Career Confessions of Gen Z: “Greener Grass”

A criticism I often hear of my generation is that we don’t stay at a job or company as long as previous generations. I call it “grass is greener” thinking. It’s on my mind often, both because of the direct and indirect experiences in my own career. I wish I had a clearer position on it, but I don’t. I’m still figuring it out and thought it might help to throw some stuff down on paper.

As with everything in our lives, we have tremendous visibility to new opportunities more than ever before. I receive daily updates of not only the new opportunities at new companies available to me but the potential earning power I might have at those opportunities. I don’t think this is a bad thing, but how will it continue to shape the way we, as Gen Z, view, interact, and ultimately move between opportunities? Furthermore, what are the positive and negatives to “grass is greener” thinking?

In my opinion, this type of thinking is ever-present early in one’s career, and it’s arguably the most important time to act, or not act, on the thought. The majority of us switch jobs at an incredible pace, and we all have our own justifications for doing so. We sometimes get frustrated at work when the fruits of our labor do not appear to pay off the way we think they should, which can lead to feeling undervalued or simply stuck. As those feelings well up inside of us, we begin to take advantage of resources that show us where the grass could be greener. Rightly so, but are we truly helping ourselves and those around us by looking at new opportunities outside of our current company?

Fully exploring and vetting a new opportunity is a TON of work. It’s not difficult to submit applications via LinkedIn, and many companies make it simple to apply to a few different positions at once. This isn’t what I am talking about. I mean actually taking the time to research the company and opportunity requires a lot of time and attention. Not simply for what both are, but also for how they align with your own goals and mission statement. Should you be fortunate enough to move through the interview process, another set of commitments begins. You may need to spend a few additional hours per week prepping, in addition to the hours you will spend interviewing. After all of this, there is still your current role. One of these opportunities will be sacrificed. If you’re thinking you can handle both, stop. Maybe you’ll get close, but one of your opportunities will take a backseat.

I think that there are serious pitfalls to juggling new opportunity exploration and current role responsibilities. What might you miss out on in your current role? You might be getting by day-to-day, but just getting by isn’t going to lead you to a promotion. Just the same, are you giving your all to exploring the new opportunity? I’d argue that people can certainly move through an interview process and successfully get the job without doing an appropriate amount of opportunity vetting. Simply put, the grass seems green, so they graze. However, after a few months, they realize that the grass isn’t greener and so begins the process of looking for something new all over again. Nobody wins in this scenario; the company is out the investment they put into the new team member, and the person has taken a few steps back, both professionally and personally.

I recently read “The Servant” by James C. Hunter, and it led me to contemplate how leadership intersects with grass is greener thinking. One of my key takeaways of the book is that leadership opportunities present themselves on a daily basis. It really doesn’t matter the position we have or where we are at in life. So, the question is, as we look for greener grass, are we being the best leader we can be? I truly am not criticizing because I don’t have the answer, but I think it’s worth pondering. If we slack a little in our current role, however minimal because we are looking for the next big thing (for ourselves), are we being a good leader? Or, if we happen to obtain that new opportunity, but ultimately find ourselves unhappy because the grass isn’t as green as we thought, are we being a good leader?

Don’t get me wrong:  As much as this sounds like a criticism of Gen Z’s insatiable desire for the next great opportunity, it isn’t. I graduated from college 6 years ago. I’ve worked at 3 different companies for an average of 2 years. Truthfully, I didn’t expect to move this much, and the jury is out on whether or not I think I’ve made the right decisions. I’ve seen a lot of positives in my moves, but I can’t overlook some of the negative impacts they have had on my career development either. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I currently work in talent engagement. The grass is greener thinking keeps me in business. However, I urge you to really think about your career. Do you want to build a portfolio of experience, or is grinding in your current role perhaps better for the long-term? I don’t know, but you will.

All of this said, at the end of the day, sometimes you need to find greener grass 🙂

What are your thoughts?


Quintin Meek a talent consultant at Pillar Technology (part of Accenture Industry X.0). Also an active member of Detroit’s startup and tech community. Every day is something new and challenging, and I am learning more than ever before. I’m finding that I’ve become a lifelong student, and I’m excited to see how that continues to shape the road ahead.

Career Confessions of Gen Z: Intent, Purpose, and Focus

Last week, I wrote about the benefits of being connected to work. Not only the flexibility that can come from it, but the true edge it gives us to move throughout our day in the most productive way possible. Despite this, I didn’t mention much about the dark side. We lead these connected lives on an extremely slippery slope. If you didn’t read my last post, I promise this can be read as a standalone.

How do we ensure our connected lives don’t get the best of us? Be intentful. Be purposeful. Approach everything with a results-oriented focus.

I find these few words of advice are so difficult to follow. Each day, just when our minds begin to turn off, that familiar temptation takes over – to take a peek at what was left behind after a long day, to check in for just a minute. While that little peek always feels harmless, it sometimes leads us to see that colleagues are still working…er…maybe just looking busy. It makes us question whether or not we should be doing the same, or if we simply aren’t doing enough. Sometimes it feels like everything to us, when it may be nothing at all.

I’ve fallen victim to this before. At times, it has hurt my career and personal life, but just the same, there have been times some level of advancement can be attributed to it. All in all, I enjoy being connected to work, but it’s something that our generation would be wise to keep in check. It isn’t a danger only for millennial generations, but I think the temptation of connected busyness is stronger for those in the first 5-10 years of their career. The desire to impress is ever present and showing effort by staying connected feels like a key part of that. The lines become blurred so quickly, however, that it may take years to recover – if we ever will. Showing our consistent connectability to a job can become an obsession.

While it feels different, showing our connectability isn’t limited to work. You know the word, FOMO. It’s really the same thing in our personal lives. What a travesty it is for us to miss out on something in our personal network. When you really think about it, after work and play, there’s not much left. It becomes difficult to find the peace that we need to re-energize. Don’t get me wrong, the benefits of advancements we’ve made to live in this connected world are tremendous. Lives are consistently positively affected by these advancements. However, we shouldn’t overlook the unintended consequences.

In pondering all of this, I think we can take plenty of different actions to recover. As big business never fails to show us, mindfulness is now a foundational key to reducing stress in a connected life. That said, the ways in which we direct that mindfulness is extremely important. I really think it circles back to having intent, purpose, and a focused approach. Having intent and purpose in all that we do can help “weed” out some of the unnecessary tasks that tempt us to stay connected at all hours. Focusing on results can guide our thinking and eliminate the poorly directed focus on short term gain that may result from unnecessary tasks. By combining these three principles, we can stay on track and hopefully curb the busyness of our lives, without sacrificing personal and professional advancement.

 


Quintin Meek a talent consultant at Pillar Technology (part of Accenture Industry X.0). Also an active member of Detroit’s startup and tech community. Every day is something new and challenging, and I am learning more than ever before. I’m finding that I’ve become a lifelong student, and I’m excited to see how that continues to shape the road ahead.

Career Confessions of Gen Z – Every Day Is the Weekend

Over the past couple of years, I’ve observed a number of situations where past generations viewed the working habits of current generations (Gen Y and Z) with a level of angst, dare I say spite, specifically when considering “hours spent in the office”. This isn’t new, in fact there is almost a comedic undertone to the inherent daily misunderstandings resulting from the coexistence of Baby Boomers, Gen X, Y, and Z all working together in the same place.

I feel this specific case boils down to a noticeable disconnect in how Gen Z and many millennial’s “work for the weekend” compared to the generations that have preceded them.

To Baby Boomers and Gen X (probably some of you in Gen Y too) — there was a time when 9am – 5pm mattered. Coming in early and working late certainly got you further ahead than punching a time clock piously, but a standardization of the work day mattered. There was a time when clocking out at 5pm meant that you were unplugged. Each day was one day closer to Friday night and a few days of mostly uninterrupted freedom.

Then email arrived and cell phones became more prominent… you can see where this is going.

It’s not that a standardized work day doesn’t matter now, it just matters less. It matters less because the weekend matters less. It matters less because time has changed. Information is processed and transmitted quicker, tasks get accomplished quicker, conversations are completed through different mediums, and being present can get you further.

Check this out:

I can wake up and have a quick discussion at 7am with a colleague via text, phone, slack, or a number of other platforms. Then, I can work out, take some spiritual time, eat breakfast, and be ready to go for my 9am (did I mention that I used a 7 minute workout app?).

I can be present in meetings and play catch up all morning while also quickly staying on top of my social feeds. I go out for lunch around noon simply because I have the time to do so. I jump back in around 1pm, catch up on more tasks and handle my meetings until around 4pm.

Feeling tired, I swing through a coffee shop. I decide to read a few books for the next hour or so.

I swing home to take care of my dog and while he’s eating I realize it’s probably a good time to eat my dinner too. I’m done with dinner around 7pm. For the next hour or so I catch up on a few outstanding work items, of which I’m not the least bit concerned on timeline because I forgot to mention, I was keeping tabs and taking care of “quick hit” items from my phone while reading at the coffee shop.

From 8pm – 10pm I exclusively work on my stuff. I’ve been getting into real estate investment on the side, so I need to plan out some next steps. I lazily watch TV until around 11pm and go to sleep. I wake up around 6:30am the next day to do something similar. I get 7 hours of sleep (variably), and I am getting just as much, arguably more, completed as the 9-5er.

This is a huge reality now.

Obviously not everyone’s day is like this. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that many of my current teammates, all of us which are in a rather progressive company, don’t necessarily have the freedom to be remote. It’s all in perspective, but adjustments can be made.

I feel that days like this are perpetuated by my generation’s ability to multitask and briskly cross back and forth on the line of personal and work time, not only as a result of technology, but an increased exposure and utilization of that technology.

I’m not damning the office environment and saying a total remote workforce is the future, but flexibility is, and it’s destroying 9am – 5pm.

It also isn’t completely accurate to say that the concept of the 9-5 work week and the weekend doesn’t matter at all. But now, there are so many ways to productively enjoy each day as much as professionals enjoy the weekend. Ultimately, we can plug in and answer a few emails on the weekend, but we can also take a few extra hours here and there during the 9-5 while also remaining plugged in.

Monday, Tuesday, Saturday… they’re all just another day.


Quintin Meek a talent consultant at Pillar Technology (part of Accenture Industry X.0). Also an active member of Detroit’s startup and tech community. Every day is something new and challenging, and I am learning more than ever before. I’m finding that I’ve become a lifelong student, and I’m excited to see how that continues to shape the road ahead.

 

 

 

Career Confessions of Gen Z – The Bass Player

Have you seen the movie Almost Famous? It’s a great movie but I’ve always struggled with watching the movie’s fictitious band, Stillwater, head towards disaster as they come to grips with fame.

The infighting of the band members is unnerving. The guitarist has a charisma that sets him apart from his band mates, and the lead singer is pissed that he isn’t recognized as the “front man”. There are a few other members of the band as well, but they don’t matter in the grand scheme. Long-term success of the band hinges on the tumultuous relationship between the guitarist and singer.

A while ago, I had the fortune of meeting three impressive individuals at a conference. These individuals are positioned incredibly well to bring a much needed, and very disruptive, product to an industry. They had great chemistry as a team and gave a well-polished elevator pitch as a three piece.

As I watched them woo a string of investors, I was trying to figure out the characteristics that made this team particularly impressive. Then, it hit me as I was having a sidebar with two of the members.

We were talking about the role each member played. In the midst of the explanation, one of the members excitedly blurted out that they were like the bass player of the “band”. The other member contested, saying that it was in fact themself that played the role of bass player. Some friendly jabs were thrown, and that’s when it hit me.

This band of innovators will continue be successful together because they were arguing about which member was the bass player. Not because they didn’t want to be the bass player, but because they were humble enough to each feel and understand that the bass player played as integral a role as the front person.

Seriously, who the hell wants to be the bass player?

Don’t get me wrong, I love all things music, and as a result, tremendously respect the role of the bass player.

If you’d like to geek out with me for a moment – a few favs among so many others include: John Paul Jones, Flea, Krist Novoselic, Sting, anything relative to reggae or jazz – but I digress. Bass players drive the song, and nothing can replace an iconic bass line.

Despite this, I’d argue we don’t always recognize them. As it translates into business, we often overlook the value individuals bring to the collaborative process of a project. Even if we tell ourselves we’re team players, and for most part exemplify it, it’s easy to slip into the trap of putting our own progress and recognition before team success.

All of this to say, it just wasn’t the case in what I experienced at the conference. I continued to watch this band take down question after question from investors. They had the upper hand.

Just like a break in the concert where each band member is highlighted and shows off their chops with a solo, each member took the leading role when it was their time during the Q&A, and then quietly slipped back into a supporting role as the next member rose to the occasion.

No Stillwater fate for these guys. I can’t wait to see what they do in the coming months. How about yourself – are you content being the bass player for your “band”?


Quintin Meek a talent consultant at Pillar Technology (part of Accenture Industry X.0). Also an active member of Detroit’s startup and tech community. Every day is something new and challenging, and I am learning more than ever before. I’m finding that I’ve become a lifelong student, and I’m excited to see how that continues to shape the road ahead.

Career Confessions of Gen Z: Generational Individuality as a Millennial

Welcome to the reboot of Career Confessions of Gen Z! I started this in 2018 with my Gen Z son, Cameron, and the response was off the charts. So, in 2019 I found 8 great Gen Z HR, TA, and Marketing pros to continue the Gen Z content. Enjoy! 

For as long as I can remember, it often feels like every other article or conference discussion I see is a dissertation about the millennial impact on the workforce. If you read that first sentence, you may have yawned and already moved on…but I sincerely hope you didn’t. There’s been so much continued discussion about millennials that I fear today’s next generation, GenZ, is getting overlooked. I don’t just mean overlooked by older generations; I mean overlooked by generational allies – fringe GenZs such as myself. This mistake is so incredibly short-sighted, inconsiderate, and misunderstood that it brings to risk a perpetuation of the very division that millennial generations are continually subjected to. I write all of this to admit that at some point I became part of the problem.

I was born in ‘91, only a few short years before my Gen Z peers. I consider myself a “fringer”. Most of my experiences align me closer to GenZ than other millennial generations. I entered professional life at the height of millennial discussions (though it hasn’t ceased in frequency), with my first stab at a career that led me to the insurance industry. You can make a great living in insurance, and there is tremendous upside in the amount of influence all millennial generations will have on that industry.

That said, every industry has had its generational challenges, but I think all insurance pros will agree their industry is near the top of the list. It’s nobody’s fault; it just exists. So during the first weeks, months, and years of my career, I heard the voices of millennial driven articles loud and clear as I lived it firsthand. For many reasons, I couldn’t wait to become a mentor myself and help break the chain of monotonous top down mentorship and leadership I was experiencing.

My first major mentorship opportunity came when I was 26. I felt like I was blitzing through the insurance industry, and I was ready to help others do the same. So how did I do?

I may or may not have started off strong. I worked to be inclusive and transparent to some degree, making sure my mentee was included in exciting events and meetings that would give tremendous exposure to top leadership and influencers. I tried to push my mentee but never beyond something I wouldn’t do myself. I held weekly syncs with the goal being an hour of uninterrupted focus on successes, development opportunities, and aspirations. Yet, we barely made it past the honeymoon phase.

I’ve given the relationship much reflection, and I think I failed for the following reasons. First, while I thought I was doing all of these great things for the mentee, I simply wasn’t actually allowing time for their own self-discovery. Second, and perhaps more importantly – maybe I was intimidated by their strategies, operational efficiency, and methods of connecting to the industry. Despite the few years that separated us in age, our developments were greatly shaped in different forms within that gap. Forget who knew more about actually performing our current responsibilities.

In the few years since I graduated college, tech was being used differently in so many areas. I leaned heavily on Facebook (among other things), while they focused on Insta, Snapchat, and Twitter (among other things). I posted once in a while; they posted all the time. But, they didn’t just post; they used their Socials as a medium for connecting with businesses and building relationships in a way that seemed like a stretch, even for some industry vets. Beyond social platforms, they had things like Uber for pretty much all of college, whereas it wasn’t available to my peers and me until roughly a year after graduating (probably for the best). Even though we only had those few years between us, they were thinking on a new level, with new ideas that were non-traditional to the current state of the industry but very progressive to achieving a new level of success.

I could write on this all day. I still cringe when I think about how hard I failed on something I was so certain I would succeed at. I’ll never stop feeling bad about initially failing GenZ, but it brought to light many valuable lessons. To my fellow fringers, please take caution. Love your fellow generational warriors, but don’t forget that it’s already time to focus on bringing in the next generation with open arms. Each year moves faster and faster, and we will be far more successful on the same side of the water than with a bridge in between.

My story is different and should be different than yours, but regardless – think about it. Let’s embrace the new knowledge and skills that incoming generations bring by not dismissing the intensifying knowledge gap created by rapid changes in technology. Let’s take everything that we’ve learned from our experiences in the trenches of a generational gap to ensure it doesn’t happen again. And most importantly, let’s recognize the individuality of each “millennial” generation.


Quitin Meek a talent consultant at Pillar Technology (part of Accenture Industry X.0). Also an active member of Detroit’s startup and tech community. Every day is something new and challenging, and I am learning more than ever before. I’m finding that I’ve become a lifelong student, and I’m excited to see how that continues to shape the road ahead.