I’ve noticed that among my Millennial students, there is a disturbing lack of curiosity. I wonder if I am the only person who feels this way.
This concerns me because it has employment implications. A lack of curiosity may well hurt graduates’ hiring prospects. The Washington Post reported May 17, 2009, that after contacting eight to 10 area schools, about 35 to 40 percent of seniors are graduating without jobs or a predetermined plan in place. Typically, that number is 10 to 15 percent.
Given, this is the worst economy we’ve seen in a long time. Companies are hurting, and jobs are scarce. But that is all the more reason for graduates to pay attention to every detail that will help them secure a good job.
Why am I saying there is a lack of curiosity? This past spring semester, I had approximately 75 students in four classes. I interact with these students in class twice a week. I talk with them in the halls. They come to my office for things. They participate in our PR Group, the student professional association chapter. Yet in all of these interactions, only occasionally will someone ask a question of any substance. Few make observations that capture insightful interest in or understanding of things. Most never even comment on their surroundings. They seem oblivious to a deeper exploration of ideas and concepts, not only the abstract or obtuse, but the practical as well, like how to get and keep jobs in communication/PR/IMC.
In short, they seem to be devoid of curiosity. Some specific examples:
- Students rarely if ever ask about the working world. I spent 35 years earning a living doing what I now teach. It seems to me that that might provoke some questions. College is a time of becoming exposed to many new and different ideas and concepts. Why then are there so few probing questions? Why so few substantive questions about careers and work?
- Students don’t ask why things are the way they are. They seem to accept everything at face value.
- This is a personal, nonscientific observation, but I think it tells us something; students don’t seem to notice things around them. A specific example of this is that students do not see things in my office. I have a small but nicely appointed office with a few carefully chosen decorations, like interesting photos and original art. I purposely designed my office to be an interesting and relaxing place to visit or work. But students don’t comment on photos, memorabilia, etc. They don’t even see these things.
It does not hurt my feelings that students who visit my office do not comment on my artwork. But it does bother me that they don’t even notice their surroundings. What if it was a job interview? The ability to converse easily, perhaps initiate a conversation about a unique photo or piece of art, is a plus for the job seeker. The abiity to build rapport and sell yourself with employers is critically important.
As a manager who hired, trained, and terminated many employees in my career, the ability and willingness to ask probing questions is a competitive advantage for job seekers.
One of my more memorable supervisors got furious at employees who didn’t demonstrate curiosity. He blasted employees who “were not the least bit curious at why sales were flat, or why this project did not work, or that process cost so much, etc.” In general, he wanted curious employees who dug deep to find better ways of doing things. Those employees were favored. The employees with curiosity were trusted with more meaningful assignments. They got raises and promotions. But first, they got hired.
As May graduates try to enter the job market, I think a sense of curiosity is a big plus.
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