Earlier in the month, research was released by Right Management that showed that younger employees are reticent to speak to their immediate manager or colleagues for advice. Instead, 18-24 year olds – those who largely came into and established themselves within the workplace during the pandemic years – are far more likely to turn to their friends for work related advice. This poses an interesting situation for ongoing career development choices where you are predominantly seeking guidance from those outside your current employer.
What’s the situation with young people?
Remote, and then hybrid working, means that younger people in office-based jobs have experienced a very different start to their careers than their older colleagues and counterparts. Indeed, 38.1% turn to friends in similar jobs for advice. This is a sizeable figure given that those who are 25 years+ prioritise getting career advice and guidance from their line manager.
When individuals don’t turn to their manager, or even their colleagues, there’s a step of separation between the worker and employer – it’s less unified.
There are many reasons why this is happening. Obviously there are the ‘water cooler’ moments which have been lost as a result of remote and hybrid working. It’s not easy to ask for advice and it can feel more formal asking it over MS Teams or picking up the phone.
There may also be cultural changes in the younger generation who struggled moving into the workplace during the pandemic and getting their careers onto a firm footing where they felt integrated into the workplace.
Does it matter?
It’s normal for all of us to turn to friends and trusted external sources for career advice and workplace guidance from time to time. The problem comes when it is the first line of approach and when it is at the exclusion of turning to line managers and employers. This may hinder your career as you lose a valuable avenue of support and guidance.
Importantly, you may feel less engaged with and less committed to your current employer making work life simply less enjoyable. You may also miss out on opportunities for development as you don’t put yourself forward or raise the need for further training. Crucially, you may feel that the answer to dissatisfaction in the workplace, or a desire to take the next step in your career always relies on you looking elsewhere.
Previously, employees would often raise their concerns internally before, or alongside, pursuing external opportunities.
As a younger employee this may work in your favour – changing employers can be thought of as the way to scale a career ladder quickly. However, it may also mean you miss out on crucial guidance, career support, development and promotional opportunities earlier in your career.
Learning how to make your presence positively felt in the workplace is vital for developing your professional self, and this is being lost with the current approach.
There are enormous benefits to learning by exposure and it’s important not to cut yourself off from this.
What does this mean for employees and candidates?
First, being aware that there has been notable change in this area is important. The way of office-based work and hybrid working is in many ways dependent on the wider skills and resources built by professionals who once did work together, face to face, learning from each other and collaborating in incidental moments before Covid reared its head. As such, younger employees, who haven’t benefited from this, need to take steps within their own career to create these same experiences, without simply hiding behind the computer screen.
From here, realise that your line manager, colleagues and others within your organisation are often useful resources. Build relationships so that when you want to seek support and advice it’s easier to do. If you wish, ask for a mentor. When you consider asking a friend something about your career, also ask yourself if this would be better posed to your line manager, a colleague or mentor.
However, if you meet resistance to this approach, and you feel it sensible to look to progress your career elsewhere, choose employers who understand the impact of the pandemic on younger workers, and choose roles where you can feel confident with your line managers and colleagues.