The Five Engagement Questions You Must Ask Your Young Professionals

Guest Post by Nathan Magnuson for his Stand Out! book launch. Republished with Permission.

What’s the quality of your conversations with your young professionals? More specifically, what questions are you asking them?

In my new book Stand Out!, I share that young professionals today are the leaders of tomorrow. The reason is a matter of simple mathematics. When the Baby Boomers retire, there won’t be enough Gen X’ers to take their places. Ready or not, it’s time for young professionals to prepare to lead.

The question isn’t if. It’s how soon… and whether or not they’ll be prepared. If you’re a leader, a big part of that responsibility falls on your shoulders.

Here are five key questions to begin asking your young professionals. Use them, and you’ll not only increase their engagement. You’ll prepare them to lead for the long haul.

How do you connect with our organization’s purpose?

Young professionals don’t need to be convinced that purpose is important. They know it instinctively. The trick is to connect their sense of purpose with the organization’s so that they work in tandem. When you understand your young professionals’ underlying “why,” you get the insider’s scoop into their motivation and engagement. Just make sure you’re prepared when they reply with, “What’s yours?”

What’s the one thing you most want to contribute this year?

This is an extension of the purpose question, but applied to the short-term. We all want to receive. Most of us want to accomplish. But the more powerful force is our desire to contribute. When you understand what your young professionals want most to give, you can prioritize their work to enable them to meet their contribution goals – and to maximize their pride in the work. This question even has the power to reel in young professionals who might be second guessing their commitment to your organization.

Who would you like to better connect with here and how can I help?

In my white paper 5 Ways to Win the Hearts of Your Young Professionals, I share several studies noting that Millennials and Generation Z are the loneliest generations. This despite being the most virtually connected generations in history! Does that mean it’s your job to help them make friends? Well… in a sense it is. A connected young professional is an engaged employee! It’s easy to leave for a new opportunity, but not so easy if for someone with strong relationships with colleagues. But it’s not only friendships that matter, it’s also strong working relationships and the mutual respect they fosters. It’s difficult for anyone to disappoint someone they care about and work well with.

What are 2-3 options for where you see yourself here in the next 2 years?

The typical question we usually ask is: “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” This can be a little intimidating for young professionals to answer simply because of how quickly the speed of change has accelerated. So much can happen in five years. Career expert Dan Miller says that the average job now lasts only 2.3 years – but just 13 months for young professionals. Part of the reason is the appropriate need young professionals feel to diversify their career experiences. Leaders can get ahead of this trend by asking for two year goals, rather than five. And when they ask for multiple options, leaders encourage new possibilities to learn and grow instead of focusing on a narrow path.

If your young professionals are going to look for their next challenge within two years anyway, this question can help you both prepare for an internal opportunity instead of being surprised when they unexpectedly give notice.

What do you most want to learn this year?

Did you know there are five key areas of professional growth all organizations should invest in? They are:

  • Job-specific development
  • Organization & industry-based development
  • Self-awareness
  • Career development
  • Leadership development

Some college graduates may enter the workforce assuming they’re ready. After all, they’ve spent a lifetime studying. Now they’re prepared, right? Thankfully by now the majority understand that the real learning begins on the job. In fact, many take a new job for the learning opportunity it provides, even ahead of the salary or brand prestige.

As the leader, it’s your job to make sure each member of your team has a plan for growth. But the best development plans are created together. When you understand what your young professionals want to learn most, and where they want to steer the next stage in their career, you’re poised to be their greatest champion.

Leading young professionals is a lot like planting seeds. Some grow quickly and others take time to bloom. Sometimes we’re still around to see the results and other times we aren’t. In many ways, it’s a legacy project. What will your legacy with your young professionals be?

Note from Bob:  Click HERE to order Nathan’s just released book – Stand Out!


Nathan Magnuson


Nathan Magnuson is a corporate leadership consultant, facilitator, young professionals expert and author of Stand Out! and Ignite Your Leadership Expertise. He’s worked in a staff or consulting role with many Fortune 500 companies. Find out more about the innovative emerging leader programs Nathan delivers, or contact him at


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