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Recently graduated millennial asks “What can I expect from work?”


I talk with a recent graduate who takes the right attitude and asks great questions

It’s a thing with every generation

I have been working with millennial’s recently and running into a similar theme. The millennials I am meeting with are clearly smart and they are driven. This generation just doesn’t have the experience to know how the system works and from what I am seeing, the schools are not providing any insight. Thankfully, this is a generation that is taking the time to ask the correct questions. Today and next weeks post are real-life examples of the challenges millennials are facing. Hopefully, these posts help not only the millennials but the managers that manage them the older generations working with alongside them.

Managers, please take this as a lesson that millennials are NOT selfish. They just don’t have the experience to “know”. If we take a few moments to give them perspective, they catch on quickly. 

I recently met with a Millennial who is young in his career and “doing it right”. I thought this conversation would be a great post for others because this guy took the initiative to ask such great questions.


  • 3 years out of school
  • Database background with a degree from a great school
  • Enjoys his employer and manager and wants to stay there long-term
  • Clearly, has social skills and can carry a conversation

I had helped his manager with a career negotiation and his manager sent him to me.

We sat down at a local pub and I asked my standard questions, a few are listed below:

HRN: What do you like about your employer?

Millennial: I like the work-life balance, I like the culture, I have a great manager and the people work together as a team.

HRN: Do you plan on staying there a long time?

Millennial: Yes, I could see myself staying there a very long time.

HRN: What do you do in your off time?

Millennial: I like sports, I work out, I am engaged to my wife. We want to buy a house but this is Seattle so I worry about that.

HRN: What is your 3-5 year plan?

Millennial: I want to manage people. I am great with people, I am a leader. 

HRN: Are you a manager now?

Millennial: No, I am a born leader, my manager says I am great with people and I mentor younger people.

He stated he had a great skill set and he was great with people. He just had his performance review (not attached to a salary review) and he wanted to negotiate a raise.

I asked him a couple more questions

HRN: What are you making now?

Millennial: I make “$X”

HRN: What do you want to be making? What do you want your raise to be?

Millennial: I want to make “$X + 50%”.

HRN: When are you needing to make “$X + 50%? 

Millennial: I am hoping to make that in 4 months when I have my next review.

I didn’t say much. There was a pause of silence that was probably uncomfortable for your young Jedi in training.

A 50% increase in salary

HRNasty’s inside voice: “These millennials. This guy has been working for 2 years and expects a 50% increase. OK, not impossible, but not easy. We might be able to get him a job at one of the large tech companies in town that pays at the top end of the band. Actually, he said he wanted work-life balance. Actually, it was the VERY FIRST THING he said. The big tech companies in town are not for this guy. They pay top dollar but the average tenure there is 18 months and work-life balance is not part of the equation.”

So I asked him where he was getting his “X + 50%” number. He explained he looked at Glassdoor, talked to his friends about what they are making and although he didn’t find solid matches on Glassdoor or with his friends, he had triangulated “the number”. That would be “The Number” with a capital T and a Capital N.

HRNasty’s inside voice: “Geeze, I know I helped his manager with his career, but I am not a miracle worker. 50% in 4 months? 2 years out of school? WTF? I am good, but I am not that good.”

HRNasty: “Dude, I just want to put things into perspective. You are asking for a 50% increase. Average salary increases are 3-5%. We have 3 years of experience.”

A Millennial asks the right question

His response was the following:

“I am young in my career and I don’t know what I don’t know. This is why I am here talking with you. I need perspective. I have a thick skin, so please tell me what I need to do. What should I be focusing on?”

I gotta hand it to the guy. He transitioned off the money quickly. I didn’t think he had it in him especially with the work-life balance comment being the first words he uttered. He came around really quickly. After about 15 minutes of discussion which I won’t bore you with, my overall message to him was:

Let’s not chase money. If you only want money, hiring managers are going to recognize that you are only looking out for yourself and NOT for the company.  Your manager will quickly realize you are NOT looking for a job to help a company or because you are passionate about the job. They will quickly realize you are a mercenary. 

A Millennial gets it

And he understood this message. He really did. He came here as a blank canvas and open to new ideas. I was beginning to like this guy. 

I am sure that there are a number of folks that are thinking, “I can show I am looking for opportunity and hide the lust for money”. Trust me, most managers and HR folks have seen it all. They can spot the “I don’t care about anything but money attitude” as soon as the mercenary enters the room.  

So what else did we talk about?

People skills vs. technical skills: I have all these technical skills? I thought tech skills were valuable in this town. Why am I not worth more money? 

The gist of the conversation is that we can teach technical skills and it is very hard to teach people skills. With only a few years of experience, we haven’t established a real expertise in our field. There are a lot of candidates out there that have a few years of technical experience. With only a few years of experience, we don’t have the experience or maturity to lead projects. When we have 4-6 years of experience, we have started to enter into the next step of our careers by building a reputation for expertise and thought leadership. It is hard to build this reputation with only a few years of experience. Yes, we might be the smartest young graduate in our company, but there are a lot of companies in the city. It is supply and demand and there are a lot of candidates out there with just a few years of experience or less.  

What can I do to increase my value quickly?

Some things just take time. There is maturity that comes with experience and frankly, it is the asking of these questions that demonstrate a lack of experience. There are steps we can to speed up the maturation process. We can volunteer for projects, keep our manager updated and consistently give them the information they need so they can sell us to the higher-ups. Just doing what is expected of us is what everyone else is doing and we need to stand out. 

Working on your people skills is huge. Joining a Toastmasters group to learn how to be an effective speaker is a very easy step. Volunteering to help train others on topics where you are a Subject Matter Expert can gain quick visibility. When you accomplish something, let your manager know the following:

  • What you accomplished
  • How it helped the company or the department (Make sure your time spent relates to the company goals)
  • What you learned from the project (What new skill did you pick up)
  • What you would do differently next time (Demonstrate that you are being purposeful about improving your game)

Without a demonstration of the value of the work and your professional learning, it is hard to justify more opportunity. 

Large company vs. Small company

We talked at length about the different opportunities at various companies. Our millennial is currently making $X and said he was interviewing with a local tech behemoth in town and the rate was about X + 35%. Obviously, our millennial was excited. But we started to break down the opportunity without putting the opportunity down. 

The first thing he stated was that he wanted work-life balance. He KNOWS that the company he is interviewing with is notorious for long hours and an average tenure of fewer than 2 years because of burnout. He logic was that if he got an offer at X + 35%, his current company would match to keep him. 

I explained that if I was your current manager, I would say “Sorry, you obviously are going for the money which I respect. It is an expensive housing market in Seattle and you want to buy a home for yourself and your fiance’. We pay less, but as a company, we value work-life balance. As a smaller company, we don’t have the financial resources that a Fortune tech company might. We can not compete with the hugely profitable companies. Money isn’t something I am going to match. We wish you good luck.”  And at this point, I the manager know you are not committed to your current company. 

There is hope

It was a great conversation and what started off rocky in my mind turned into a great discussion. He understood the importance of getting a different perspective. The guy even bought me dinner. Like I said, there is hope for these millennials, we just need to give them the benefit of the doubt and some guidance.

See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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