How many times have you heard someone say, “This organization needs some new blood?” No organization likes to think of itself as stodgy or closed to the possibility of innovation. How organizations like to think of themselves, however, is often very different from how they act – a predicament particularly problematic for the young people these organizations hire.

I’m a Theory Y person. I believe that people are not inherently lazy and that they want to contribute – young employees especially. Armed with the energy of their youth and the theoretical knowledge of their recent education, they want to apply what they’ve learned and work their way up the food chain. Wouldn’t the best way to do that be to actively contribute their ideas just as their professors encouraged them to do? To offer solutions based on research? On evidenced-based practice? The unfortunate answer, which many young people learn the hard way, is no. The best way to apply what you’ve learned and climb the food chain is rarely through zealous contribution. What the young person perceives as zealous contribution, many seasoned employees perceive as overzealous and unsolicited input.

The defining difference from all of those best practice models you learned in school and the work world is that in the work world each organization has a different corporate culture imbued with an instinctual hesitancy of change. For an outsider – which is what a young person is until he or she is indoctrinated with the culture – to suggest change is to disrupt and disrespect all that came before.

For all you graduates beginning your careers, tread lightly. Go in and observe. Volunteer to help out, but don’t take over unless asked. Find a mentor to learn the organization’s history and the dynamics of how decisions are made. You’ll rise faster if you apply your knowledge after considering the variables. No organization is a perfect textbook scenario.