“Spending more than ten years with one employer seems strange” – instead of long-term employment, young people value personal development and career advancement
27-year-old Juuli-Tuuli Osmo has been working as a senior recruitment specialist for the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency Traficom for almost a year now. Her tasks involve supporting supervisors in the various phases of recruitment and ensuring that the recruitment processes adhere to the relevant frameworks and instructions. Recruitment for the central government, in particular, is heavily regulated with a range of principles and appeal opportunities.
Talking to Juuli-Tuuli, it is quickly clear that she has a precise plan and vision for her career. She wants to be able to leverage the experience from her previous job in the subsequent one.
– Especially since my career is just getting started, it’s important to me to accumulate a wide range of expertise and build my career sensibly – ultimately towards managerial duties.
Employers must recognise needs and wishes
Susanna Kultalahti, lecturer at the University of Vaasa, emphasises that employers must recognise what young people are willing to commit to.
– Young people are often criticised in working life for lacking commitment and taking off after a short while. In this case, commitment means commitment to the organisation. But young people do commit – maybe not to the organisation but to their own expertise and career advancement.
If a young employee is committed to personal career advancement, challenges are necessary. In the absence of challenges in the current job, the employee leaves.
– If the organisation provides the opportunity for career advancement and demonstrating one’s skills, switching to another company won’t provide anything new.
Susanna adds that young people see supervisors as personal trainers for their entire careers. A supervisor should know the three-year or five-year goals of young employees to know what they need to reach these goals and advance their careers.
Aiming at increasing labour market value
Normally, career development has meant advancing from an expert to a team leader, then to a manager and ultimately a director. These steps have often increased the number of subordinates. Now, horizontal career advancement has become a topic of conversation alongside vertical career advancement. Not everyone wants to become a supervisor but instead seeks to advance their career by strengthening their own expertise. As such, employers have begun offering more internal career paths which, according to Susanna, should ideally take both alternatives into account.
– The possibility to advance one’s career without going to another company or waiting for a colleague to retire benefits both the employer and the employee, she says.
At this point in her career, Juuli-Tuuli has no intention of securing a long-term job she can retire from but instead wants to build expertise to boost her labour market value. Even though leaving a familiar job requires courage and the ability to handle uncertainty, the feeling of having learned what you can from the current job can be a driving force. Learning new things is inspiring, and the need to gain new experiences is strong.
– Since I’m just getting started with my career, the thought of spending more than ten years in the same job with the same duties seems strange, says Juuli-Tuuli.
After some consideration, she adds that for her to be willing to stay in the same place for longer, the work tasks would have to change to maintain her interest and satisfy her desire to learn.
– I feel like I’ve had things to offer and new ideas thanks to my experience in a variety of work tasks.
Becoming a humane manager
Juuli-Tuuli previously worked as a recruitment specialist for another central government branch, but she specifically wanted to profile herself as an expert in more demanding recruitment tasks. Her prior work experience in central government recruitment made her eligible to apply and led her to Traficom.
– I see myself as a substance expert. The next bigger step could be substance management, and later I might be interested in taking charge of people as a supervisor. That said, I’m a realist and want to genuinely have something to offer for each position I take.
Why does Juuli-Tuuli want to become a manager?
– I think I’m quite good with people. It’s often said that young people appreciate a humane manager, and I don’t think I’ve really seen one yet in working life. I hope that I can one day provide my small contribution in this regard.
She would like to have – and eventually become – a humane and present supervisor who is caring but not overbearing. Good managers are genuinely interested in their employees and also easily approachable. Other aspects of management that interest Juuli-Tuuli include development and helping others succeed. And yes, pay is a factor, too.
– Of course, pay is another motivating factor with increasing responsibilities – I can’t deny that. My switch to more demanding tasks also impacted my salary.
According to Susanna Kultalahti, the type of manager described by Juuli-Tuuli is very close to the image of an ideal manager among millennials: someone who listens and recognises the employees’ needs and is present for them – someone who provides freedom and responsibility as well as giving them time for mistakes, learning and development.
– Millennials expect a lot from a supervisor. For example, they expect a great deal from supervisors in terms of rectifying discrepancies, since the organisation itself seems so far away and the world view of millennials involves putting issues on the table and addressing them, Susanna says.
And what would be an absolute no-no in terms of a manager? Juuli-Tuuli laughs.
– In this era of remote work, it’s certainly always a problem if a supervisor is mostly a silent and unseen entity or sees employees as nothing more than numbers. In my opinion, these kinds of approaches no longer have a role in working life.
Susanna looks forward to seeing what kinds of managers millennials will become when they reach the decision-making age and whether or not work communities and organisations will change. She adds that the managerial style described by Juuli-Tuuli sounds ideal but also challenging and time-consuming. It also depends on the organisation whether or not enough time is provided for supervisory work. Usually, managers get caught up in the organisational structures.
– Even exemplary supervisors can’t be miracle workers if the organisational culture doesn’t support management practices that involve being present and listening.
Only young people used to value flexibility – now everyone is talking about it
The pandemic has changed the nature of work permanently. As regards young people, however, flexibility was already a hot topic years before COVID-19.
– It has long been their desire to impact how, when, where and with what tools the work tasks are conducted. Flexibility has been one of the defining characteristics of millennials, and now it has become a matter that concerns everyone, Susanna says.
Juuli-Tuuli Osmo’s employer leans towards hybrid work arrangements. She prefers to spend one or two days a week at the office, otherwise working remotely. The thought of her employer demanding her to sit at the office for tasks that do not require it seems strange to her.
– It’s great that we can have a say as to when we spend time at the office. Some solid justifications would now be needed for ordering the entire staff to be at the office every day. It’s a great benefit to be able to work flexibly and to fit together work responsibilities and other aspects of life.
Susanna’s view follows along the same lines.
– No organisation can go back to forcing all employees into a specific mould. Instead, justifications and reasons must be provided for all actions and decisions. This is another area that requires management. The current changes are not limited to work methods and tools but cover the entire work culture.