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Aiming high, but for more than just the title

Rochester’s young leaders define their ultimate career goals—the top jobs to which they aspire—in different ways, and not all focus only on becoming CEOs.

“There are a lot of fulfilling avenues of a career that might not lead to that pinnacle but still very much feel like kind of a culmination of a career,” says Monica McCullough, senior vice president of housing at PathStone Corp., a non-profit regional human service agency.

McCullough, who was named a Forty Under 40 honoree in 2014, appears to have plenty of company, at least according to the 2015 Deloitte Millennial survey. The global survey of young, employed professionals found that only 38 percent of those working in developed markets and 65 percent of those in emerging markets aspired to head their firms or organizations. A total of 7,806 millennials born after 1983 were interviewed for the survey in late 2014.

Though Deloitte’s results might be interpreted as indicating a lack of ambition in a sizeable group of millennials and young professionals, the picture is more complex. Young professionals tend to look upward not only for the authority, pay and perks they might gain but also the other qualities higher positions can bring—like greater autonomy.

“We want to be stimulated and challenged but also have the autonomy to really focus on what we’re interested in,” says Emily Casey, a benefit and planning counselor for Principal Financial Group, a Fortune 500 company.

That desire for autonomy has led Casey to alter her career aspirations in recent years. While she was a retirement plans manager with her previous employer, the financial services firm Sage, Rutty & Co. Inc., Casey was drawn to the idea of working her way up in the Rochester financial service firm.

“My eyes were on the CEO-level position, because overseeing 50 local employees is certainly much different than a Fortune 500 (company),” she explains.

After joining Principal nine years ago, Casey re-examined her career goals in light of the company’s greater size and reach.

“Being a CEO means you’re going to oversee 10,000 plus employees and an international business,” she explains. “You can’t really get invested in one particular project if you have just so many hats to wear.”

Since then, the 2012 Forty Under 40 honoree has focused on becoming a vice president of one of Principal’s departments.

“Being able to lead a department and lead a business line and really have control over that direct business line and everyone who reports up that chain,” she says, “there’s a lot of appeal in that.”

Though millennials recognize that businesses exist to make money, according to Deloitte, they also expect firms to have a positive impact on society. For Justin Stevens, a vice president and financial advisor for Sage Rutty and part owner of the firm, the rewards of helping clients develop effective financial strategies are an essential part of his job.

“The utilization of your talents and the broadening of your knowledge is more satisfying than the paycheck,” says Stevens, who was named a Forty Under 40 honoree in 2014. “We’re here to do good work as people, and the more people we serve and the better we can serve them, the more satisfying work is.”

Stevens, who co-leads a team that helps about 150 families develop long-term wealth, anticipates expanding that group to as many as 200 families within the next two years. By doing so, he hopes to continue advancing in his career.

“I intend to play a role in the growth of Sage Rutty,” Stevens says. “(My) leadership will continue on my team and will hopefully expand into leader-ship at the organization’s level as well.”

Nathaniel Bank, an associate at Woods Oviatt Gilman LLP, says personal goals also figure into his plans for advancement at the law firm.

“My career aspirations are strongly aligned with my personal thoughts and feelings about what I want the world to be,” says Bank, a 2013 Forty Under 40 alum.

Those views have led Bank to begin building up a client base of individuals and businesses from the telecommunications and biomedical industries, among others, that could have a positive impact on the community. By helping a growing list of such clients overcome their legal hurdles, he hopes to climb closer to the coveted position of partner.

“The pinnacle of achievement is being a partner and also having that client base that you’re really proud of, that you feel is full of people doing great work that you’re able to support in an effective way,” Bank says.

Local millennials and young professionals need not have well-defined paths for career advancement to get ahead. Felicia Garcia-Hartstein has worked her way up to executive director of presidential advancement for the University of Rochester over the last nine years in a bid for new mountains to climb.

“I’m always looking for a challenging job, but it doesn’t have to be in a straight line to the top,” says Garcia-Hartstein, who was honored in the 2013 Forty Un-der 40 class.

Even so, Garcia-Hartstein, who works with UR’s leadership to advance the institution’s alumni engagement, development and fundraising efforts, easily describes the top rung of her career ladder.

“The pinnacle job would be to run my own development shop in a large institution,” she says.

As attractive as that position might be, Garcia-Hartstein recognizes that it could come with sacrifices that she might not want to make right now as a mother of two young children.

“Millennials or young professionals are working a lot more hours, or it feels that way, and we see the person who has that top job … is working even more hours than us,” she says. “The most important thing for me, right now, is to have a challenging job but also to maintain my work-life balance.”

McCullough admits to being torn about what constitutes her top job. On the one hand, becoming a CEO would give her the opportunity to “set leadership or goals in a way that makes real, tangible improvements for the organization financially or for employees or for the beneficiaries of that organization,” she says.

Though that slot could be atop a national or international non-profit, the path upward could also take McCullough into the for-profit world.

“To be successful in that universe would also be very fulfilling and satisfying, because not a lot of people make that switch successfully,” says the 2014 Forty Under 40 alum.

That career path also need not head straight upward—McCullough was the executive director of a much smaller organization before she came to PathStone about two years ago. It also might not take her into the CEO’s office at all.

“There’s certainly a lot of CEO jobs that I wouldn’t want, and there are a lot of jobs on an executive team that I would just really love to have,” McCullough says.

Mike Costanza is a Rochester-area freelance writer.

11/13/15 (c) 2015 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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