Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Hold My Calls, I'm Playing Candy Crush

Being on the forefront of social media is, for the most part, awesome; I get to connect with all sorts of new people, I get opportunities that I wouldn't otherwise have, and it's remarkably freeing with the amount of aggregate information at my disposal.

Of course, it's not without its drawbacks. I am fully aware that I'm near one end of the bell curve as far as generations go; most of the people I interact with are younger than myself. And as with all generations, there's certainly a distinct change in outlook and attitude between them and myself. Which is fine, of course; innovation, creativity, and progress is made when different viewpoints sort themselves out over each other. That said, it can get a little tiring hearing the same complaints all the time (as, I am sure, they are saying about me).

One rather serious issue is that of job outlook; recent grads have been hit the hardest with unemployment, as they graduated in a world where people with much more experience and knowledge were having trouble getting jobs, let alone themselves. Still, like every older generation ever, I noticed that it wasn't all the world's fault--there was a certain attitude of entitlement by these young graduates that just grates on the nerves. I never really was able to put my finger on it without brushing in unfairly created broad strokes. This article in Time magazine, however, manages to  more or less puts it in perspective.

Employers are having a difficult time hiring many Millennials because they lack what employers call soft skills--the ability to navigate through a company's operations. This basically means things like organizing meetings, working with teams, working with people who differ from you, critical thinking, communicating your ideas effectively, and so on. It's not necessarily a lack of knowledge (especially the much-heralded STEM skills) that's keeping people from getting hired; it's because they simply don't play well with others.

[As an aside, before we get into this too much, keep in mind this is simply part of a trend--I in no way mean that all young workers, or even most, are like this; the article is just noting a noticeable increase in these problems. I don't want to give the impression that I'm bringing this up as a representative sample.]

You can extrapolate all sorts of theories and reasons why this is the case. A common one (which I generally agree with) is that for a generation or two, kids have been taught that everyone always wins and just showing up is valued as its own reward. Instead of competition, mere participation gets you the things you need, and effort is good enough even if the results don't make the cut. I see a direct correlation with the problems people are seeing in those that lack soft skills--why should I work with a team, communicate with others, or lead a team? Isn't just being here good enough? Young workers don't show up on time, aren't flexible with their roles, and basically act like entitled narcissists. College isn't helping anymore, as universities move away from letting students learn how to handle adverse situations their own way and instead hand-hold them from entrance to graduation (a contributor, I'd like to point out, to skyrocketing college costs, but that's another post for another day).

It's easy to reduce all of our economic problems down to a minimalist reason, and I don't mean to dismiss the many other problems that all workers have, regardless of generation. But some of the things noted in the above article are simply alarming , and my (admittedly anecdotal) observances tell me my gut is right. Too many people seem to think that the older generations just sort of skirted though working without having to put much effort into it, not realizing that while the world has changed, busting your ass to get paid hasn't.

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