A Third Of Our Bosses Don’t Think We Have The Right Attitude To Work, But Is It Our Fault?

Most bosses believe that young people aren't adequately prepared for the workforce. But how can we prepare without going to work?


by Daisy Buchanan |
Published on

Are you young? Do you have a job? Well, you’re probably doing it all wrong. The CBI, an organisation which surveyed 291 companies about workplace practices have found that a third of managers are worried that young people don’t have the right attitude to work when they enter the office. The majority, 61 per cent, are concerned about the ‘resilience and self management of school leavers.’

Let’s be honest, your first job is a bit like losing your virginity. Apart from a few mature, sorted souls, the majority of us never actually feel ready until we’re in the room, doing it, no matter how old and experienced we think we are. But it doesn’t seem fair for employers to expect us to dazzle them with our skills on arrival, when it can take us up to three months to pluck up the courage to ask where the toilets are.

Livi*, a 23 year old administrator who graduated last year says ‘Even though I’d undertaken quite a bit of work experience, entering the workplace full time was a bit of a shock, and objectively, this was definitely because of the way that office was run, and not because I wasn’t good enough for the role.

She adds ‘I didn’t expect anyone to hold my hand, but when you’re the new girl, you need people to be patient when you’re learning the ropes. I was made to feel junior at best, and an inconvenience at worst. It’s not as if everyone else is incredibly smart or efficient. Some of the senior staff members are super lazy, but I’m held to a much higher standard because I’m younger, and it isn’t fair.’

According to the director of the CBI, John Cridland, the businesses surveyed cared more about ‘attitudes than academic results. It’s the rounded and grounded part that’s not always there’ when it comes to new workers. But when the pressure to perform at school and at university seems to be constantly increasing, shouldn’t schools blame the institutions and not the students? Laura, 19 says ‘I decided not to go to university because it’s so expensive, and to get as much workplace experience as I could instead, but so many entry level jobs are aimed exclusively at graduates. Obviously there are certain things where you need that qualification, but in a lot of cases, I think it’s an unnecessary barrier to entry.’

In the spirit of full disclosure, when I got my first proper job at 22, I was about as resilient as a flannel. I did want someone to come and hold my hand, and I used to schedule a cry every lunchtime (sometimes the kind man in the local coffee shop would spot me weeping on the street, and come out and give me a free hot chocolate). It wasn’t that I was too precious and pampered to have ever worked for money before. I’d been a chambermaid, a waitress, a telesales rep, a checkout girl, a photographer’s assistant and, for a long and confusing weekend, a fencing instructor. But nothing could have prepared me for the full time working world other than going to work in it, and being terrible at it. And I’m not terrible any more. I know the rudiments of self management because working has forced me to learn them.

Employers need to realise that when we’re managed efficiently and encouraged, we’re a great asset to their workforce. We’ve come of age at a time when jobs are so scarce that we’re determined to do everything we can to prove we’re worthy of them. We’re resourceful, technologically adept, well connected and speedy – if you’re not into delayed gratification, you tend to be a fast worker. Admittedly, we do need plenty of feedback and encouragement to get us started, but when we enter the workplace we’re used to having all our work rated and graded. Sure, we require a little intelligent investment from our more senior colleagues, but it will definitely pay off. I don’t think the CBI’s findings mean there’s a problem with young people joining the workforce, but they do show that work culture needs to evolve to support and utilise our talents and skills.

Follow Daisy on Twitter @NotRollerGirl

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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