If you are tired of hearing the word millennial thrown around, you can join me in my quest to quell the town criers. I must admit, I even added to this dialogue in the keynote presentation I recently gave on the topic.
I think a more accurate characterization of this generational group is what I now call the inbetweeners—those who have been stuck in a bubble of transitioning out of school, trying to build a career, and eventually getting into management. They are caught in between navigating a tough economy, getting work experience, and paying off student debt.
The new mantra for inbetweeners? Death, taxes, and student debt. Or, as Wall Street has nicknamed them, the HENRYs: High Earner, Not Rich Yet. Whatever characterization you want to make, let’s make one thing clear about inbetweeners—they got this! And they need your help!
Here’s my passive aggressive approach to help inbetweeners muddle through this in-between life stage.
The first theory: It’s not your fault.
The economic collapse and great recession had nothing to do with your life choices. You inherited a business landscape mired with corruption from the banks—and your once needed college degree doesn’t hold the weight it once did. Your curiosity to learn led you past the typical business major or pre-law approach. You dabbled in various programs, maybe even changed majors once or twice, and ended up six months from graduation knowing that the internships you were applying for wanted two to three years of direct experience. How did that happen?
At graduation, your parents asked what your plans were and you said, “I don’t know—California sounds nice.” To them, that meant you didn’t have a plan—or you didn’t know what the heck you were doing. The first probably wasn’t true but the second definitely was. No companies called you back, you didn’t have a lifeline, and even your well-to-do uncle had nothing for you at the shop. You tried. The breaking point was when your grandpa suggested you go door-to-door like he did, telling all the companies you are a hard worker and you never give up. To him it showed moxie, grit, and some maturity—like his eagle forearm tattoo.
The second theory: It is your fault.
Most of the working world buys into this second theory, thinking the Inbetweeners have no one to blame but themselves. And they’re right. It is your fault. Did you have to be a general studies major? I know the classes were easier and you got to choose things you were really interested in, but what are your transferable business skills? I know the out of state college that accepted you was everything you wanted, but is being $50K in debt for an undergraduate degree really worth it? Maybe some of your life choices didn’t equate to successful business skills and outcomes. For those who have been irked by these realities, here are some hilarious comebacks by the inbetweeners who recently hijacked a Twitter hashtag.
Although some of you have been settled in your role for a few years and are now looking toward the new challenge of management, chances are you haven’t been properly trained to manage. Maybe you have a degree from an Ivy League School—maybe even an advanced degree. Maybe your mom told you that you are the best and she still loves you. With all this going for you, how does your employer not notice you? You’ve even said “Put me in coach, I’ve been playing left bench for too long.” You just want a shot.
Perhaps you should take a second and think about that jump. A recent survey says that 51 percent of inbetweeners are in formal leadership positions but most of those aren’t prepared to take over a management job. For those who can’t wait, there is some good news.
The latest data released on CNN shows that median income in the US just increased for the first time since 2007—the year before the great recession started. The stronger job market is starting to translate into higher wages and more opportunities for growth and management within organizations. Now it is more imperative than ever to establish those management capabilities. That starts by developing sound decision making skills, earning trust by completing tasks, and collaborating across departments to get work accomplished.
Developing true managerial and business skills before you jump into management will more likely ensure a long and successful career. You’ll get your chance. Just make sure you are ready when your name is called.