New graduates show lack of zeal for jobs and job-hunting
Pity the poor boss in these insubordinate times. “If you let that sort of thing bother you,” sighs one mid-level company manager, “it’ll undermine your health.”
What she’s talking about is the cavalier attitude new college graduates are bringing to their first jobs. Of course, young people baffling their elders is nothing new. But two forces are clashing here—leisure and zeal—and zeal isn’t winning.
You’d think the precarious state of the economy would energize anyone lucky enough to land a job into struggling to keep it. On the other hand, as Shukan Gendai (June 20) points out, last year’s crop of college-educated corporate recruits is the first to have been schooled exclusively under the system of “yutori kyoiku” (relaxed education) introduced in 1992.
They are, the magazine finds, “relaxed” to a fault, their blasé unconcern apparently resistant to any self-defense mechanism which might suggest the need to be productive or else.
It starts with the job interview. “I don’t even get surprised any more when a candidate cancels an interview at the last minute,” says one personnel manager. Says another, “We’re a restaurant chain, so at interviews I’ll ask the candidate, ‘Which of our restaurants do you like?’ To which the reply might be something like, ‘I haven’t been to any of them, I saw on the Net that you were recruiting, so I thought I’d drop by…”
“Why do you want to work for us?” a personnel manager at a clothing retailer asked a candidate—who replied, “I love theater, and your office is near the theater district.” Unfortunately, the manager doesn’t tell us whether he admired the honesty or deplored the failure to invent a more ingratiating reason.
“Yutori kyoiku” was the Education Ministry’s response to a growing perception that crushingly heavy school course loads were deforming children’s personalities. Problems ranged from bullying to social withdrawal to an inability to think beyond the regurgitation of memorized facts. The lightening of the curriculum began in 1992 with the elimination in public schools of Saturday morning classes.
Have things now gone too far in the other direction?
“‘Yutori kyoiku’ emphasized individuality,” Shukan Gendai hears from Tadashi Ikegaya, author of a book on how to deal with “yutori employees.”
“Children of the ‘yutori’ generation are motivated not by pride but by what interests them. They insist on doing what they want to do as opposed to what they’re told to do. Furthermore, having grown up for the most part in prosperous households, they’re not motivated by money. They seek self-fulfillment. So if it’s not work they really want to do, they won’t put much effort into it.”
That can be thoroughly exasperating to company superiors steeped in the virtue of self-sacrifice.
“We were short-handed, so we asked staff from another department to do some overtime for us,” says a 40-year-old IT company executive. “One of them was a freshman employee, and the first thing he does is show me his appointment book: ‘Look, I’m booked up for two months, I can’t work overtime on such short notice.’ But what was he ‘booked up’ with? Not company business but parties, drinking sessions, ‘idol’ concerts!”
That’s relaxed education for you. It teaches you there’s life outside the workplace. No wonder the idea is currently being reconsidered.