I recently spoke with a Gen Y executive who’s worked for a number of large global corporations, including UPS, The Home Depot and Coca-Cola Enterprises. Her perspective is interesting because she’s left a couple of jobs that people would kill for, and she is very accomplished and has a lot of management experience for someone under 30. So, when we say to Gen Y, “You can’t be CEO your first day on the job,” we’re not accounting for talented over-achievers like her. Here are some of her insights on working for big brands:
Think about what type of industry appeals to you
“In my experience, the retail industry is crazy. Schizophrenic. Nobody cares about rank and area of responsibility. If you have a good idea, it’s like, ‘Roll up your sleeves, get in there and get it done.’ You didn’t think a lot about what happened yesterday. It’s on to the next thing.
“In the service industry, you think further ahead. Everything has a domino effect. What the person ahead of you does affects you just as what you do you affects the person after you, so people were always thinking, ‘What happens if I do this?’
“Of course, there are a lot of things that factor into the personalities of the companies I’ve worked for, like how long they’ve been around, for instance.”
Think about how far you’re willing to go to get new opportunities
“I left one company because I wanted a new job and they said no. If I’d gotten that job, I would have stayed, but I wanted something fresh. I would have been working with new people and had new responsibilities. I wanted new opportunities and I realized that I needed to leave the company to get them.”
Ask for advice
“I wish I’d asked for advice more. I should have talked with other people at one company before taking a new job. I had a mentor who I could have talked with. But, I was afraid they’d try to help by talking with people in my department, and I didn’t want that. I was afraid it would come back to haunt me. Looking back, I don’t think I should have felt like that.”
Don’t get trapped
“Always position yourself so you have other options – you’ll be happier if you do. And, don’t resent the people in positions above you. For instance, I don’t resent Boomers who are sticking around longer, and, therefore might hold up advancement, because I know I could leave if I wanted to. I think people who resent Boomers for this reason feel that way because they think they can’t get a job anywhere else.”
“I know that people say you can get more done tactically when you’re a manager because you have people to help you. But I think I’m able to get more done strategically as well. I have more time to think and to look at the big picture. It’s in a manager’s best interest not to micro-manage and get caught up in the details. That’s not their job anymore.
“One thing that really bugs me about managing people is when you ask someone with aspirations to be a manager to do something and they say, ‘That’s not my responsibility.’ I’m like, ‘You keep asking me to move up, so step up!’”
Sell your team
“I would say never take on an assignment without executive-level support. And, I don’t mean just your manager; I mean you need the support of the entire executive team. If only one person knows why you were put in that position and things go down the tubes, like the economy, and your boss leaves, then nobody is left who remembers why that team was put in place. You have no one to be your champion.
“Also, I’d, sell your team early and a lot, so people understand its value.
“And, it’s even better if you can make people think the goal of your team is their idea. Your goal is to have them sell you for you.”
Know the vibe you put off
“I’ve been told that I sometimes give people a you-can-leave-now look after we’re done talking. I need to work on that, because I don’t even know I’m doing it.
Find common ground
“Also, I’m more likely to talk with employees about them and not me. I want to find out about things we have in common. Like one of my employees really likes dogs. Well, I like dogs, so we can talk about that. It can be something simple that you feel strongly about.
“You don’t have to figure out everything about someone. Just what motivates them and what makes them want to do their job every day.”