Often, people think that Millennials need training to understand the corporate and business landscape, but oh contraire. People in general need help, especially First Generational Successes. You may think that First General Success is a title for the young, but it isn’t: if you are reading this article, it’s probably you. A First Generational Success is a term I coined when writing my first book; although, it doesn’t appear until the second book, Playing by the Unwritten Rules: From a Job Defense to a Career Offense. Being a First Generational Success (FGS) means to achieve much more than your parents by acquiring higher roles and responsibilities in the workplace. This is easy to do with today’s technology, the many degrees professionals earn and the high-level jobs that people can now acquire as women, and even people of color that were impossible many years ago. I wrote about being a FGS because I discovered that professionals’ inability to play the game well was not attributed to race, gender, age or any other characteristic as much as it was about one’s exposure to the game. I grew up in a blue-collar family and my mother and father worked hard with integrity in their perspective factory jobs. They were confronted with games that are unimaginable by today’s standards, but they weren’t privy to the playing field in which I find myself. This creates its own set of nuances that impact how I play the game. There are tapes that play in each of our minds that were placed in our heads by our parents. Some of these tapes are great such as the golden rules, but some don’t actually serve us well. We have to reprogram ourselves in terms of how we view our employers, relationships with other employees, what is considered professional behavior, etc.
I write about this because for some, it can be a heavy burden being a FGS. You may find that you are asked to pay for matters that can easily be divided amongst the family, people in the family may think that you can hire other family members despite whether they are qualified or not, family becomes offended when you are unable to attend functions because you have to work, you get criticized for traveling when you have children, and the list goes on and on depending on your family and your job/success. Aside from not having someone to guide you based on their work experience, what I find to be the most difficult for professionals is the guilt associated with being a FGS and the inability to go home to be mentally fed and nourished. I often hear from professionals that their parents and family criticize them for how much they work, minimize how hard they work or marginalize what they’ve accomplished because they don’t understand their profession or level of professionalism. Now, this isn’t all families and all parents, but there are enough for me to mention this. As a FGS, it is very difficult to balance family’s expectations and that of your career while figuring out how to play the game with political savvy and authenticity. In short, it’s tough moving up the ladder of success when people whom you love and trust are whispering distractions in your ears or pulling on your legs as you climb.
When I coach managers and executives, I hear some really disheartening comments about the expectations that family members have of FGS, e.g. the lack of real support that you often need to fight the good fight, inappropriate or misguided advise from people who know you personally but not professionally, or how people don’t get it but, yet have their hands out for support because they perceive your success as owing others something. What I think that all of this says is that ‘we’ have to have candid and crucial conversations with our family about their expectations and our reality. We have to be courageous enough to defend our careers and to share with others that what we’ve achieved and how we achieved it was not easy and that we need or want their support. I have had these conversations with my family because I felt ridiculed for working long hours, expected to pitch in financially when others weren’t asked or not well received when I vented about my workplace situations. I had to let go of feeling some type of way by guiding others in understanding my world. You can’t expect people to understand your world, your profession or your career journey when they’ve never experienced it. As one professional shared with me, her family thinks that she sits and eats snicker bars and peruse LinkedIn all day at work when the truth is that she is struggling to keep her job because of sales quotas. We may not be able to change the perception and attitudes of our family but we can change our expectations of them. You aren’t alone and it’s important that you accept your success and release whatever guilt you may have that often accompanies being a FGS. Here are four things to do to help find balance and peace in being a FGS:
Establish your CARS: Colleagues, Advocates, Resources and Supporters.
Make sure you compartmentalize people in your life personally and professionally to not over burden any one person. Don’t try to make family your CR or R…they are supposed to be S supporters. Supporters are people who love you despite yourself. When all goes wrong, you have those people in your corner, even if it’s just to help you up from the floor when you get knocked down. They won’t throw any punches for you, but they are in your corner and there for you.
Don’t expect that your supporters, i.e. family can coach you.
If you can release that belief that is half the battle. Our expectations keep us from getting what we really want and need. They are there to love you; not coach you up on how to address a problem with your boss. I have a colleague who was having problems at work, and her husband gave her suggestions on how to handle it. It went terribly wrong because she tried to do something that works for him in his environment and his personality but, it was misaligned for her. So, stop recruiting family to be coaches; let them give hugs, kisses and an empathetic ear; unless, they are a coach or professional with experience in what you are experiencing.
Minimize your complaints because they may not understand.
There was an old song by Will Smith, Parents Just Don’t Understand, but I’m sure he wasn’t talking about the workplace. When you complain about work and all they can see is that you are driving a Mercedes…it simply doesn’t compute for them. They think you got it good because of your title, salary, etc. Not understanding that what you have such as a title is probably why you are encountering difficulties. The higher you go, the more challenges you encounter because you are more than likely responsible for more than just yourself. As one American rapper said, “More money; more problems.” So, don’t spend time explaining what is wrong or how you feel wronged, instead have a good mentor outside of your work environment or friend to share your thoughts, concerns and to vent. If you find that you are becoming more frustrated talking to family; then the answer is obvious…stop.
Forgive those who have offended you or taken advantage of you based on your success.
Keep in mind that your success may be new and maybe even scary for your parents and other family members, while creating jealousy for siblings, etc. So, forgive them knowing that it’s not you; it’s more about them and their insecurities. Once, I was talking to my sister. And, she shared with me how my dad said that he thought my receiving a doctoral degree was “stupid”. Really, stupid? I’m not sure I would use the word stupid and Ph.D. in the same sentence. But, oh well, I was hurt because I felt that he should have been proud. But, my success was a reminder of ghosts that he was fighting. So, I needed to forgive him and know that some things I’ll be unable to share with him for his encouragement or understanding.
Think about how you can change your expectations versus changing family. If you are FGS, understand that what you are experiencing is new for them. Give yourself permission to celebrate your successes; just be clear on who gets to show up and wear the party hat. If you have any examples of how being a FGS has impacted you, please share it with me and others. For more information or to book me for an event contact me at indigo@4-DPerformance.com or visit www.4-DPerformance.com.