When I first met Alain, he told me that he thinks that companies are being dishonest with the new generations coming into the workforce about the realities of a career. “You might end up underpaid and not feeling respected, but that’s rarely told. Employers shouldn’t pretend they are Disney World when they’re not. Work is, more often than not, laborious. Companies can afford to be more honest about the hoops they put young people through.”
He believes that a new shift in thinking is required when it comes to young people, who he says have a new kind of expertise – it’s up to employers to identify this and put it to work.
“If this new generation spoke a different language, we might say: ‘OK, they’re foreign so we will adjust ourselves’ but there are none of the obvious signals. They are different. They are not lazy, but they don’t respond well to certain cues, so you need to find out what they do respond to.”
He believes there is a desperate need for more companies that are explicitly focused on working out what someone’s talents and inclinations are, identifying their potential, then guiding that person towards a place in the economy where this potential is best exploited and mined. “One of the most Googled questions is: ‘What should I do with my life?’” he told me. “There’s a fantasy that there’s actually an answer out there.”
What are your perspectives on this? Do you think employers need to do more to educate young people on the realities of working life?
Alain de Botton: Future Talent 2015