5 Years: A Journey from Entitlement to Leadership with Alissa Zimmerman

5 Years: A Journey from Entitlement to Leadership with Alissa Zimmerman

5 Years: A Journey from Entitlement to Leadership with Alissa Zimmerman

The millennial mindset is a strange and ever-changing phenomenon, especially when it comes to finding and maintaining a career. Employers struggle to find the right person in this generation, and they struggle trying to keep millennials happy and occupied long enough for them to turn their new job into a lifelong career.

This idea of a lifelong career (or, hell, even a five-year career) is almost unheard of today. Why? Because my generation has lost perspective of what it means to establish and prove oneself early on in a career and build a life around hard work, dedication and commitment to grow within a organization.

I have been with Cincotta & Co. for five years. Before this job, I was your typical millennial: Entitled and self-serving, I had myself convinced I deserved everything just for being me. Because, you know, I was special. The concept of earning my place within any of the four companies I worked at right out of college (over a two-year window) was completely foreign to me. I wanted everything in exchange for nothing, and never lasted more than six months in these jobs.

My first year with Cincotta & Co. was a challenge. I had finally met my match in a boss who refused to even acknowledge all of my “almost-accomplishments” that I believed made me so unique and valuable to any employer. It took me about a year to gain the right perspective in the role I started in. It was a year of ups and downs, public meltdowns, late nights, early mornings and a boss who pushed me so far that I almost quit (ironically, I found out I was going to be fired the same day I had planned to resign).

But that’s what it takes sometimes for the right people to gain the right perspective—you have to be pushed to your breaking point before you see the light. Sal’s managing technique is just that: He pushes you to the edge of the cliff, and when you think you can’t go any farther, he pushes you more. It’s up to you whether or not you choose to jump or turn around and fight to get back on solid ground.

Having the right perspective as an employee changes the outcome of your performance. It’s that simple. Before I had any perspective, this was only a job to me. I came in at 9 a.m., completed the mundane tasks on my to-do list, and left at 7 p.m. I was a busy bee, nothing more, and certainly nothing of value to the company. Once I was able to shift my mindset, I understood that if I wanted a raise, a bonus or a day off, I actually had to do the work. I had to go above and beyond my daily task list and be proactive in proving myself within the organization.

I had to take a step back and completely change the way I viewed this job. It had to become my career, how I identified myself, so I would be able to take pride in and ownership of the projects I was a part of. Once I was able to shift my mindset, everything started falling into place. I was excited to come in every day, excited about playing a role in new opportunities, and, most of all, I was excited and proud to know that my opinion started to matter to my boss. I finally felt like I had purpose, which is the foundational desire of every millennial in the workforce.

Hard work was something I had no problem with in my first year on the job. But hard work is not always smart work. As mentioned above, I was a worker bee. Sal gave me a list of things that needed to get done, usually basic tasks like shipping orders, cleaning the studio and other administrative tasks. Nothing I was working on was strategic to the company—so at any given moment, I could be fired without causing a hiccup in the company.

This is where hard work came into play. Employees who are strategic to the success of a company understand “work hard, play hard.” Working hard doesn’t mean late nights, early mornings, and blood, sweat and tears just because. Working hard is working smart—not getting caught up in things that aren’t important, things that pull you away from the tasks that actually need to get done. And when you can add that motivating factor of playing hard at the end of the work, the working hard never seems so bad. Especially when you’re all in it together.

Which brings me to my next point: your team. The thing I respect most about my boss is the team mentality he instills in all of us. He has always operated under the idea that your team is only as strong as your weakest link. He understands that his success is a direct result of the team he has built. We are the A-Team, constantly competing to be the best, both internally and externally. Sal is both our coach and quarterback. He’s the one setting goals and leading us to victories while pushing us to be the best version of ourselves every day. This is so important in a boss. Leading by example is the best way to go, and encouraging your team is the only way to guarantee performance. A little recognition goes a long way.

How to find and maintain good employees is one of the top questions photographers ask Sal. I am proof that not every good employee starts out that way. It takes time and a lot of bumps in the road to get someone to the level where you need them. It’s about whether or not you see the potential in that person, and if that person has the stamina to persevere through the first one or two years—past the entitlement.

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To read the full article, launch the digital version of the November 2016 magazine.

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