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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

From 6th grade to the 1st day at work, not much has changed


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As my son prepares for the terrifying transition from 5th grade to 6th grade, we parents are being inundated with conflicting messages from his school.  An email will arrive letting us know that middle school and elementary school are so completely different that our children may literally burst into flames on their first day of school.  The next day an email arrives explaining that our kids are resilient and smart and wonderful and millions of kids not only start but actually finish 6th grade every year.  I don't actually remember my own "graduation" from 5th grade.  I think it was just another year separated by a summer break.   During one of the orientations held at the school to prepare us (I think the school is actually more worried about the parents than the kids) the handout you see here was... handed out.  It was a relief to read through it and recognize many of the symptoms of 6th graderosis that my wife and I had assumed were exclusive to our son.  Who knew that other 11 year olds were "often aggressive and argumentative" too!  The more disturbing discovery though and the reason I am sharing this on Headhunter Dad is the spooky similarities with several of the common traits of a 6th grader and the complaints made by corporate recruiters after interviewing Generation Y candidates (the current new grad applicant generation).

Do any of these sound familiar to those of you who have interviewed, hired or work with Generation Y employees? 
  • Egocentric
  • Short attention spans
  • Erratic and inconsistent behavior
  • Highly sensitive to criticism
  • Moody, restless and self conscious
  • Needs frequent affirmation of love from adults
There may be more on the handout that match up with Generation Y'ers but the six shown above are ones that will cost our kids jobs.  Even if they make it past the interview process, if our sons and daughters have short attention spans or cannot handle criticism they are going to have a hard time in any working environment.  Assuming that 6th graders (kids aged 11 and 12) have consistently followed this pattern since time began, why is it that college graduates these days have not grown out of these young adult stereotypes?  More importantly, how can we as parents help our own offspring to overcome these weaknesses and stand out from the crowd?

Perhaps the most effective way for us to treat these symptoms is to focus on the root causes.  Short attention spans and erratic and inconsistent behavior could be blamed on the multi-tasking, electronic world we all live in now with instant gratification only fingertips away.  We can start by taking away the video games and cutting back on screen time in general.  Habits are built through continuous repetition.  Find ways for your kids to experience delayed gratification through longer projects or games.  Models, for example take time and patience and the achievement is delayed until the end when it is complete.

The other 4 traits point to insecurity and a lack of self-worth.  Building confidence in our kids is a recurring theme for The Headhunter Dad (To do lists build confidence and Confident Self-Starters).  Please read the other articles for further ideas.  Confidence begins with a secure home environment where our kids feel free to take risks knowing that Mom or Dad will be there to catch them when they fall.  Each time they take a risk and succeed, they add to their internal store of security.  Eventually, they will feel good enough about themselves that they will be able to take those risks even after they leave home.

As endearing as 6th graders are, no employer wants to hire one.

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