Would Attending Charm School Help You Get A Job?
Trying to launch a career amid the worst economy in nearly a century is not easy. And not surprisingly, Generation Y continues to suffer worse unemployment rates than the general population in the U.S. According to Generation Opportunity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization promoting employment for millennials, the unemployment rate for 18- to 29-year olds was 11.5 percent in December. (The overall rate stood at 7.8 percent.)
And that figure doesn't even account for the 1.7 million young people who have given up looking for a job. (The stats, it must be said, are much worse for those who only have a high school diploma -- the unemployment rate for that cohort stood at 16 percent between 2003-2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Survey, as was reported by USA Today.)
For students who are on course to achieve their bachelor's degree, colleges are attempting to remedy their employment problems by launching a literal charm offensive -- promoting "charm schools" to teach their students the social graces. The generation that grew up on Nintendo, Facebook and IM simply doesn't have the interpersonal skills, and it's hurting them in the job market, they say. "We're finding that our students just aren't used to face-to-face interaction," Alana Hamlett, who co-directs the program at MIT, told the Hechinger Report, a journalism project of the Teachers College at Columbia University.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology launched a one-day training program 20 years ago, but many other colleges, including Western Connecticut State University and York College in Pennsylvania, recently have followed.
"This is a generation with an average of 241 social media 'friends,' but they have trouble communicating in person," added Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, the New Jersey-based nonprofit foundation supporting leadership development.
The need for such programming is more pressing than ever, according surveys like one by the Center for Professional Excellence at York College, which found that more than a third of managers think their youngest hires act less professionally than their predecessors.
The problem may also be more dire for the technically inclined members of Generation Y, like the students at MIT. While there's no formal study to prove it, the prevalence of people with an autism spectrum disorder or other socialization impairments in technical fields like information technology or software development is widely acknowledged.
Of course, not everyone with such challenges formally falls in the autism spectrum, or is disabled. But the experience of those who do is instructive.
"The Asperger's brain is interested in things rather than people," Temple Grandin, a professor of animal science at Colorado State University, and a widely noted expert on Asperger's syndrome, told AOL Jobs in an interview last year. "Who do you think made the first spear as the rest of the cavemen sat around the fire? If he didn't have an actual disorder, it was definitely someone who wasn't interested in being social. These people are important."
But more is needed than innate talent.
"A good resume and a degree only gets you to the table," Matthew Randall, the director of the Center for Professional Excellence at York, told the Hechinger Report. "Professional behaviors are what gets you a job."
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Dan Fastenberg was most recently a reporter with TIME Magazine. Previously, he was a writer for the Thomson Reuters news service's Latin America desk. He was also a reporter and associate editor for the Buenos Aires Herald while living in South America.
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