Yesterday I had a unique opportunity to have an extraordinarily candid conversation with my boss. We were returning from an event and had about an hour long drive ahead of us. We spoke briefly about our experiences with the organization and perceptions of office culture but we quickly stumbled on an interesting topic – generational differences regarding the hiring process and expectations.
I have talked before about the importance and challenges of advocating for yourself at work and this was a key part of our discussion. As we started to compare the expectations youth have of work benefits, telecommuting options and salary, and the reality that has been my boss’ experiences we realized there were some extraordinarily large gaps!
My belief is that youth are sold a bill of goods that stresses the sole importance of higher education – to a certain extent we are taught that if you have the degree, you’ll have the job (please don’t take this as a knock on higher education, it’s just a statement about the importance of experience v. degrees). But the folks who are hiring us aren’t as impressed with the degree as we think they should be. Rather, they are looking for bountiful experience, something many youth have very little of (and little opportunity to get). So this creates the gap! A 23-year old with a Master’s degree feels they are trained for certain tasks but are frustrated when they can’t get hired to do the work they really want to do because they don’t have years of experience in an office setting.
Interestingly, my boss was shocked by this, and said that she had no idea that this is what might be going on. And why would she? I am not familiar with a forum that allows youth and hiring managers to really talk about these issues. Maybe there is one and I don’t know about it, but if not, how do we have this conversation with the people in power that there’s a huge gap between each side’s expectations? What is the appropriate forum and how do we make it productive?
Aside from hiring practices and trying to find work, another example is telecommuting – a pretty hot topic in many office settings. I think youth expect that telecommuting should be an option, especially once they’ve garnered the trust of their supervisors. On the other side, managers stress the benefits of being able to do a “drive by” and use their staff as resources, and be a resource themselves, at ease. Trust is another big issue here! But my experience has been that conversations surrounding telecommuting (and other benefits) is often contentious and not particularly productive.
Luckily, the conversation I had yesterday was not at all contentious – it was an enlightening conversation for us both. But I think I’m lucky. I also think I can’t keep my mouth shut. So there are probably many youth who, even if they had the opportunity I had, might not be able to make use of it because of fear of alienating their supervisor. And I understand that! Hierarchy can be a scary thing. I’m just brazen, maybe to a fault.
But I think if these gaps in understanding didn’t exist I think office culture, on the hiring, and working ends, would be much improved. So what do you think? How can youth and supervisors (or potential supervisors) have these important conversations regarding the changes in generational expectations?