If you put in the effort, someone will notice. Sometimes. If you’re lucky.
The older members of Generation Y, like me, have grandparents and parents who are self-made men and women as inspiration for their own success. Although many Gen Y haters suggest it as a flaw, when Gen Y was growing up we were told if we work hard enough there’s nothing we can’t achieve or obtain.
What they didn’t tell us, however, was that this depends on someone else noticing and appreciating our hard work.
My dad is the best example of a self-made man I can think of, and he’s a big believer in this philosophy.
For years, he worked as a cable guy, and in mines and oil fields in northern Alberta and the territories. He went to trade school in the early 1990s to become an electrician and, although my parents had to file for bankruptcy shortly after, it was probably the best thing he ever did.
He worked as an electrician for years, hauling around a heavy tool belt, crawling into small spaces, handling tiny wires and spending weeks in the cold while working on projects in the winter. His work at Pearson International Airport in Toronto caught the attention of one of the largest car rental companies in North America and they created a position just for him: he became the facilities manager for all of Toronto.
After almost a decade there, he was offered the opportunity to defect to a competitor (another large car rental company) to oversee locations across the country.
Although there are stressful days when he wishes he was back doing manual labour for a living, he has a comfortable mostly-office job with an impressive salary, especially for someone who didn’t go to university or college. He also has lots of perks like a company car, free gas, plenty of vacation time, an assistant and the ear of the president of the company.
As an unmarried, childless twenty-something working hundreds of kilometres below the earth’s surface in a mine in the early 1980s, he probably had no idea what his career would look like at age 52. He could have followed almost any path.
Today, most young people attend college or university to obtain some kind of speciality and, honestly, some kind of direction or certainty as to which direction our careers will take.
But in today’s economy, many of us are facing the same uncertainty our parents faced at our age.
If there’s one thing I learned from my dad’s career path, it’s that I should work hard at any and every opportunity which comes my way in order to succeed, whether it’s the ideal project or position or not.
For example, when I was hired as a sales and marketing intern at TalentEgg last summer, I was happy to have a paying job at a great company after months of searching. But I was also disappointed I wasn’t able to land my dream journalism internship.
After all, isn’t that what I’m going to university for, what I’m paying tens of thousands of dollars for? Journalism, not sales and marketing.
But I sucked it up and hid my disappointment as best as possible.
I probably wasn’t the ideal salesperson and I had no formal marketing training, but I wanted to learn. And I discovered I was more interested in it and more capable than I thought. Besides, I really believed in the company and the people I worked with were great.
I’m not a one-trick dog and neither is anyone else.
I suppose I wasn’t such a terrible sales and marketing intern after all because Lauren, my boss and the founder of TalentEgg, kept talking to me. She became a mentor and a friend once I stopped formally working for the company and went back to school in September.
But I never stopped working. I offered to spend some of my time blogging and agreed to represent the company on related blogs and message boards. I made myself available as someone to bounce ideas off of and tried to communicate my genuine interest in the ongoing success of the company.
Although it was earlier in the year, I found myself in the same position I did last spring. I had been applying for journalism jobs for months and didn’t hear anything more than, “Thanks for your application.”
The difference between this year and last year, however, is I wasn’t disappointed to take this position. I’m fired up about it. It’s all I think about. I’m not just grateful for a job, any job, I’ve started one I love at a company I believe in and feel connected to.
I’ve worked hard at many things over the last year and TalentEgg was one of them. I didn’t expect anything out of it – I really wanted to do it. But Lauren noticed and now she’s placing value on my work.
What has paid off for you once someone noticed how hard you were working?