Tuesday, November 1, 2005

YOUTH AT WORK

GOOD LUCK, JARED. My 17-year old son Jared found a job today. He will be employed by a nationally-franchised retail company that sells and exchanges electronic video games. A new store is opening in a bustling suburban strip mall and he will be on the ground floor of the shop's beginnings there. I think Jared brings a lot of positive capabilities to this workplace; may this employer realize it and tap into it. Congratulations, Jared.

WORKPLACE ENVIRONMENT. Jared has demonstrated a strong work ethic and leadership in varsity soccer and choirs for years. Does the discipline and hard work on the ballfield or other venues translate into solid or peak performance in the workplace? I believe it can. Some of this depends on the competence and leadership of the manager and assistant managers. Some of it depends on the workplace milieu or environment. Some of it depends on the perspective, attitude, and outlook of the employee. I hope the combination in this case is a good mix for a successful employment and productive work environment.

JUGGLING PRIORITIES. Youth employment can be a pressure cooker, really. It was for me...and I have observed it to be so for others. It is part-time, low-wage, unskilled work wedged into school work, extra-curricular activities, dating relationships, and family commitments. Managers must be skilled at helping young people stay focused and offer their best during their "on duty" time and simultaneously respect the demands and challenges of the young person's "off duty" time. For many youth, their first few employers dramatically shape views of work and the workplace--for good for ill--that last a lifetime.

MANAGERS, THINK LONG-TERM. Most of us survive our first few workplace experiences. What was it like for you? Most of us learn, lick our wounds, and move on. For many, youth work experiences help us learn what we do NOT want to do with the rest of our lives. How different this is than an apprenticeship model! Good employers, it seems to me, would do well to treat every employee as a potential manager or leader of their organization. Don't just teach how to do something; share your passion for what you do. This approach at the beginning makes a difference in the longevity and quality of work.

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