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The Freshman Year of Their Career

Wallace, an employer of hundreds of recent college graduates, startled me with a decision he recently made.

He told me, “I’m no longer hiring fresh graduates out of college. I will either require them to have two years of work experience outside of school, or some type of experience in at least one other job. If that doesn’t work, I will target the population following the Millennials.”

Wow. He’s given up on 22-year-olds.

Soon after hearing this, I discovered why—and realized Wallace wasn’t alone. A study released by textbook rental company Chegg and Harris Interactive found that there’s a substantial gap between students’ self-assessed readiness when entering the workforce and the readiness their employers are experiencing.

In other words, their character development lacks hard skills in areas such as organization, leadership, personal finance and basic street smarts, but they weren’t necessarily aware of it.

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photo credit: reynermedia via photopin cc

What’s Missing?

So I decided to find out exactly what leadership development traits these young potential employees are missing. After surveying both employers and recent graduates, I found that the top habits and attitudes that young team members still need develop are:

  • Willingness to start at the bottom. Many said they felt entitled to high-level jobs since they had a degree. As a result, they felt some jobs were “beneath” them.
  • Patience and tenacity. Graduates assumed they’d be promoted within six months, including raises and perks. … without having to expend much effort to get there.
  • Submission to authority. A majority reported they struggled with policies and parameters they didn’t understand. They felt systems were confining.
  • Sense of initiative. Young staff failed to demonstrate risk-taking abilities. There was apprehension about stepping out and leading the way.
  • Work ethic. Grads lacked old-fashioned grit and expressed unwillingness to serve beyond the job description, to do whatever it takes to get a task done.
  • Responsibility. They were unable or unwilling to assume sole responsibility for their work. It was as if they wanted to “rent” their job, not own it.
  • Conflict resolution skills. Along the way, a majority of young adults failed to learn how to work through conflict, often running from it instead of resolving it.

While I recognize this list sounds harsh, these were the pieces to the puzzle so many employers said graduates were missing. What’s more, I believe employers have every right to expect these traits from young employees—they’re within reach of any twenty-something. They aren’t about talent, IQ or charisma — they’re habits and attitudes that work. … at work.


The Young Employee Dilemma

In response to this challenge employers are facing, we have created a FREE video series called The Young Employee Dilemma. I’m excited to share that it launches today! These videos seek to help business leaders understand and work with young employees.

 

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Throughout this series of 15 minute videos, our goal is to answer four important questions:

  • Who is this New Generation in the Workforce?
  • How do you Motivate Young Employees?
  • How do you Lead a Multi-Generational Team?
  • How do you Equip Young Employees with Soft Skills & Work Ethic?

If you’re interested, you can sign up here.

2 Comments

  1. Marcy on January 17, 2015 at 7:10 pm

    This is really eye-opening, Tim — esp. the list of attributes employers find missing in current young 20-somethings. (It’s so timely, as my 23-year-old daughter begins a new job this very evening!!)

    I was particularly struck by this one: Submission to Authority. It can be very un-PC to talk about young children needing to learn to obey rules
    and submit to authority, but that is one “habitude” that is ideally
    instilled very young. Many people miss the paradoxical truth that it is
    ultimately *freeing* to the child rather than confining! One of the ways
    in which parents unwittingly thwart this liberating capacity in their
    children (as I’m sure you know) is epidemic today: too many choices
    & too much power given to the young child.

    It acts like a poison in their souls, and can severely undermine this particular attribute. When a young child is catered to and “tap danced” for in this way, as they grow older they may not want to do the things life requires of them: schoolwork, housework, chores, etc. Battles with the teenager (and dissatisfaction with the young adult employee) are often a direct result of this kind of child-centered early parenting.

    The solution is so simple — with young kids, cut WAY back on the choices offered to him or her each day!

    Marcy Axness
    author, “Parenting for Peace: Raising the Next Generation of Peacemakers”

    • Tim Elmore on January 24, 2015 at 11:10 am

      I agree, Marcy. Thank you for sharing and being a part of this discussion. Your comment reminded me of a piece of advice I give to adults concerning leading young people: “The further out I can see, the better the decision I make today.”

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The Freshman Year of Their Career