Thursday, February 21, 2013

Advice from experienced readers to younger ones?

This has been a post a long time coming, but a recent conversation that I had crystallized it. Someone that I respect is a hiring facilitator (not technically a HR-type, but deeply involved in interacting with hires at non-degree-requiring, entry-level positions). This person complained about their interaction with Millenials, noting that they tend to show up to interview positions not correctly dressed, not armed with enough social graces (i.e. bad at small talk with new people) and just not very good at being in the working world. 

I am sure some of those comments are relevant to me as well; my generation (Gen X) was known as "the slacker generation" for a while there. (I don't doubt that macroeconomics plays a big role in all of this.) 

So, older Chemjobber readers (say 40 and above), what do you have to say about your younger coworkers (and people who wish to become your younger coworkers?) What criticism of their behavior do you have? E-mail etiquette? Time spent on their phones? Do they not afford you enough respect in meetings or listen to you well enough? Give it to us straight, so that we can change. 

[Chemjobber readers below 40, you'll get your turn next week. Please hold your comments until then.] 

20 comments:

  1. Those whippersnappers.....dagnab them!

    My experience working with the young-uns (<35 and <30) has been about the same as working with the oldsters: some are a delight, and some are jerks. No real trend one versus t'other.

    Now in my day......

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  2. CJ,

    I've nothing to complain about. I've met and worked with many and most have been top notch. The ones with problems I'm certainly not going to stereotype as being because of being in a certain age group. Whenever I read these types of generalizations, I always have to assume that they are mostly for non-technical people. I just don't see it.

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    1. The positions I was talking about above were semi-skilled, entry level.

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  3. At my last main job, we employed a lot of young people (and a smaller number of older ones) in lab assistant and lab tech positions. They were there to provide assistance to the chemist preparing batches of APIs for clinical trials. From my point of view, the most important thing was for them to be there on time, or give me advance warning if they were going to be absent, so that I could make alternative arrangements. There is nothing worse than having a busy day's work ahead of you, and have your assistant not show up on time, or not show up at all. Pretty much anything else I can live with.

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  4. Interesting topic as FemaleScienceProfessor (http://science-professor.blogspot.ca/) recently posted about the annoyances professor have with students which include writing emails without appropriate salutations (e.g. "Yo, Dude"), missing relevant information in the email such as the student's identity or the course to which they are referring (e.g. "can you tell me what I missed in class? from email ilovehotdogs@gmail.com)and labeling attachments with as "homework.doc" rather than including a course # and student identifier.

    Although those concerns listed above are in the academic world and may seem trivial in industry, I find that these thoughtless behaviors can carry over when the graduates first enter the job market. Once in the work force, these new employees need to quickly appreciate the importance of social graces. Be on time and prepared for meetings. Understanding that although you sent your email 10 minutes ago your boss may not have had time to respond. Realizing that although the CEO says he/she has an "open door policy" that this does not mean you walk in, unannounced and unexpected to complain about how you think your division should be run.

    As part of youth, I dp believe that it is typical to be self-absorbed and self-focused. I don't think these errors are deliberate acts of disrespect but rather they haven't learned to think of how their behaviors/actions impacts others. A life lesson is to learn that the world doesn't revolve around you and to learn to consider others. I don't think that this aspect of youth is particular to the Millenials as I suspect that my bosses said the same about my generation when we first started (except for the email issues as email didn't exist back then.....sigh....showing my age).

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  5. Young people smell funny and complain a lot

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  6. @Anonymous 3:00PM.

    This is what I was talking about earlier. I read your examples and dozens of similar ones elsewhere and have yet to see this in any way, shape or form myself. It makes me wonder if people are just collecting isolated anecdotes and extrapolating a bigger trend from it. Or I'm just lucky to have never run into this lot.

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  7. "Young people smell funny"

    Oh ya, I forgot about the smell. If I recall, it's HOPE?

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  8. It's very distracting to be leading a meeting and the ENTIRE ROOM is glued to their cell phones the entire time. This isn't isolated to Millenials.

    In the lab communication is often difficult because people have earphones in and their music cranked up. At work it should be turned down enough that you can tell when someone is trying to get your attention. It used to be people would fight over the lab radio. Now it seems we have to scream to be heard over the earphones.

    Maybe it's just a function of there be a pre-selection with the group I work with (advanced high-performing students recommended for fellowships by their programs), but I haven't noticed all that much difference between the vast majority of Millenials and any other n00bs entering the lab.

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  9. Get a haircut you hippie!

    The headphones in lab was something we had to break a guy right out of graduate school of a few years ago (early 30s). In an industrial setting it's a no-no from an EH&S perspective. It's also a bit rude to tune out your coworkers. If you're at your desk working on the computer, that's one thing, but to be manipulating chemicals in a lab, not so much.

    Every so often you'll get the door-knobs who bring their laptop to a meeting, checking EMAIL the entire time. No-one is that busy or important that they can't devote an hour without looking at Microsoft Outlook.

    No-one touches their phones in meetings here. Can't see where that would ever be tolerated in industry.

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    1. A lot of over-40s check their email on their laptops during meetings. I don't see people checking their phones so much but we'll get someone's cell phone ringing in every single large meeting.

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    2. Dude, I do that...process chemEng, I get called to meet the fire department when they are hosing down the crater in the ground that used to be my reactor. (Kidding! I create floods, not explosions...)

      We actually get told to carry our iPhones and laptops with us specifically when there's an audit going on. If the FDA has a question, no meeting is more important than answering that question immediately.

      It's a big help to be able to look things up in a meeting, too. Often I find someone will have a question that can be readily answered on The Internets, or they simply want to know the exact phrasing of some technical/regulatory document and it's good to be able to find out right away rather than "I guess we'll have to go back to our desks, look it up, then try to schedule another meeting in a couple of weeks when our schedules all match up again..."

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  10. They don't expect to have to pay any dues before advancing, and often don't know what they don't know and don't want to find out...

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  11. "In the lab communication is often difficult because people have earphones in and their music cranked up."

    I was always taught that was safety issue... You need hear alarms and cries of co-workers for help in an emergency. The Young ones today do not seem to have taught that!

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  12. I've seen an ad today which listed physical requirements for the position:
    "Requires the ability to stand up to five hours; walk up to three hours; sit up to eight hours; use hands to finger, handle or feel up to eight hours; reach with hands and arms up to 6 hours; climb or balance up to one hour; stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl up to one hour; talk or hear up to eight hours; taste or smell up to eight hours; lift up to 25 pounds frequently; and have the ability to clearly see and focus on objects and color at close and far distances with good depth perception."

    Of those it is the the ability to "stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl up to one hour" that seems particularly pertinent.

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    1. Are they hiring a person or a robot...?

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    2. I know I shouldn't comment here since I'm younger than 40, but all those things were required in my previous jobs at the factory and the various warehouses in which I worked during the summers. Sometimes, we had to repeatedly life much more than 25 lbs. And that's real work too. You literally are doing something the entire time. Not like in a chemistry lab where you set up a reaction and then go for a coffee and get trapped talking to people for 15 minutes. The further away I'm from my factory laborer days, the less good at time management I become...

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  13. Got to agree with the first and second comments above. Maybe its the weeding pout process of getting a chemistry or engineering degree but I find most new graduates. I don't deal with a lot of semi-skilled entry level but the young fellows who do electrical and pumping seem to have as good a work ethic as the older.

    That said, there is always tuning. I remember telling students no shorts etc in lab back in the early 80s and still do now. Then it may have been smoking, now earbuds.... it's just learning what's expected.

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  14. Nothing ever changes...

    "The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they allow disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise." - Socrates, ~400 BC

    "The young people of
    today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for
    parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint. They talk as
    if they knew everything, and what passes for wisdom with us is
    foolishness with them." - Peter the Hermit, 1274.

    "They tend to show up to interview positions not correctly dressed, not armed with enough social graces (i.e. bad at small talk with new people) and just not very good at being in the working world." - A hiring facilitator, 2013.

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  15. Headphones and earbuds in the lab definitely a no-no here to. Even on the rare occasion I listen wear earbuds at my desk, it's just one in the ear facing the wall, so that my co-workers aren't discouraged from approaching me.

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