I’ve spoken and written in the past on the topic of younger members of the workforce. For the sake of this conversation, I’m talking about the twenty-somethings who are seeking to establish themselves in their respective careers. In recent weeks, I have been trying to help a couple of people get a start in their careers, utilizing my own established list of professional contacts. When I got my first job in local government management a hundred years ago, I had a college counselor put in a good word for me at a community for which I was pursuing my first professional job. While I believe that my previous experience and education combined to make me a great candidate, it was not lost on me that this counselor had enough faith in me to attach her name to me and to endorse me for the position. I got that job. And now, thirty years later, I am intentionally doing the same.
In recent weeks, I have watched some very talented young people struggling to gain access to their first professional jobs or in some cases, have suffered job loss due to the economic challenges created by the pandemic. And if that isn’t enough, those who are motivated to be giving serious effort to the job search are finding themselves falling short, often to minimum experience requirements that are unreachable. You see, there are plenty of people who are willing to criticize our younger generation about lack of motivation; and in some cases, that criticism may be earned. But there are still many, many young people who want to work, who want to contribute and feel a sense of accomplishment, but can’t get a start because they lack the work experience to hit the ground running. I see this time and time again. Like any employer, I can appreciate the path of least resistance. Why hire someone with little or no experience when you can get someone who has most of what you need. But at this point, we’re seeing jobs that are going unfilled. And there’s lots of them. Some say that there’s so much money flowing from our government that it has provided a disincentive to work. But I can tell you from firsthand experience that there are still a lot of young people who want to work and can’t get a job. No – these are NOT the worst in the workforce that no one wants. The young people I’m talking about want to go to work but just don’t have a lot of experience. I’m in no position to tell any employer that they can and should hire people that have no experience, particularly when some jobs really do require significant experience. Do I want a mechanic fixing my brakes who has never done a brake job? Probably not. But what I’m finding to be true is that while some employers are practically begging for help, jobs go unfilled because some employers are unwilling to take a chance on someone who simply needs the opportunity to train and learn. Of course, that can be a big sacrifice for an employer. For example, when I bring in an Intern, I have to realize that on day one, they don’t bring much to the table in terms of knowledge of the profession. So I have to accept the fact that it is going to cost me time and attention to mentor, teach and guide. It’s something I’m willing to do and I feel strongly about it. I don’t see it as a sacrifice, I see it more as “paying it forward”. That’s what my counselor, Barb McCrory did for me. She inspired me to write this blog when I learned last week of her recent passing.
I titled this blog “Take A Chance on Me” because I’ve been personally inspired by some twenty-somethings I’ve met lately that are eager to learn, eager to work, and want more than anything to be part of something greater than themselves. I realize that it’s hard to substitute for experience on day one, but I also realize that not all experience is good experience. Not everyone needs a college degree and years of experience to succeed. But what they do need is the motivation to learn, the ability to work well with others, and a work ethic to get the job done.
Tom Tanghe, City Manager