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Today's youths will prove their mettle

By Hong Liang  (China Daily)

13:10, April 08, 2013

Barely a couple of years after the first batch of post-1990s graduates entered the job market, almost all studies on their work attitude and aspirations suggest that the average young graduate is a spoilt brat who is either unwilling or unable to hold onto a job for longer than a few months.

The results of these studies have, in turn, touched off a flurry of reports and comments in the media and on the Internet where finger-wagging commentators have lamented the loss of traditional work ethics and expressed fears that the achievements of economic growth of the past 30-odd years could be wasted on the new generation.

One headline of a recent news report screamed: "Post-90 graduate changed jobs seven times in two years". Another read: "38 percent of all post-90 workers changed jobs at least once in six months".

A newspaper article quoted a "prominent" human resource consultant as having said that typical post-1990s graduates are capricious and volatile, likening them to "drifting mist in the air". Less poetically, another consultant said frequent job-hopping is not going to do anyone any good. Citing the old adage, a rolling stone gathers no moss, he said that changing jobs in different professions or industries would only destroy an employee's value instead of adding to his experience.

The consultants are most certainly right because frequent job-hopping is not the right way to build a career. But this obviously does not apply to someone too young to have found a career. I read a report some time ago which said graduates who settled on a career later in life, for example after reaching the age 30, after exploring numerous alternatives through job-hopping, stand a better chance of success than those who stick to their first jobs.

In an economy that offers ample job opportunities, there is a valid argument for encouraging young people fresh out of college to take their time to think and explore what they want to do in life before settling down to a career. It is wrong to impose the standards of the past generations, who grew up under different social and economic conditions, on young people born in a more prosperous environment.

Job-hopping was an issue that troubled many employers in Hong Kong during the economic hey days of the 1980s, which were marked by rising income and virtual full employment. At that time, the company I worked for had to offer an exceptionally high salary to recruit a receptionist who could speak decent English. She quit after six months telling us that she needed to take some time off to travel, knowing that she would have no problem finding another job that paid equally well when she returned.

We all thought that was a cool thing to do. In fact, many young people I knew at that time would not think twice before switching jobs, sometimes just because they wanted to try something new. Instead of squandering the economic fortune built on low-cost manufacturing by their predecessors, those young people matured into enterprising professionals and administrators who helped transform Hong Kong into one of the world's leading service centers with a per capita income ranking among the top economies.

The negative comments about the post-1990s graduates on the Chinese mainland remind me of what I read about the young people of Hong Kong in the 1980s. So let us not be harsh on the post-1990s graduates. When their time comes, I am sure they will prove their mettle.

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