There are a quite a few people locally who have a hobby of reading obituaries. Some even subscribe to an obituary service that searches thousands of daily death notices for certain relevant keywords.
Today, this very day, about 400 World War II veterans will pass away. This daily rate increases dramatically as time passes. Soon none of the 16 million of the “Greatest Generation” will be with us.
When reading those obituaries you can get a sense of what America was like in the 1920s when the Greatest were born and how their lives progressed. In their childhood, the stock market crashed. In their youth, this generation lived through – some say survived – the Great Depression. Then, just in time for adulthood, this generation was sent off to save the world by fighting in World War II. Hardship was all they’d ever known until 1946.
After the war, those who returned capitalized on what they learned and saw overseas and set America on the path to dominate the world in everything from industry, technology, research, medicine and wealth. One of the gifts the Greatest Generation gave to their children was the ethos that hard work pays off.
As the Labor Day holiday approaches, there is some question whether America has squandered their inheritance of a good work ethic.
In the Declaration of Independence, one of the three unalienable rights is “the pursuit of happiness,” which equates to “living the American dream.” This dream was usually achieved through hard work, saving money and being wise when spending; at least that’s the way it was for the Baby Boomer generation.
It is these same Baby Boomers, the children of the Greatest Generation, who are now in charge of a large portion of our nation’s business and industry. When they try to hire from the labor pool of 18 to 28-year-olds, the Baby Boomers are left scratching their heads in confusion. The newest generation entering the workforce certainly have some wonderful computer skills, are well-educated, very worldly and broadminded––all good personal qualities.
But some of them are lacking in a basic work ethic.
For instance: showing up late for work is not alright––ever. Inappropriate dress and excessive facial piercings might not be in line with some employer dress codes. Being told by a supervisor when you have to work is quite common; it’s not that you are being picked on. A corner-office job with a six-figure salary is not an entry-level position.
Please don’t think this is being stereotypical. I have some background with hiring people from different generations. Hundreds of people have sat before me in interviews for many different positions, which is only part of the support for my comments. There is also a Pew Research Study “Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next” that proves my thesis using the words of the Millennials themselves.
In the Pew study, one of the questions asked was “What makes the Millennial Generation unique?” Before we get to the Millennial’s answer, you should know the same question was asked of remaining members of the Greatest Generation, the Baby Boomers, and Generation X; all three groups mentioned to some extent ‘work ethic’ or ‘hard work pays off’ as a characteristic of their generation.
The Millennial’s answer to describe their strengths was “technology use, music/pop culture, liberal/tolerant beliefs, greater intelligence, and clothes.”
The older generations could be off course in their antique methods. Maybe the Millennial way is the best way; time will tell. While we wait to find out, here’s a reminder what current employers look for when hiring: good attitude, reliability, no drug use, initiative, respectful, graciousness, and integrity. Some of those are old-fashioned words seldom heard around a video game console and even less frequently texted to a friend using a smartphone.
So, until you win the lottery, have a one-hit-wonder or end up the star of a reality cable show, you will probably need to work. No matter what that job is, or how menial it may seem, do it to the best of your ability. Resolve that there is no easy way to have a successful career; you’ll be required to use some physical exertion or mental exercise to earn your pay.
Hard work is not something that needs avoiding. Employment in less than desirable circumstances builds character and experience. Even with automation and robotics, there will always be a need for hardworking people. Labor Day is a day to honor those who toil while we also remember: “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”