Why don’t young professionals today hold themselves to a higher standard when it comes to their attitude, work habits, and people skills? In his new book, Bridging the Soft Skills Gap, my friend and colleague Bruce Tulgan explores these five reasons:
Most entry-level professionals are coming to you straight from school. If they have the most in-demand technical skills, then they are probably coming from college or university; maybe graduate school. That means they’ve probably become quite accustomed to a very luxurious form of pretend adulthood. Of course, there is substantial coursework. Still, they have very little supervision and a great deal of latitude in all manner of their personal habits and conduct. They are accustomed to staying out late hanging with their friends and skipping morning meetings.
Even after they arrive in the workplace, new college grads are still only a phone call or text away from their parents. Even worse, maybe they are on their own now, for the first time, after being reared by parents who did all the work for them of closely scheduling, managing, and supporting their every move. With their parents doing so much of the work, many young professionals never mastered the basics of taking care of themselves.
The customization of everything has entrenched in young professionals a fundamental expectation that individual accommodation is the norm. And surely too many people told them each and all, way too often, “You are a special case.” Their basic assumption is that they should be able to just “be themselves” and “express” their true identity at work, even if that might include stuff like failing to follow through on a day when they are “just not feeling it.”
Unpracticed Interpersonal Skills
Communication practices are habits, and most young professionals are in the habit of remote informal staccato and relatively low-stakes interpersonal communication because of their constant use of hand-held devices and social media and instant messaging. They stare at their devices too much, send too many texts, and are becoming increasingly less articulate because they have so little practice having real conversations.
Professionalism Vs Individualism
Much of what older, more experienced people might see as matters of professionalism—attitude, self-presentation, schedule, and interpersonal communication—new college grads are likely to consider highly personal matters of individual style or preference and really none of their employer’s business.
Want to learn how to cope with these young professional characteristics more effectively? Check out Bruce’s book for practical answers and advice for better preparing your young professionals for success.