Employment: Is it an imperative for today’s youth?

Friday, 11 October 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

A strange, inexplicable situation that had started creeping up slowly is now progressing rapidly. Young people are appearing to be shying away from work. The initial rush of interest in applying for a position that may be advertised or heard of through the grapevine suddenly dwindles, sometimes with the first interview after sending in a resume and sometimes even before attending the first interview. Recruiters are left scratching their heads and wondering ‘why?’ The initial reaction is: “What did I say to frighten off this candidate?” The second reaction is: “Did I undersell the position?” In the first place, it is not at all necessary to “sell” a position or wonder whether candidates were de-motivated during the interview process in any way. Finding a job is the foremost thought in the minds of all parents when their offspring are almost immediately out of the womb. Fathers would proudly announce that their toddler would become a doctor in later life or an engineer or any of the few most preferred occupations. Little ones would be heard piping that they are going to be pilots when they grow up! Over decades, every single parent has had the highest expectations from their children and made every effort to push them in the direction of the parent’s dreams… Up to perhaps 10 or 15 years ago, a job vacancy always attracted scores of applicants, well-dressed young people awaiting their turn patiently, polished shoes, neatly slicked hair, file in hand – nervous! Ponderous interviewers had no difficulty in filling vacancies. In fact they found it more difficult to drive away the queues of desperate job seekers. That is not so today! The hardened young breed of people who should be in employment, those generally within the age of 22 and 30 are most often smart and street savvy, made so by commonly viewed TV content not suitable to produce healthy emotions in young and impressionable people. Young people also have access to the internet more or less from their palmtops and from their formative years are subject to a barrage of “garbage” as well as good content. There is also, sadly, a lack of awareness amongst parents on what goes on with their young. It may be safe to say that probably due to the rush of daily living, there is a lack of discipline in most homes. There is also a clear lack of commitment and interest in most educational establishments. Today’s job seekers It is interesting to see today’s job seekers. They saunter in for interviews and then suddenly completely drop off with no excuses and no explanations after – or if at all – the first interview. As a pioneer head hunter with over three decades of consulting, search and placement in diverse fields and hands-on experience in unearthing good talent, I am, for once, floored! Reports from my recruiters, not those who deal with mid to higher managerial cadres but those who deal with lower to general categories employment, do not make sense. Here lies a good vacancy, an employer seeks one or more energetic, vibrant and knowledgeable young people to fit a position. Recruiters contact and line up a few good potential candidates only to be surprised to find that either some of them or none of them arrive for the interview. There is no guarantee that those dispatched for interviews would reach their destination. Those who do meet the prospective employer may suddenly become un-contactable when it is time for the next step. Those who are contacted might evade direct answers as to their disinterest in the job. This phenomenon, also echoed by a number of company CEOs, had occurred so many times that it warranted investigation. I made a determined effort to reach the bottom of this dilemma and came across quite a few interesting facts. Investigation Scratching the surface, an investigative interview across many errant candidates revealed answers that seemed more out of fiction than fact. Here are some of actual answers: Husband or parent did not like the company for which the person was being recruited Applicant decided it was too far to travel on a daily basis Applicant fell ill on the day of the interview; parent fell ill Applicant suddenly found he/she could not take leave from current employment to face interview Applicant was unable to trace the location of the company Applicant fell off the bus Applicant fell at home and was injured Applicant’s boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/parent had reservations about the job Applicant just got another job None of these facts were conveyed to the interviewing company or to the client company – no explanations, no excuses, no apologies – silence, all this leaving the recruiter and the client in confusion at the last minute lapse/s on the part of candidates. My recruiters were not satisfied with any of the above explanations, neither were these ludicrous excuses the sort a professional organisation which dealt with procurement of staff for clients could tender to such clients. Further investigation revealed facts that warranted some concern. A certain category of candidates were in the habit of sending in their resumes with no idea of changing their jobs. In fact they were not in a hurry to leave their current employment nor had they studied the requirement of the job they had applied. Applying for a job has become one of the simplest actions today. With plenty of job sites and online options for applying, a resume could be dispatched with a click of a button when in a past age it required a lot of copious writing, photocopying of attachments and making a trip to the post office. Today’s candidates find it an effortless pastime to send in a resume, whether for serious or frivolous reasons; Some do get offers that are better than their current employment by the very act of distributing their resumes at random as stated above; The applicant suffers doubt about the stability or size of the organisation when on the point of being recruited; Employers offer pay raises upon getting to know that an employee is seeking other employment; Even worse facts emerged. Some young people just embarking on a career with basic qualifications and very little experience seemed to be looking at slots reserved for experienced workers with years of experience behind them; Others, fledgling candidates wished to join large, well reputed organisations and would not consider smaller establishments; Another category wished for a considerable wage and benefits package that did not fit with their qualifications, skills of experience and would not settle for anything less. Why this short sightedness, lack of commitment to finding better jobs or put in effort and aspire to climb to the next step of current jobs? What brought on this disdain for work? How is it that the youth of today are not desperate for work, to earn money and support themselves? Sri Lanka does not have social security measures to provide for the unemployed; hence the youngsters of today do not have a fallback mechanism if they do not have work. Amazingly, they appear content with very little, though it may not appear so by their attire and the best of mobile technology they carry. Perhaps they had a fallback on their parents, brothers, sisters, in-laws and others in the family who did hold jobs (though for how long?). Almost none of them had any idea of further training or self development. Many jobs, few takers! I have been in the people consultancy business for almost 35 years. With over three decades of experience in recruiting and consulting, I have had close contact with all grades of workers. My recruiters attached to a network of companies have encountered various levels of employees over these years. The associate companies in the group have also provided recruitment and placement services to a wide array of technical and non technical junior and mid-level staff to many countries around the globe and are backed by a wealth of experience. My recruiters confirmed that there are jobs – plenty of jobs in certain categories – but very few takers! The positions referred to in this article are junior level in the line of receptionist, customer care executives, marketing executives, accounts executives, data entry operators, computer operators, clerical staff, sales executives and sales coordinators. Damaging attitude This attitude could have long term damaging effects in several ways detrimental to society. Any economist would agree that high levels of unemployment are costly not only to the individuals and families directly affected, but also to the local economy. Unemployment or under employment (not working to fullest potential) causes a waste of scarce economic resources and reduces the long run growth potential of the economy. The hours that the unemployed do not work, or the wasted hours of the under-employed can never be recovered. Both unemployment and under employment wastes some of the scarce resources used in training workers. Furthermore, workers who are unemployed for long periods become de-skilled as their skills become increasingly outdated in a rapidly changing job market. This reduces their chances of gaining employment in the future, which in turn increases the economic burden on government and on society. Areas of high unemployment will also see a decline in real income and spending together with a rising scale of relative poverty and income inequality. When individuals are unemployed they pay no income tax. As they are spending less, they contribute less to the government in indirect taxes. High unemployment has an impact on government expenditure, taxation and the level of government borrowing each year. If unemployment could be reduced and under-employment addressed effectively, total national output would rise, leading to an improvement in economic welfare. Thus, it is important that all young employable persons are in full employment. The current lackadaisical attitude must change. Disinterest can be very damaging. I believe that the responsibility of reversing this mindset rests on many factors that are the underlying root of the issue. The right fit As a recruiter with long years of experience, I believe the strength of an employer lies in fitting their staff into positions that suit their interests. An employee’s interest must be incorporated to their jobs and this must be made clear to them. A wrong fit between position and employee could lead to disinterest in work which could have several negative effects on employees and the organisation, such as lower work performance and higher turnover. Some employees are actually not aware of the realities of their jobs until they have it. People have many preconceived notions of the job which could be nothing of what they expected. A good recruiter knows that jobs should fit the primary interest of the employee which is a good way of ensuring they adapt and grow in the position. Given a job that interests them and provided some autonomy is also given within the scope of the job, the main criteria for job satisfaction is in place. A job could be either your passion or just a pay check. Armed with knowledge and experience in placing people in the “right fit” job that ensured both employee and employer satisfaction – here was a problem I needed answers to. Why, in the first place, were more and more young people adopting a devil may care attitude about getting a job? If this trend continues, what would be its effects on the next generation apart from its impact on the economy? The country needs young hands to drive its goal statements forward. Parents need children of worth and value who contribute to themselves and society. Society needs committed adults to carry on where we stop, with responsibility and values. Values I note with alarm that the most basic of all values – the courtesy of a return call, responding to a message or even an apology – are severely lacking. Most people do not exhibit any sense of values. There does not seem to be any “action” or excitement in values. Perhaps the first sin lies with parenting styles. One of the most important things a young person could do is to internalise the values they will live by. Most of these values are picked up at home through those they look up to in their formative years – their parents or care givers. Other influences in their lives — peers, media, other adults — can influence them to adopt values and perspectives that we may not agree with. It’s easy to shrug off responsibility by thinking it’s out of our hands. But it is not! Children are born with a natural sense of honesty, compassion and justice. It is we who make them otherwise. Sometimes, young adults may do things that contradict our deeply held values and whilst it is critical that young people hold on to their own values, adult guidance continue to shape and influence the values of young people. I believe that firstly parents/homes should start with providing young adults with adequate information, guidelines and structures. Educational institutions play a highly crucial secondary role. The home and the school, working hand in hand would undoubtedly provide an 80% chance of instilling responsibility and conscientiousness in young people. Given guidelines and clear and fair expectation of consequences, together with follow through of choice consequences, there would develop a sense of careful balance that would be productive to the end result of responsible adults. Whilst what we need today is a concerted national effort that would bring much-needed results as early as possible, the MIL Group of companies, backed by 35 years of experience, will soon be introducing mini sessions on the etiquettes of facing an interview and follow up courtesies, free of charge for those coming to its doorstep in search of employment. [The writer is MD/Principal Consultant of Executive Search Ltd./Appointments of International Management Specialists (AIMS), a well known head hunting guru who is a pioneer in the field of executive search and headhunting with over three decades of experience in the business. The associate companies in the group also provide recruitment and placement services for a wide array of technical and non technical junior and mid-level positions to many countries around the globe.]

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