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Arrested Development

Looking back over the entirety of my career and work history thus far, I remember my very first job. My brother and I delivered a weekly local newspaper in Northeastern Ohio, called The Bulletin. Our route consisted of a relative circle and cross-streets equivalent of four blocks in our own neighborhood; I was 11 years old. Later, like most others of that period in time we had subsequent summer jobs until we graduated high school and entered the workforce full-time or went on to college and university. My interest in earning money transcended my interest in sports in school and by the time I was 17 and until graduation, I worked for a line service, refueling small and medium-sized private, corporate and commuter aircraft at Burke Lakefront Airport in downtown Cleveland on the shores of Lake Erie – which required an above-average level of responsibility for my age. After high school I joined the military and became a paratrooper – clearly, by the time I finished school I couldn’t wait to jump out into the real world and I’ve never since looked back.

Fast forward to the present and things have changed. I suppose it is a generational consideration but is there a trend that those finishing their basic school requirements are opting to avoid the inevitability of joining the work-force? I still see conscientious young people working and wanting to work part-time and right out of school, but fewer and fewer seem incentivized, willing and much less interested. I notice excuses and procrastination in avoiding actual jobs, be they summer jobs, part-time or full-time. In other words, any of the jobs people engage in to get the most basic level of experience before they’ve entered and /or graduated from college or university. Worse yet, I encounter many who think such jobs are beneath them.

Then, after college graduation many expect a job with a middle-class wage regardless of the fact that an increasing number of them never have worked at a real job (paying taxes) a day in their lives. Gaining even rudimentary work experience, even in those entry-level, low-paying jobs, provides dividends beyond a mere salary or hourly wage. They don’t develop the important interpersonal communication skills that a classroom environment cannot provide and are increasingly missing in the modern workplace. They also lack appreciation for standard and traditional work ethics to such degree they ridicule those who do learn, earn and possess what they themselves lack.

A lot of the blame goes to parents who’ve accommodated and over-indulged their children by not encouraging them and when necessary, dispensing a little tough love for them to get a job and earn some of their own money. In my observations, the working classes still possess a sturdy and solid work ethic — primarily because they have to. It’s no secret those who’ve been a bit too protected have difficulty adjusting to the real world when their fragile egos encounter slight turbulence – look no further than current American college campuses for proof. When they finally do experience the everyday demands of the workplace, or an inevitable disapproving boss, they melt and complain.

No doubt about it, a higher education is important and beneficial for those students with the option to obtain it. But knowledge and education with zero accompanying experience does not prepare oneself for the real world when suddenly confronted with a jobs market that has become more competitive than I can recall during my lifetime, when they are seeking a career in their area of study. In order to compete effectively for those jobs you have to have some backbone and at least the most basic interpersonal and soft skills or you are going to have a tougher time than is necessary.

Perhaps it is just me, but I find it rather funny to speak with or read about those who’ve been perpetual students and have gone beyond their Bachelor’s degree, obtaining loftier academic pedigrees without any measureable work experience. Then, they speak with an air of authority about things they’ve yet to experience themselves, first-hand.