In First Jobs, Grads Sport Skills - and Attitude
For many college students, graduation is the apex of life.Skip to next paragraph
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Why shouldn't it be? You've sweated through at least four years of exams and papers, and you've just been handed a certificate that says you're pretty smart.
But as twentysomethings enter the world of work, they're learning that it takes more than smarts and a new suit to succeed. Many managers and corporate recruiters say new hires - perhaps more than their predecessors - need an attitude adjustment to gain more patience and greater respect for authority.
"There's a huge difference between twentysomethings today versus the twentysomethings 10 years ago," says Bob Wery, director of college recruiting for Sears, Roebuck & Co. "They very much have an air about them of self-confidence."
Every new generation of workers clashes somewhat with the generation in power. But a profound shift in the US eocnomy is exacerbating the tension between employers and the new generation of employees. In particular, analysts say, corporate downsizing and loss of job security have made today's new hires more intent on building their skills than on patiently climbing the career ladder at a single company.
When young workers are asked what it takes to be successful in a new job, many say the same things baby boomers said: Be prepared to start at the bottom, respect workers who have come before you, and don't be a know-it-all.
Yet Generation X'ers (often dubbed "busters") seem to have a different interpretation of what some of this means. For one, they tend to be less patient than boomers were when it comes to staying on the bottom rung.
"There is certainly an attitude among them that there is less patience for the pace of progress," says Mark Chain, national director of recruiting for accounting firm Deloitte & Touche LLP.
He didn't get a BA to fix the fax
Take Keith Kirkpatrick, a freelance writer and a 1995 graduate of Syracuse University in New York.
In his first job out of school, the magazine journalism major worked for a computer publication in New York - where his primary responsibilities included ordering lunch for colleagues and tracking invoices. "It was, 'Get this, do that, fix the fax,' " he says.
After eight months, Mr. Kirkpatrick decided to leave for another job that let him make better use of his writing skills.
The time to move on is "if you don't see the light at the end of the tunnel, or if you're not developing any more skills," he says. "That was my main complaint. It wasn't just the grunt work."
Part of the reason for the finger-tapping, young workers say, stems from a lack of job security. Many new college grads watched while parents or other working relatives lost long-held jobs during the corporate downsizing craze of the early 1990s.
If witnessing the plight of their elders impressed upon young people the need to keep their skills current, it also taught them not to become too attached to a single company.
"People today have seen their parents spill blood ... and for what? As soon as a [company] doesn't need you, you're gone," says Richard Fein, director of placement for the school of management at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. "Therefore, what's the point of subordinating yourself totally to a system?"
Many companies agree that today's new hires are less willing to conform to "the old system."