If you’ve hired me, recognize me!

Normally, you’d be reading today about someone’s experience as a first-year in their field, but though being a first-year anything has its challenges, I’ve been struck recently by some things companies do — or don’t do — that seem to exacerbate the first-year trials and tribulations. And this seemed like the perfect opportunity to write about them.

During the course of regular business over the last few weeks, I’ve worked with a few young staffers at major organizations who — despite having full-time positions and playing integral roles in their companies — merit only a generic e-mail address based on their function or division (e.g., staffer@xyzcorp.com). This practice has always seemed ridiculous to me, especially because creating a new e-mail account isn’t exactly a feat. But I’ve been seeing it more often than ever, and in light of our discussions about Gen Yers being disconnected from their organizations, this seems like a silly little thing that — if changed — could make a difference in helping us feel like valued members of our companies.

After all, these weren’t freelancers or otherwise transient folks, and yet every time they give someone their e-mail address, they’re reminded that they’re just not that important. (And incidentally, this would never happen to someone more senior — i.e., you’d be hard-pressed to find an svp@company — which just reinforces the idea that if you’re starting out at these places, you don’t matter.)

This is similar to the business card discussion that people like Jason Ryan Dorsey — speaker, fellow Gen Yer, and author of My Reality Check Bounced!, who made an appearance in our Gen Y story — have all the time. One incident, while speaking at a Fortune 500 company, stands out in his mind: “I was doing a seminar for 107 young professionals, and I said, ‘Let’s work on how to position ourselves, so everybody take out your business cards.’ And how many people do you think had business cards — at this seminar on how to get promoted with young people who were Ivy Leaguers and all beat out a hundred other people to get their jobs?”


So he asked one young woman why she didn’t have cards. “She looked around and at her boss, and said, ‘Well, we’re not important enough to have our own business cards yet’,” Dorsey says. “And this was a woman with a master’s.”

But there’s that word again: “important.” It wasn’t about the cards themselves, which Dorsey told her to go get done herself online, or getting the boss — who later joked that he’d be buying a lot of business cards — to finally make that leap. It was about making these up-and-comers see themselves as “important,” even in these small but — to them, at least — significant ways.

Gen Y critics will be quick to point out, of course, that we do not feel important because we are not in fact important. But this isn’t about delusions of grandeur. Giving a young employee a unique e-mail address, $10 worth of business cards, or a dedicated workspace (assuming they’re not allowed to work from the park ;o) isn’t likely to go to their heads. Unless you think considering yourself a valued team-member is a symptom of getting carried away.

But these tiny investments in Gen Yers’ personal and corporate self-worth can have major returns for their companies when it comes to retention and productivity. And in the long run, I’ll bet that matters a lot more to their employers than the the 10 minutes it takes a tech-person to set up an e-mail address or the rush some higher-up might get from putting a new hire in his or her “place.” Wouldn’t you say?


And while you’re preparing your rants, thanks to Gig reader Ladd for pointing us to this bit of awesomeness, Garrison Keillor’s “Unlike Boomers, Gen Y doesn’t believe in disaster.” My favorite line: “We’ve raised a generation of young people who want to be writers.” As Ladd put it, “And just what is wrong with that exactly? ;o)” Have a great weekend!

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