Most first-time workers get a promotion within 3 years. Gen Z wants theirs right away

April 20, 2023, 1:00 PM UTC
Gen Z woman on phone in office
The youngest workers want everything to come at warp speed.
Maskot—Getty Images

Shoot for the moon, right?

According to a survey of 2,500 graduating college seniors conducted by the LaSalle Network, a staffing and recruiting firm, the latest batch of Gen Z workers want—nay, expect—to earn their first promotion within one year on the job.

That might be a bit ambitious. Especially just out of college, and especially in an unpredictable economy as recession fears swirl, promotions (much less raises) could be extra-difficult to come by. 

“Earning a promotion is hard, even in a strong economic environment,” Amanda Day, director of people enablement at employment firm Remote, told Fortune last month. “To do so in a recession, especially if you’re working remotely, you need to be deliberate to ensure that the work you are doing aligns with how your performance is being evaluated.” 

Naturally, when an entry-level worker can expect a promotion varies widely by industry and company. Getting promoted typically takes one to two years as you gain experience, according to Indeed. But new workforce entrants should expect a promotion once every three years, ZipRecruiter CEO Ian Siegel has said in the past—far past Gen Z’s 12-month expectation. But “if you aren’t moving up after three years, there’s a problem,” he said.

If you find yourself in this position, or spending a good amount of time doing work that doesn’t show up during your performance evaluation, Day said you may need to talk with your manager about adjusting your goals or moving some tasks off your plate. 

She encouraged regular consideration of whose job in the company you could see yourself doing. Amid mass layoffs and hiring freezes, many firms are looking to backfill senior leaders with workers already in the company, albeit lower on the totem pole. (To use the term du jour, this would be quiet hiring.)

Above all, though, when it comes to getting promoted, strong interpersonal skills and awareness are hard to beat. “A promotion isn’t something you can force to happen,” she said. “Instead, show professional maturity and find ways to showcase the value you could bring in a higher role.”

Bosses can manage expectations by communicating

Even if Gen Z’s demands make them seem like they’re “from a different planet,” bosses can avoid miscommunication with honesty. LaSalle encourages transparency with applicants from the get-go. 

“Companies’ best bet will be to communicate [to new graduates] clearly what career paths are available within the team and company,” it wrote in the report. Most likely, that communication should include numbers; as salary transparency laws sweep the nation, learning about pay details upfront is quickly becoming nonnegotiable

And while upward mobility is integral for workers at any stage of their career, Gen Z also has more abstract considerations. 

Asked for their top three priorities when evaluating whether to take a job at a company, career growth came in first, followed by benefits, and company culture. “The class of 2023 wants a company they can feel comfortable at and connect to,” the LaSalle report reads. “They value their workplace not just as a place to grow their career but to make friends, feel supported, and grow personally.”

Remaining attuned to those preferences is a win-win, LaSalle’s survey respondents would suggest. It keeps workers motivated to climb the ladder and reduces everyone’s likelihood of quiet quitting

Subscribe to Well Adjusted, our newsletter full of simple strategies to work smarter and live better, from the Fortune Well team. Sign up today.

Read More

Great ResignationCompensationReturn to WorkCareersLaborSuccess Stories