Training the Next Generation

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My son is graduating from high school this Saturday and I swear I don’t know how we ended up here, with him all grown up and me wondering where the years went. Yes, it’s clichéd, but boy, is it a huge dose of reality for me.

You’d think that I wouldn’t be surprised when all around me is evidence that he’s been growing up. From the Lillian Vernon photo school bus to the hodgepodge refrigerator door, which has become a microcosm of my son’s life, the proof is all there. Clearly, denial is no longer an option.

Like most of his friends, my son is going to attend college for four years and then make the big, scary, exciting leap into the workforce. He’s going to work for managers like you and me, bringing with him a good education, a lot of youthful enthusiasm, and his own ideas about how to make the world a better place. As we know, though, high school and college are only the beginning of a young person’s life training. My son’s bosses, whether consciously or unconsciously, will play a big role in harnessing all of that raw energy and channeling it into a positive and productive work experience.

Fifty-nine percent of employers hire new college graduates each year, and as managers, we have a huge responsibility in molding these team members of tomorrow. Those in school now will soon be on our corporate doorsteps, and how we welcome, onboard, and manage them within the framework of our teams’ shapes how our customers will be served and how our businesses will prosper. There are huge benefits to doing it right (i.e. higher retention, better customer service), making this an opportune time to refamiliarize ourselves with the challenges graduates face in this important rite of passage.

Getting Hired. Landing the job may have been a factor of GPA and other academic achievements, but once hired, the graduate is on equal standing with other new hires and will have to make significant contributions to differentiate themselves from their co-workers. We live in a ‘what have you done for me lately” world and that is something that new graduates have to grapple with very quickly.

Managing the Transition. Academia provides a well-rounded educational background, but most college graduates are not fully prepared for the working world. For example, the schedule a college student has adhered to for four years may not be anywhere close to the schedule they will have to maintain for a job. While they are used to having to turn things in on time for school, the demands will likely be greater with much more at stake in their new job.

Fitting In. The business environment can be a scary place for the most seasoned among us but graduates have a triple-whammy when they walk into a new job – they have to learn how to be an employee, how to fit into an established corporate environment, and how to make a difference. They also have to make new friends and learn how to cultivate relationships. Some new graduates may also need a bit of polishing to fit the corporate mold (i.e. speech, behavior, attitude, punctuality, self-motivation, and attire), things that are not necessarily covered in school.

Teamwork. College is largely an individual pursuit and success or failure typically rests solely on the shoulders of the student. As a result, the emphasis on teamwork may not be as strong in school as it will be in the graduate’s new place of employment. Understanding the concept of teamwork and its value in the workplace takes knowledge, practice, and experience, so a period of adjustment is to be expected.

Engagement. Being part of a company that provides growth potential is important to most graduates, so managers should look to engage them in opportunities that contribute to their skill set and knowledge base. This also serves to prevent boredom, which can quickly sap motivation. Options can include special projects, additional training, task forces, and other meaningful initiatives where they can contribute their talents outside of their job description.

Mentoring. While technology has certainly changed, the need for mentors has not. Mentoring is a great way to connect with new college graduates and help them learn the ropes of their job and how to survive and thrive in the working world. Most of us remember what we did and did not know when we took on our first jobs and how much we appreciated it when someone took the time to help us figure it all out. Guiding the next generation to success makes sense not only for them but also for the team members and businesses they will lead in the future.

Finding Balance. Today’s graduates are looking for work/life balance and gravitate toward companies whose corporate cultures support that philosophy. This does not mean that graduates do not want to work hard; it simply means that other pursuits (family, sports, travel) are important to them as well.

As the parent of a high school graduate, I hope that I have done a good job in raising my son these past eighteen years. I am proud of who he is and feel very lucky to be his mom. My role in shaping and molding him into a productive member of society is coming to a close, although I know that a mother’s work is never done. Ideally, the lessons he learned while growing up will serve him well and be a strong foundation as he moves into the next phase of his life. In four more years, there will be another graduation and another cycle of endings and beginnings as my son leaves college and enters the job market. I hope he is fortunate enough to be part of a team that recognizes the value he brings.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Teresa Sinel
Teresa Sinel is the Director of Operations, Analytics and Innovation for VIPdesk, the award-winning pioneer of home-based virtual customer care solutions for global brand leaders committed to enhancing their brand experience. Serving over 40 client programs and 10 million customers, VIPdesk specializes in delivering Concierge Programs, Contact Center Services, and loyalty programs for national brand leaders in the travel, auto, financial services, real estate and retail industries.

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