Here’s a scary thought:
We are currently raising the next generation of leaders, business owners and entrepreneurs. One of us is currently raising the child or young adult who will eventually become Prime Minister of this country in the year 20-whatever.
This boggles my mind. When I think about this, I think about what we are teaching our children and whether it is good enough.
Things are different for young people today. Education is expensive and the standard has become such that a degree is the bare minimum in many industries to get a foot in the door. It is simply expected that young people entering the workforce nowadays will have a degree. In today’s highly competitive marketplace, young people need to have a Masters just to stand out! This puts our younger generations in large amounts of debt before they’ve had any significant practical work or life experience.
Combine this with our tendency these days to over-protect our children when they are young and the result is a generation of well-educated young people in severe debt, without the life skills, resilience or independence to move forward.
Obviously this is not the case with all children and all young adults; however it is a growing concern for a large portion of society.
I was recently watching an episode of the Life Series. I think this series is wonderful, not only as a parent but also as a leader and manager of people.
Life Series follows the lives of ten children every two years, from year one to where they currently are, which is at age seven. This particular episode focused on resilience, independence and creativity at age five. Interestingly, these are some of the key requirements in any job brief we are given at Chorus Executive – that is, after previous industry experience and proven track record in achieving results.
In this episode it was highlighted that the average five year old has very little independence these days, with parents doing more things for their children than ever before.
This over-protection creates a lack of resourcefulness in children and affects their ability to problem solve. It also creates an environment where experimenting or creating is not encouraged due to a fear of risk or failure.
Fast-forward to the time when these children grow up, obtain their education and are about to enter the workforce. From my experience in giving career advice to the parents of young graduates and to graduates themselves, two things tend to happen.
- The graduate enters a competitive market, highly educated but severely under skilled and lacking practical experience.
- Graduates (and often the parents of graduates) expect to get the job they studied for and nothing else will suffice.
I completely understand graduates wanting to immediately work in the field that they have studied, especially if they have paid sometimes in excess of $100k to obtain a Masters degree – the idea of starting in a low-paying job, possibly outside of their desired industry, is a difficult pill to swallow.
But it is often a reality.
Here is the advice that I often give to parents of students or graduates:
- Yes, employers are looking for qualifications, but they are also looking for practical experience and skills. These can be obtained from any sort of work experience. While young people are studying, part time jobs are a great way to learn how businesses operate, what good management feels like, what poor management feels like and what it takes to become a leader. Fast food chains these days even offer leadership programs and training. These are things that look good on a resume for someone starting out in their career.
- From an employer’s perspective, those who take part in volunteer work or internships whilst studying demonstrate initiative, drive and a thirst for experience.
- One thing that doesn’t seem to be taught to our young people how much preparation should be done before going to a job interview. Some graduates feel that their qualification will speak for itself; however it is the well prepared candidates, who have thoroughly researched the company they are applying for, who really stand out.
- Parents need to be a safety net for when their children have grown up, but never the driver of their children’s careers. I remember a particular situation when a mother called me to make an appointment on behalf of her 20 year old son. When I enquired as to why her son couldn’t call me himself she replied sheepishly, “He’s probably still asleep.” This is the result of a legacy of hand-holding, starting from early on in childhood (as demonstrated in the Life Series) and ending in young adults who cannot take charge of their own lives. With this kind of legacy, young people simply cannot grow into our future leaders. They will not have developed the resilience, creativity, problem solving skills or motivation to lead others.
- Let them fail. As parents we want to protect our children from harm and hurt, including hurt feelings. As a manager we often want to protect the business against mistakes. Although both these intentions are honourable they do not help your child, your employee or your business in the long term. As we all know, our greatest learnings often come from our biggest mistakes.
To any students or graduates reading this, my advice is to gain as much work experience as possible. Whether that is inside the field you are studying or outside of it. Skills are transferrable. The skills you learn in a part time customer service role will aid you in future roles. That café job where you have to wash dishes will teach you to be humble and to respect hard work. That terrible boss you have in that retail job will teach you how not to treat your team when you become a manager.
Every experience has a lesson to learn and a skill to harness. While your qualifications will open doors, it is your attitude, skills and practical experience that will set you apart from the rest.