Unsolicited advice to the young

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2015/08/21/unsolicited-advice-to-the-young/

Many young people today are discovering that a college degree no longer guarantees a quality job and entrance into the middle class. At the same time, employers often complain that the new crop of graduates “just don’t know how to work.” They report that young hires are friendly and tech-savvy, but are distracted and unfocused on the job. As one boss recently offered, “these kids come to work like they are strolling into the campus coffee shop!” Another asked, “Why do they seem so entitled?”

One explanation is perhaps that the world of work has changed dramatically in the last 20 years. Companies today are, as never before, bottom-line oriented. Before they hire, they ask, “How will this person make money for our company? Make us more competitive?”

But the widespread employer dissatisfaction with new workers is attributable to more than just economic pressure. It can be traced to changes in our educational system. About 40 years ago, schools quietly changed from being knowledge and discipline-centered to being “student-centered.” This new approach to education provided “learner friendly environments,” where students can “be themselves,” but where failure has few consequences. Teachers are encouraged to engage students in “non-judgmental” dialogue of even the most inane student comment. “That’s an interesting thought, Amber. I’ve never considered that the Founding Fathers were sexist pigs.”

Standards and expectations have been relaxed and, in turn, students have relaxed. Grades became inflated and homework deflated. More time was needed, after all, to explore the burgeoning world of electronic games and social networking. Our spongy educational system has created a bunch of workers with a poor work ethic and little readiness for the realities of today’s work world.

But the fresh-from-school job seeker might still excel in the workplace if they follow a few of these unsolicited tips:

1.    Your new boss will be continually asking himself/herself, “Is this guy or gal going to improve my operation? How will this hire effect my bottom line?” From day one — from hour one — be ready to prove your worth. Be ready to do the dirtiest job, and do it so well that the boss will be impressed. Arrive early, and stay late. If your boss asks you to make coffee, ask whether he or she likes it strong or weak, and then make the best cup of coffee the boss has ever had.

2.    While at work, forget Facebook, the Onion, email, Twitter and all the rest. Don’t be seen with earbuds, surfing the Net or making personal calls.

3.    Don’t expect your boss or supervisor to be a friend. Don’t call him by his first name until he insists on it. He may act like a friend, but his first responsibility is to judge whether or not you are helping the operation.

4.    If you know there is something you can do, don’t wait to be told. Volunteer or, better, just do it. The words your mom always loves to hear are, “What can I do to help?”  So, too, with your boss.

5.    If your boss is a jackass, keep it to yourself. If he’s stupid or lazy or arrogant or prone to dark moods or simply a terrible manager, suck it up, and shut up. Don’t gossip. Don’t whine. Remember, that jackass is providing you with a pay check.

6.    Make steady eye contact; remember and follow instructions. If you don’t understand what is expected of you, don’t be afraid to look your boss in the eye and keep asking until you do understand. If you make a mistake, admit it. Expect correction, and realize that you learn more from correction than from praise.

7.    Speak like an adult. Drop the all-purpose answer “no problem.” Of course it is “no problem.” You are getting paid to do it! Remove the filler “like” that infests the current speech patterns of your peer group. “Do you want the coffee … like … with sugar or … like … you know … with cream? Or whatever?”

8.    Be neat. Follow the dress style of your superiors. Set yourself apart through your actions and manner, rather than by a flamboyant appearance.

9.    Watch your mouth. The causal cursing of the campus doesn’t always land happily on the ears of the boss. Save the f-bomb for the after-work bar.

In sum, school is over.  Now, let’s go to work.

Kevin and Marilyn Ryan are writers, former teachers, and the editors of Why I’m Still A Catholic. They write primarily on cultural, educational and religious topics.