Today’s young workers need to cut the apron strings, at least in the workplace.
During a recent speech, I asked the audience of corporate executives how Generation Y differs from their other employees. After hearing the usual complaints of Gen Y employees being late to work or listening to their iPods during meetings, one executive told the audience how a recent college graduate showed up for a job interview — with his father! During the interview, the father answered questions directly asked to his son and then gave his “pitch” as to why his son would be an excellent hire.
Not only do I hear these kinds of stories from employers of Gen Y, I also hear them from Gen Ys who contact me for advice after their parents try to get their boss fired for writing a bad evaluation or denying a promotion. While I believe these parents have the best of intentions, rather than teaching their child to become an independent adult, they are encouraging dependence. This extended adolescence — mockingly referred to in the news as “adult-olescence” — becomes a crutch that delays Gen Ys from finding their courage, confidence, identity, and path.
Experienced executives will tell you that a huge part of making it in the business world (and life) is learning how to survive and thrive on your own. This in-the-cubicle education involves setbacks, breakthroughs, mind-numbing PowerPoints, and working with people you don't like. It may even require four lateral moves and a transfer before earning a coveted promotion. Figuring out how to navigate through these challenging experiences is precisely what teaches young professionals to stand up for themselves and their future.
Do your parents need to stop acting like talent agents?
You know your parents are too involved in your career if…
They write your résumé and cover letters for you (it's really bad if they list themselves as a reference).
They insist on driving you to work (even worse, Mom packs your lunch).
They print homemade awards that read “Great Job at Work!” for you to hang in your cubicle.
They provide their own work evaluation (you're really in trouble if they send a copy to your boss).
If you're a Gen Y who wants your parents to stop intruding in your career, take these three steps:
Gather every business card you've ever had and mount them in one oversized frame. Give this to your parents and thank them for their hard work in helping you launch your career (don't mention that their meddling got you fired at half your jobs).
Let them know that their parenting prowess gave you the skills you need to succeed so that now you're now ready to start relying on yourself.
Make it clear that you will continue to treasure their advice and counsel, but that you would like to implement their wisdom on your own. (“Don't submit a job application in my name without telling me!”).
Then you can suggest they celebrate this milestone in your professional development by loaning you their credit card — now that you're a self-reliant professional, you need a new wardrobe!
Seriously, today's Gen Ys must take it upon themselves to create a healthy distance between their parents and their career — for their own esteem and their boss's sanity. This can be particularly difficult if your parents are baby boomers, because boomers often want life to be easier for their children than it was for them. However, there is a point where you must scale back parental involvement in your life in order to find out what you're capable of achieving on your own. Choosing this path may not be easy or simple, but that's the point. When you are forced to learn to rely on yourself to conquer adversity, insecurity, and the unknown, you rapidly move in a direction where you can take care of yourself.
Jason Ryan Dorsey is The Gen Y Guy™. His keynotes and seminars teach business leaders how to build Gen Y employee loyalty and performance while bridging all four generations in the workplace. Jason has appeared on “60 Minutes,” “20/20,” “The Today Show,” and “The View.” His new book is entitled My Reality Check Bounced!
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