Tuesday, July 13, 2010

New Generation

I was troubled by a recent NYT post American Dream is Elusive for a New Generation.

Meet Scott Nicholson, a recent college graduate who lives with his parents and has spent the last five months researching and applying for jobs. In that time, he only received one offer, which he turned down because he felt it was a dead end. This decision was difficult to justify to his parents, who paid for college and are still supporting him.

I feel for Scott. It's tough out there and no one wants to get stuck in a low-paying job with no future.

On the other hand, although the overall job market seems depressingly less open than it used to be for experienced people, I find myself wondering if things are really so much worse for college graduates today than it was back when I had just received my degree.

Like Scott, I majored in political science. Unlike Scott, however, I didn't assume a political science degree would open management track doors for me. My plan was to earn some money for graduate school and combine poli sci with business, which is what I did.

I also paid my own way through college and graduate school, which I believe helped get me in the door when I applied for - and got - my first real job at Andersen Consulting (Accenture).

I also couldn't help noting that Andersen's initial offer to me was comparable in terms of salary to the offer Scott recently turned down because it was too low. OK, inflation, but still. Ballpark.

I'm going to stop here before this turns into an 'I walked to school uphill in the snow both ways' speech and cut to the chase:

While I feel for Scott's generation and hope they find their feet in today's tough economy, I also wonder who filled their heads with the idea they should be on the fast track right out of school.

Of course, the fault doesn't only lie with the twenty-somethings. While I don't think the economy owes each of them an express ticket to executive management in return for willingness to work hard and a black belt in social media, I do think companies should put more thought into developing people who are willing to start at the bottom and learn the ropes.

Let's give this generation an opportunity to prove themselves. It would be a shame to waste all that potential, either by making it too easy for them or by making it too impossible.

4 comments:

  1. I graduated during the tech boom (end 1990's, early 2000's) which is around when they coined the term "Quarter-Life Crisis". What I witnessed was the unrealistic expectation of new grads who believed they would/should be millionaires by the time they were 30. When they realized a few years later they weren't on track to achieve that, they felt like they'd failed somehow.

    In my opinion, companies will always be willing to teach the new recruits. Fresh blood is necessary to stay competitive. I dunno if it's an entitlement attitude or inflated expectations that comes from a childhood of competition and constant push to achieve, but it remains to be seen if the new recruits realize that often a greater value comes in the learning experience, not just the number that defines their salary.

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  2. I think you make a great point about learning, Preludia. And let's hope new recruits are getting the on-the-job training they need to take it to the next level.

    I have never heard the term quarter-life crisis. I think I missed that one - there wasn't time. :-)

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