Kids these days…

I’m not sure if it’s always been this way, but over the past five or so years, I’ve noticed that the younger people in the work force are really anxious to have their career arc completely mapped out.

I’ve been managing people for more than 20 years, but only recently have I noticed members of my team needing a very deliberate and specific career path.

They want to see where their current position fits into the organization and what the next five steps would be. They want to know, very specifically, what they need to do in their current job to climb the next rung of the ladder. They want a checklist of things to do that, when completed, will result in their promotion.

And they want dates and times for all of it.

All of this runs counter to the advice I inevitably give them: Just focus on doing your job as well as you can, and create as many opportunities for yourself as you can along the way.

Early in my career, I decided to go through my young LinkedIn connections list, take as many as I could to lunch, as see what I could learn from each of them about how they got to where they are.

There was one person, in particular, who stood out. He started as an Air Force helicopter pilot. He’d still be flying, he said, if not for his wife’s insistence that he stop.

When he stopped, he spoke to a friend who asked him to help him with some marketing work. He decided to give it a try, and this opened other doors. As he was gaining momentum and professional experience, other people he met and worked with offered him work.

As the offers came in, he kept exploring the opportunities, until finally, he ended up as CEO of an apparel start-up.

The story was told in greater detail, but his conclusion was short and sweet: A career is like a leaf blowing in the wind. You have no idea where it’s going to take you, but if you pay attention to the opportunities that present themselves, you’ll weed out what you don’t like, pursue what you do, and have a memorable journey.

When I encounter younger people looking ahead at their career, I try and advise them to enjoy the moment, do what you’re doing as well as you can, and create as many opportunities as you can. If you do those things and keep an open mind, all shall be well.