This is an open letter to the love triangle that is education, students (or prospective employees) and workplace. Throughout history, these three have always been in a long-term relationship, yet communication within has been absolutely minimal. , In my humble opinion, nowadays the relationship is hitting a high wall of some sort. For example in be education, cost is far too high and we have been witnessing an inflation of degrees. I can speak at least for the Middle East, where there is a very high percentage of the population that has degrees in higher and at the same time the region has a very high unemployment rate. Ironic, isn’t it? Well, I am not surprised as every member in this relationship is working on by itself, disregarding the others. Several published research studies, like a study done by Brookings Institute, show that; by 2025, the workplace will be flooded by 75% of the Millennials.
And let’s face it, you’re on this blog so most likely, this will relate to you and your perspectives as well. So below is a letter to each one of the actors based on the experiences or people I have spoken to. If you belong to any of the systems that I describe below, please do not get offended. I’m not pointing at you personally. Let’s put our egos to the side and think of the system as a WHOLE….at the end of the day, we’re just trying to voice out our opinion, for the betterment of this relationship and for the betterment of the system as a whole.
Dear Higher Education,
Since us, the Millennials were kids, we looked up to you as our main source of magic that will turn our lives upside down and grant us access to the “real-world”. It’s like we don’t experience life until we start working, but whatever, this is not the point. Just to point out to you, I do not think you’ve been doing a great job serving us! No doubt you have taught us a lot but it seems like the job market doesn’t quite agree with that and honestly, deep in our hearts we don’t agree either. You are still going on with the same mentality since the Industrial Revolution but using fancier facilities. You are still treating us, as a millennial so eloquently put it “HR Management System”. What this means practically is that we are trained in very specific knowledge rather than using our potential to create and innovate.
Did you know that a study by McKinsey and Co stated that as little as 45% of the employers say that fresh graduates have the right skills to work immediately. Meanwhile universities are saying that 75% of fresh graduates are ready for the job market and they have acquired the right skills during their studying period. So, our question is, what has been going on?! You know what, actually we know: you have cost us enormous amounts of money yet you forgot to match that with quality education. At the same time, you’re not up to date with the Millennials mindset. We are mainly digitally and most of us enjoy creativity along with practical real-life experience and not just writing essays.
We enter the workplace clueless of how it is to work with our fellow colleagues, writing an email or even acquiring “soft skills” (which by the way are quite essential and not so soft). These soft skills (such as leadership and empathy in the workplace) are important for us to be competitive. As much as we enjoy your philosophy and rules, we dislike the discrimination amongst certain degrees and the glorification of one degree over another. We have to say though, we are also to blame at some in this and so are the workplaces. Again, we’re all part of the system. We are all in this relationship together.
Dear Job Market/Corporate World/Workplaces/or any organizational structure that keeps people employed,
Wow. We think there has been a MAJOR miscommunication; we do not speak the same language as our parents or the generation before us. We’re actually quite different. First of all, stop with the stereotypes, whether it is laziness or mistrust or saying that can’t handle pressure or that we don’t stay up-to-date with the news. We are just different; we have our own way of thinking. As much as we enjoy work, we also enjoy doing what we love and have a personal connection with the work we do. Please stop treating us like robots. It will not help you get the best out of us. Allow us to be creative, innovative and grant us a bit of autonomy on what we do. As the economist, Guy Standing stated in his book, a staggering 95% of the young employees do not trust their employers for various reasons such as the lack of feeling of security or the social safety net provided or the hostility present within the workplace.
With a large amount of companies exploiting the Millennials and paying them low wages, we tend to lose loyalty. On the other hand, recent studies have shown that one of the top priorities for Millennials in the workplace is to work in an environment where they can make friends and be able to be creative. We don’t know for how long can we work together if you keep imposing the 9-5 work hours (which we both know, it goes beyond 5). Let us tell you why, the entrepreneurial sector is more appealing to us or companies such as Google and Facebook is a “dream come true”. They believe in the power and talent within the people. You need to understand that we appreciate you but we also don’t enjoy working solely for profit. Many of us also like working for a cause or we have a side project going on.
Let us assure you that even Brookings Institute have proved it in a recent study, quoted “……Millennials, has been born and is coming of age demanding that companies wishing to earn their generation’s loyalty in the marketplace and in the workplace demonstrate support for causes Millennials believe in and prove it with deeds as well as words.”
In addition, as we were and still are exposed to extensive amount of information as we are growing up. We are a generation who enjoys experiential learning; hence, we tend to move jobs every several years.
Regarding the miscommunication with the education system, there needs to be an understanding of your expectations and what they’re offering. You have been through the education system and if you disagree with it and the “careers advice”, then confrontation is the key to tackle the issue. And FYI, it will save you time, cost of training us or explaining the way everything runs in a “real-world”. So, let’s all have a friendly-dialogue where we can discuss how can we spend 3/4th of our life in a place we enjoy and put social progress and profit as our aim rather than priorities one over the other.
Dear Millennials/Youth/Gen Y/ Future Employees/Leaders,
So this part of the letter is a monologue targeted specifically to the Middle Eastern Millennials who are the ‘youth bulge’ in the world. Also, we need to remember that we are the ones who will be leading in the future and are growing up to be role models and influencers to the next generation.
Sometimes, we claim to be victims when we are the ones who are actually in control. If we keep on focusing on how everyone around us is misunderstanding us, we will never be able to take control and solve our own problems. So, the first step is to realize that every problem we face is a challenge rather than a threat. And as we are overwhelmed with everything happening around us, we need to balance out the introspection and outrospection perspectives.
Our education and employment are a major part of our lives, so before we choose due to societal pressure, we need to ask ourselves, do we even know what we’re passionate about? We tend to lose focus and keep on following the so-called “influencers” and celebrities desiring to be like them rather than creating our own story. And yes, our own story is as important as the story of the celebrities and the influencers.
Money and status is not going to serve you well if you don’t prove your own story of value. They are easily dissolved or evaporated while your story is written down for ages whether it’s on twitter or your Facebook newsfeed nowadays. In addition, your decisions have a lingering impact on your surroundings.
Also, as much as we want to help people, we can start from a simple step or an idea even if we are the only individuals doing it. As we are so inter-connected nowadays, all of our decisions have an unprecedented ripple effect. Just imagine the effect of a #hashtag and it’s all because we all came together and we started trending it on social media. The same thing goes for our daily decisions. We tend to choose the majors that will give us the most amount of salaries or because our parents or advisors told us so. But did we want it? And here’s an example of a ripple effect, if we choose a major we are not interested in and get a job we don’t enjoy. We will influence our friends to do the same and that will cost companies money, it will make us lose time (which is by the way, a very precious commodity) and it will cost us our health. The effect is at a glacier speed and that’s why we don’t recognise it.
On the other hand, one of the main causes of our unemployment is the lack of skills that we haven’t acquired through the education system, so what do WE do? We need to spend more time building the skills by ourselves even if it means that we will get out of our comfort zone. Sometimes, we tend to be oblivious about the scenario we will face when we graduate and the fact that there’s a high competitive market out there given that we are the highest population of youth in history or we are the “youth bulge” as stated nowadays.
We have the power of the internet. As much as we are digital natives and got used to it but we tend to forget how powerful it is. And yes, gaining those skills will take time, the internet and fast-paced world has made us think of short-term goals and demand for quick results, but actually sometimes we need to give it time. So, the education system and the corporate world are not against us, they’re just misunderstanding us and it’s our role and duty to rebuild the bridge of communication and voice out what we think is required to be able to progress. At the end of the day, we are all part of one society serving one purpose; empowering ourselves.
With my passion towards the power of the Millennials and the understanding of the importance of Education and corporate world. I believe that we all need to rise above our complications and discuss the importance of our collaboration.
Photograph credits: Dubai Poetry Slam
Fun Reads…and video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG9CE55wbtY – A genius called Sir Ken Robinson