With each generation of workers comes a unique set of abilities, strengths, and weaknesses; this is also the case with safety workers. For young students looking to make the transition to young safety professionals, there can often be a disconnect between what they learned in school and what they will have to deal with on the fly in the workforce. Book smarts and “street” smarts offer a relevant comparison here.
The Generational Gap
The scales are quite often tipped in the other direction when we look at the previous generation of safety professionals. In fact, there are plenty of people who have been working in the field for years, decades even, who don’t hold a college degree, let alone one specifically within their field. But they’re still effective in their roles because they’ve learned from experience, and experience has more years under their belt than even the best college professor can claim.
The Internship Conundrum
There’s a “meme,” circulating that shows a stereotypical young university student with the words “Needs experience to get a job // Needs a job to get experience” superimposed over the photo. This image nicely sums up the problem many young professionals face today. Our job market is so competitive compared to 30 years ago that internships are often unpaid and can cause financial struggle for college students. However, these placements often lead to other jobs and give the young generation a chance to mingle with the old, and learn the type of things that can only be acquired by years on the job. Often times this comes down to people skills, and mediating between multiple parties; these types of situations can’t usually be accurately recreated in a classroom. Therefore, this can cause trouble for the young students who have only just taken their nose out of the book and walked out into the real world for the first time.
It Gets Better
The younger generation is not at a complete loss, however, when compared with their older counterparts. Technology, for example, is something that is second nature to young students and they have no trouble picking up and managing new computer systems and applications. Furthermore, with practice, their communication skills can become quite excellent in the workplace because they really care. What I mean is that, previously, many people would take whatever job they could to earn a living and learn to love it (or maybe never at all, unfortunately). A young person going into their given field is going to have passion because, quite frankly, they’re too entitled to take a job they don’t want. Now, this blanket statement isn’t true of an entire generation, but, in general, generation Y members don’t like to settle, and this shows in their career choices, which can be off-putting to older employers. However, one benefit associated with generation Y is that they can often use this seemingly single-minded drive and ambition to their advantage and channel it into effective careers if given the chance.
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