Why is it so hard for young people to find a job?

Young people have a sense of entitlement
Young people have a sense of entitlement

Bloomberg News discusses the “Professionalism in the Workplace” survey of human resources specialists from York College of Pennsylvania.

Forty-nine percent of [those surveyed] stated that less than half of new employees “exhibit professionalism in their first year.” More than half (53 percent) have noticed “a sense of entitlement” rising among younger workers; almost 45 percent have seen a “worsening of the work ethic,” including “too casual of an attitude toward work” and “not understanding what hard work is.”

Younger workers believe they can multitask and remain productive, the human-resources people told the York researchers. Thirty-eight percent of respondents blamed multitasking for the lack of “focus” among younger workers. The authors of the study explained that the younger generation “believes that it is possible to multi-task effectively” and that using social media, for example, is an efficient way to communicate. In interviews, the applicants check their phones for texts and calls, dress inappropriately and overrate their talents.

“The sad fact is some of these persons probably do not understand what is wrong with this,” the authors note.

Older workers have always complained about younger workers, of course, but there’s a difference: This time they attribute the youthful flaws not to ignorance or waywardness, but to a “sense of entitlement.”

We might forgive 18-year-olds fresh out of high school for lacking employability skills (the manufacturing sector hires many workers lacking undergraduate degrees). But when he or she reaches 23 and has four years of college, employers expect a white-collar worker to recognize basic norms of dress and deportment.

What happened in college, then? The survey by York College’s Center for Professional Excellence assigns colleges part of the blame, observing that letting students miss deadlines without penalty and assigning good grades for middling work only make them form the wrong expectations.

Meanwhile, the UK Daily Mail had the results from a 2013 survey:

Young people’s unprecedented level of self-infatuation was revealed in a new analysis of the American Freshman Survey, which has been asking students to rate themselves compared to their peers since 1966.

Roughly 9 million young people have taken the survey over the last 47 years.

Psychologist Jean Twenge and her colleagues compiled the data and found that over the last four decades there’s been a dramatic rise in the number of students who describe themselves as being ‘above average’ in the areas of academic ability, drive to achieve, mathematical ability, and self-confidence.

But in appraising the traits that are considered less invidualistic – co-operativeness, understanding others, and spirituality – the numbers either stayed at slightly decreased over the same period.

Researchers also found a disconnect between the student’s opinions of themselves and actual ability.

While students are much more likely to call themselves gifted in writing abilities, objective test scores actually show that their writing abilities are far less than those of their 1960s counterparts.

Also on the decline is the amount of time spent studying, with little more than a third of students saying they study for six or more hours a week compared to almost half of all students claiming the same in the late 1980s.

Though they may work less, the number that said they had a drive to succeed rose sharply.

[…]Twenge is the author of a separate study showing a 30 per cent increase towards narcissism in students since 1979.

‘Our culture used to encourage modesty and humility and not bragging about yourself,’ Twenge told BBC News. ‘It was considered a bad thing to be seen as conceited or full of yourself.’

Just because someone has high self-esteem doesn’t mean they’re a narcissist. Positive self-assessments can not only be harmless but completely true.

However, one in four recent students responded to a questionnaire called the Narcissistic Personality Inventory with results pointing towards narcissistic self-assessments.

Narcissism is defined as excessive self-love or vanity; self-admiration, or being self-centered.

Twenge said that’s a trait that is often negative and destructive, and blames its boom on several trends – including parenting styles, celebrity culture, social media, and easy credit – for allowing people to seem more successful than they really are.

I think what I am seeing is that not only do they work less, but they work at things they “like”, rather than at things that will allow them to provide value to others. So, you’re not going to find a lot of computer programmers or petroleum engineers among young Americans, but you will find a lot of people gravitating to jobs that are easy that make them feel good about themselves, and look good to other people, too.

Obviously, there are policy reasons for youth unemployment being so high, but I think this attitude that young people have is definitely part of it.

4 thoughts on “Why is it so hard for young people to find a job?”

  1. Interesting. Lots of truth there.

    It’s actually somewhat cruel to raise kids to believe they are special. We call that the golden child syndrome. All this false praise we pour over them serves to isolate them from the rest of the human race. If you think you’re smarter, prettier, more exceptional than anyone else, you’ll have a hard time relating to others, building connections, and making your way in the world. That is the harvest the entitlement generation is now reaping.

    To build genuine self esteem requires some genuine accomplishments, which also demands we let kids fail, too. We stopped doing that at some point, so we have a lot of young people now unable to cope with the idea of failure, even in their own minds.

    Somebody smart once said that one thing that made America so great was our willingness to fail. That is something unique to our country, people build businesses, fail, get back up and try again. The same with inventions, you fail hundreds of times and then you get it right. To take risks, to live and learn, is kind of an important foundation for our economy. We’re loosing that fast.


  2. I’d counter the notion that they work less, WK. They do, as you say, want to work on what they want to work on. This strikes older generations as scandalous: we were hazed and took it, so why aren’t they taking it?

    They’re too group-think-y, too spoiled, etc, but I find something else as well. They’ve been handed an economy and society in the process of collapsing, and they don’t complain much about that. The ones in my experience just want to buckle down and solve it, with none of the “judgment” that they hate so much being given to the people who screwed the pooch for them. That is noble.


  3. There should be volumes of books written on this subject. There is no one cause and it certainly doesn’t start and stop with this one generation. It’s very easy to point at all the problems and we don’t have enough fingers to point at all the culprits.

    I’m a recovering millennial. I moved across the U.S. and managed to undo a lot of habits and mentalities I had formed over the past years. It’s going to take a lot of people either a wake up call, an alarm, or some very tough lessons. I’m just glad God is changing me now rather than later, because a lot of my generation isn’t going to learn.


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