Robert Reich, Professor and former Secretary of Labor, delivered an impassioned address to his final Wealth and Poverty class on the transition from college into the workforce. He asked his students to reflect on their values and experiences to consider a question posed by the poet Mary Oliver:
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Reich turns his attention to focus on the career opportunities which await his students. “The career ladder in most senses, and in most meaningful ways, has disappeared,” Reich says. The ladder he reimagines is a spiral – a path of differing responsibilities, varying skill sets, non-linear growth – a constant flux.
This fluidity, which Reich frames as the new norm, has clearly shifted the ways in which employers conceptualize employee retention, and provided endless content for listicles with creative titles such as: You’ve Got Millennial Employees All Wrong; Here Are The Four Things You Need To Know Now and Here’s How Often Millennial Employees Need Compliments (every seven days – mark your calendars, please).
Whether this content is accurate or insightful is largely irrelevant. The focus on millennials as an anomalous subgroup, defying social expectations and requiring nurturing employers (who hold to a proper compliment cadence), is misguided and reflective of the discomfort of change.
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