Monday, June 2, 2008


I recently read an article at called Today’s Accounting Crop: Spoiled Rotten? The theme of the article is centered on how CFOs and senior finance professionals view the career expectations of today’s new accounting professionals entering into the corporate job market. Though the content of the article speaks specifically to the accounting and finance profession, I think the points discussed apply to many professions within the Bay Area job market. Actually, not long ago my brother-in-law who is an executive level engineer with a major technology company spoke to me about how he thought today’s junior engineers enter the job market with unreasonable expectations about career growth.

Many senior managers remember when they got started in their careers, they accepted the unofficial requirement of starting at the bottom and working their way up. By contrast, today’s junior professional wants it all now! The impression is they expect high pay, significant responsibility, and rapid career growth the minute they walk in the door.

Generationally, most of today’s senior management professionals are usually Baby Boomers, and in recent years Generation X folks have also moved into this group. When both of these generations entered the job market for the first time, the world of work, and career expectations looked a bit different than they do today. One needed to start at the bottom, take less pay, work long hours, and perform tasks that were less developmentally stimulating. If one did well, they would eventually move into a role of greater responsibility, with good pay, and strategic significance. People also tended to stay with organizations longer. Even though it may not have been reality, there was a sort of unwritten contract that if someone did good work and stuck around, the organization would take care of them.

In the1990s things changed. People changed jobs a lot more frequently; companies got bought, merged, consolidated, re-organized. Employees learned very quickly that organizations could no longer make guarantees of long term job stability. Baby Boomers and Generations Xers had to learn to evolve to this new world of work. For today’s new professional it’s the norm. They approach opportunities with shorter term goals and expectations. They look to gain as much substantive exposure as possible in order to enhance their long term career sustainability. They are just as committed to hard work as baby boomers and generation Xers, but they expect a more immediate return on investment for their efforts.

When it comes to hiring, to overcome the generational divide and attract talent, Baby Boomers and Generation Xers should be careful not to compare or frame their own early professional experiences, challenges, and agendas, with the goals, and expectations of today’s junior professional. At the same time, today’s entry level professional should be aware and appreciate that most senior level decision makers entered the job market at a different time, where longer term commitment to the organization, and more gradual pragmatic career progression was the norm.

Alchemy Career Services conducts workshops on generations coming together in the workplace.

--Steve Hernandez