Young People, Old Problems

The problem that some young people are having in getting meaningful work isn’t really new. For years, students coming out of University and Colleges have had the advantage of recent education, youth and exuberance on their sides, but there are some nagging issues facing this age group that if you look back in time, you’ll find are the same issues and barriers that generations have had to deal with in years past.

To start off with, there is the issue of maturity. While young people are trying to convince employers that they are emotionally stable and mentally balanced, committed to employers and can be relied upon, in some cases it was only a short time ago; as little as a few months, when those same young people sitting in front of an interviewer seemingly the picture of maturity beyond their years, were partying four nights or more a week, skipping classes and generally letting loose. What Facebook, MY Space, Instant messaging etc. and other social media have done however is make much of that public sharing of their lives public and unwittingly available to employers. The images they find on-line are believed to be a truer representation of the person than the real-life version sitting in front of them. The reason? At the interview you are portraying for a short period your best behaviour. On Facebook etc., you are at your natural best (or worse).

Another issue that young people face is the sudden demand for them to be up and productively at work at 8:00a.m. or 9:00a.m. Monday to Friday, and to repeat this process again and again. Teens and young people tend to be more night owls by nature and therefore sleep in later in the day. This process fights the world of work that traditionally gets people working early and then hitting the sack at a regular time throughout a week in order to function at work. Then when the weekends hit, there’s also a demand on young people to curtail somewhat that wild life of recent University and College in order that they don’t bring the reputation of their companies to the bars with them.

Now is it fair that the way you act on your own time should somehow reflect on your employer and therefore you be asked to be mindful of this and tone down your party lifestyle? Maybe and maybe not; that’s an ethical question that you can weigh in on. However, the bottom line is that if you want to continue to move up in a company, your advancement will be tied to your reputation for any number of things – and your off-the-clock behaviour DOES impact on your career. Don’t plan on turning the bad behaviour off when it suits you because it can follow you and stick to you and takes a very long time to change your image once you’ve established it.

Now these comments I made are broad-sweeping; they paint an entire age group with the same brush and, well, that’s just not fair or accurate. Sure, I know that, and you should know it too. Neither is every 60-year-old job seeker over the hill and have nothing to offer. But the stereotype is something you may have to overcome with some employers. Good advice is to take a little thought to what might be important to you in a couple of years, and start thinking about what you could do in the here and now to get yourself in a position to take advantage of opportunities you’ll want later.

One problem that comes up with young people entering the world of work is how to get a job with little experience while getting the experience you need to land a job! This valuable experience can be gained by volunteering, joining clubs and groups, developing their networking skills, getting out in the community and learning new skills. All these kind of skills can be supplemented with entry-level work in factories, fast-food restaurants, book stores, clothing stores, discount stores, summer camps for kids, etc. All this allows for those experiences to be the basis for your answers in future interview questions.

Getting experience is what it’s all about. Get what you can, where you can instead of just planning on going from no job to the job of your dreams. That entitlement is a problem that older workers stereotypically have a problem with when dealing with younger people. Knowing that now, might just help you out moving forward.


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