I heard it again today: “What’s wrong with these young people? They want to be project managers right out of college!”
It is particularly galling to Baby Boomers who had to work their way up the ladder.
The most important thing you can do to set realistic expectations for new grads is to develop career paths in your organization. You know what they are in your head. Now it’s time to formalize them in writing.
What are the career paths in your business? Typically, you might have the following tracks: technical (never leave the cubicle), project manager, management, business development, and expert.
Along each of those tracks, you have the stages of development or professional levels. In some industries (and apparently in some online games), the levels are apprentice, novice, journeyman, expert, and master. Regardless of what you call them, each level should have criteria that must be met to reach that level.
For example, if project manager is one level, what is it a person needs to know or do to fill that role? I assume that role would require experience with supervising staff, setting and meeting deadlines, creating and meeting budgets, a certain level of experience with clients, and so on.
Working with one client, we built a matrix of the different career paths and professional levels for each path. We established criteria for reaching each level and expectations for what additional learning and experience would be expected at that level. We also provided links to the educational resources someone would need to get that new learning and experience.
Once you have that mapped out on paper, it’s fairly easy to look at that new college grad and explain what’s involved in being a project manager and what the grad will need to do to get there. Engineers are pretty good at reading maps.
The Millennials, today’s graduates, are committed to lifelong learning. They know they have to keep learning. What they need to know is what do they need to learn, where can they go to get that, and what rewards will they find on the other side.
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