Over the next several years, 61 million Gen Z professionals—people born after 1996—will enter the workforce and create a shift in talent management; this generation is two-thirds the size of the Baby Boomers and eclipses both Gen X and Millennials.
If you fall into this cohort—or close to it, as a young Millennial—there’s a challenge that stands in your way: you have a tendency to exceed expectations and skill-up faster than companies can support your growth.
Despite being the first generation of true digital natives, you are eager to advance much faster than is typical within organizations. If you’re feeling an urge to get ahead quickly, you’re not alone. According to research from professional social networking platform Handshake, Gen Z is well-equipped to lead a new era of innovation.
You’re also hungry to lead.
A recent study shows that 75% of Gen Z workers believe that they should be promoted within a year, and 32% believe they should receive a promotion within 6 months. One explanation of this trend is that a high proportion of you want to become entrepreneurs and take control over your livelihoods. In your eyes, this perspective makes sense, given that you grew up one of the most tumultuous periods in American economic history. But company budgets don’t reflect the reality of your needs—to tackle your anxieties around money or your passion for pursuing a career in which you can make a much-needed difference in the world.
So how can you get ahead?
Choose a career with built-in growth potential
In a world where nonstop change is the new societal norm, one of the best decisions you can make is to choose a career
path that enables you to grow.
That’s why the emerging field of customer experience (CX)—a function that integrates customer support, product development, engineering, and business development—is a valuable pathway for starting your career, no matter what direction you want to turn, ultimately. In a CX role, you’ll be close to the DNA of your company—customers. By interacting with customers, you’ll build a direct lens into what generates revenue, equipping you with an understanding of what drives revenue.
This knowledge will give you a springboard to self-direct your career forward, given that the field of CX is becoming front-and-center for companies. If you work hard and commit to your company’s bottom line, you could hold a leadership position within a few years. Or, you might find yourself ready to start a business sooner than you may have expected. But the journey won’t be easy, especially when it comes to exceeding expectations with your manager, who is ultimately the front-line gatekeeper for navigating your career development.
Outsmart interpersonal challenges that stand in your way
Without focus and direction, your greatest strength—your ambition—has the potential to stand in your way. Having a smartphone by your side means that you’re always connected to information. Your mind has the potential to move quickly. But managers say that you’re a tough generation to manage and train because you are “not as savvy” at social interaction, according to one study. It’s not that you’re unskilled in these areas, however. It’s that you see the world in a way that’s much different than the four other generations in the workforce with you. The career development blueprints of previous eras have become obsolete.
If you want to exceed expectations in your role, consider the following steps:
- Gain more face time with your manager. One of the most timeless principles in business is that people like to do business with fellow humans. Even with the rise of technology and AI, there’s no substitute for positive interactions. Your employer hired you for a reason and wants to get to know you. That depth of shared understanding comes from the time you spend together. Schedule a recurring meeting, and offer to take your manager to lunch.
- Make your manager successful. Your manager is a human being, just like you, who wants to keep advancing and tackling new challenges. Your job, in addition to doing your job, is to make your manager’s life easier. Actively ask your manager what their challenges are, so that you can use your brilliant tech mind to offer support. Proactively offer research and create reports that help your manager gain influence. Show your manager that you are on their side and that loyalty is a valuable priority to you.
- Support your teammates. There’s a popular saying: “A rising tide lifts all boats.” The more you go out of your way to support your team, the more your organization will look to you as a leader. Offer guidance and share resources. Be patient with others, and be vocal that you are available to help.
- Show impact to the overall organization. Gain the deepest possible understanding of how your business makes money—and how your contributions can impact revenue and cost. Step up, with your quantitative and communication skills, to share how and why your role makes a difference. Learn how to demonstrate your value and skills, so you can understand your impact.
Take command of your career
Taking command doesn’t always mean speaking up or being the most visible person in the room. One of the best investments you can make is to refine your own listening and learning skills. Learn to be an observer in a fast-moving world. Find space to carve out opportunity. From there, you’ll find your path to advance—and exceed expectations—in a way that offers value and stays fulfilling.