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"Whatever advice you
give, be short."
Horace
Current Issue
More Surprises for the New
Hire College Graduate

In Office Space, the zany comedy about work place
culture and rebellion, Peter, the very twenty-something
main character asks the next cubicle occupant, Milton,
the office nebbish, to turn down his radio.  “I was told I
could keep it on at a low volume,” stumbles Milton in flat
rejection of common courtesy.  Peter just rolls his eyes
and glances at the clock.  It’s only 9:15 am.

Indeed, to many college graduates, the culture of work
is filled with many such unpleasant surprises.  Our
recent survey of new hire graduates surfaced a number
of frequently mentioned revelations.

For example, former students said they didn’t realize
how much attention—and money—was devoted to
dressing professionally and “looking good.”  The idea of
working in a cubicle affected several respondents.  
“Environmentally disappointing,” was how some in this
environmentally-sensitive group described their space.  
They also reported bosses weren’t as understanding as
professors, and co-workers weren’t as friendly as
classmates.  In fact, one person reported people at his
job weren’t eager to help new people out.  The need to
learn fast and learn a lot was part of the package, and it
was expected that they would take the initiative to learn.  
“There’s no end at work.  When you achieve a result,
you are given more work.  At least in school it ends,”
was one comment.  Indeed, the engine never stops. No
one was providing a lecture for them to capture
knowledge; for many, it was a do-it-yourself learning
experience.  The need to work in teams—effectively
communicating with colleagues—required a new set of
responses far different from school.  Of course,
diplomatically listening to and playing office politics and
mastering red tape were challenges of their new world.  

Even more disappointing, many respondents said that
work was “essentially meaningless,” boring, not
challenging and not using any of the knowledge gained
through years of study.  “Every day is pretty much the
same.”

Finally, new workers found that the amount of income
they received for their labor was an unpleasant
disappointment.  After taxes, retirement plans, dues and
health insurance, take home pay was reported as much
less than expected.  Bills, living expenses and payments
on student loans made that amount even smaller.  One
person put it this way:  “I make significantly less than I
thought I would with my degree.”  With loan payments
looming, you can understand how that obligation makes
these new workers look at work in a bitter-sweet way.  
Yes, there is a job that brings in a salary, but they are
not making that much when all is said and done, and the
background pressure is always there to make sure they
don’t lose their paycheck because of student loans.  

Of course, new workers also have a sense of freedom
from papers, tests, homework and “no more school.”  
But you wonder what the amplified pressures of working,
learning how to survive in a somewhat alien—and
sometimes unfulfilling—work culture and living on much
less than expected can do to even the most confident
new worker.  

It would be useful if someone told them that finding
friends at work makes a huge difference in how
engaged they feel at work.  Or, an avuncular manager
might offer advice on finances, giving them some control
over money.  Unfortunately, that happens only by
chance. Why don’t we build it in to our onboarding
processes?

Yes, people adjust over time, but it appears that
expectations are frequently adjusted downwards.  

And at what price?  Surely, there must be a better way
to welcome the new folks aboard.  
Singularity Group

Helping organizations implement change since
1983

For more information: www.singularitygroup.com
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