Millennials: Why Moving Up Fast Isn’t Always a Great Idea

Have you ever had someone tell you these:

a. You need to climb up the corporate ladder fast .
b. You need to get promoted every two years; three is the max.
c. You have to be in a middle to senior position by the age of 30.
d. Retire from work at the age of 40; or at least attain financial stability by then (this means being able to buy or travel whatever or whenever you want).

I have a confession to make, I’m guilty of giving this advice in the past, myself; either to a mentee, colleague, friend or direct report. Because I, too, was given those same advice and was led to believe that in the matters of career, speed is the word. Now that I’ve reached a certain level of my career, I’ve learned that it pays off to wait and spend some quality and quantity time in particular positions before moving up.

I haven’t climbed a mountain nor have I tried scuba diving, but based on what I’ve read and heard from experts, all high altitude climbs and deep dives, need gradual escalation or descent. Our body needs to get accustomed to the new environment before it should be exposed to higher altitude or lower depths. Factors such as climate, pressure, and oxygen must be taken very seriously. Surprisingly, this applies in the corporate world as well. Just like climbing and diving, there are no shortcuts to getting ready for the next level or depth.

The shortest route is not always the best route, because oftentimes it can bypass life’s most important lessons.

– R. Zacharias

Unfortunately, we often fall for the temptation to get things quick and fast (yes, part of this is because of the fast-paced environment we now live in). But the danger with this is that, without proper preparation and maturity, you will end up “winging” it in higher positions; unpreparedness and lack of maturity, have pushed some to make unethical (even illegal) decisions that caused them not only their careers, but also their families, friends, health and God. 

I know it’s hard to wait for your turn; it doesn’t come naturally. I believe it comes with age (not always; most of the time). Therefore, I offer some tips to help you wait longer:

  1. Nurture professional and personal relationships where you are (you’ll need them both in higher, more pressure-laden positions). These build trust and credibility. The last thing you would want is for people to follow you only because of the position you hold. Ideally, you want others to follow you because they believe in you and what you stand for. Unfortunately, the higher you go up, the more difficult it is to nurture relationships. You need lots of time to develop relationships. Do it while you’re in entry level positions. Believe me, you’ll have lesser time to spare as you go up. How many managers do you see eat 1-hour long lunches with fellow managers?
  2. Grow your emotional muscles. You need strong emotional muscles (some call this emotional intelligence, emotional quotient) in your next role. Getting it has to be deliberate and intentional. Don’t just kill time, make the time count in this area. Read books, talk to mentors, meditate on learnings and teachings each morning, exercise everyday (I suggest jogging or brisk-walking). How many managers do you know that has the patience to listen to your concerns or who has the ability not to lose their temper when things go wrong?
  3. Learn how culture works and how to determine a great company culture from a lousy one.The best time to do this is while you’re still at the ground level, while you’re still “part of the pack”, so to say. It gets harder to determine the “real culture” from the higher you go the corporate ladder. Why is this important? Always remember that culture eats strategy for breakfast. If you don’t know how it works, you wouldn’t know how to determine, let alone influence it. Have you ever experienced having a new manager who’s totally clueless of what the company stands for or what’s the prevailing culture of the team he or she is taking over? How was the experience?

Follow these tips and I assure you it will not only make the wait more bearable, but also a lot more fulfilling. Just like when you climb a mountain or dive into the depths of the sea.


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