills to some extent, it was also very clear that they weren’t willing to push me to the next level for fear that I would incite too much change and provide too many new ideas. The bureaucracy of the place didn’t help either. It’s almost as if they believed utilizing my talents would cause a general uprising and cause the whole organization to fall. I can assure you that wouldn’t have happened!

It might be a little bit of both depending on what job you're at.

It might be a little bit of both depending on what job you’re at.

Instead, they lifted me up just enough while pushing me down at the same time. It’s a very weakening state to be in that causes me (and others that I know who are in a similar position) to want to leave. Why continue to force myself to do good work when I’ve been told promotions won’t be finding their way to my name for a long while? What motivation do I have when I’m all too aware that my age is partially what’s holding me back (age discrimination anyone)?

Yet, here I am making sure I do all my work to the best of my abilities during my last three weeks because that’s just who I am. However, it leaves me feeling frustrated, devalued, and sorry for all those who will be starting after me and will likely find themselves in a similar situation. I am extremely excited, though, that I found a new company that will actually utilize my skills and promote me based on merit, not based on whether or not my age or initial route to success will ruffle someone’s feathers. Here’s to hoping my soon to be ex-company catches up with the rest of the world (or at least some of the world) and places a higher value among competent young workers. Until then, I’m going to unashamedly enjoy my new digs which include an office, a gym, and bagel Fridays (that I can’t actually start eating until after my competition on May 10)! Oh, the glory of having a fun, new job!

Now, it’s your turn! What’s your take on that quote? Are young workers being pushed down and out or is it a bunch of hogwash?

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2 thoughts on “The Plight of the Young Professional

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