Wanted: Grads With Grit

In the May 10 issue of The Wall Street Journal, Lauren Weber and Chip Cutter have a revealing article entitled A Wake-Up Call for Grads: Entry-Level Jobs Aren’t So Entry Level Any More. The subtitle tells it all: Gone are the days when new hires spent years learning the ropes before being handed important work. The Class of 2019 will be thrown right into the fray.

The authors make the point that automation and outsourcing have chipped away most of the routine and boring tasks that entry-level employees used to perform on their first rung of the corporate ladder. These kinds of low-impact, low-risk tasks allowed past generations of graduates to transition gracefully to corporate life with some margin for error. Having eliminated these tasks, businesses are giving their new employees challenging assignments right from the start. Furthermore, in today’s customer-focused world nearly all jobs have some customer-facing responsibilities that amplify the impact and risk of an assignment.

“If that sounds like a blessing, there’s a flip side, too. New hires don’t have any built-in time to develop the sense of toughness and professionalism you’d normally learn from going through the grind at the lowest level.” So says Kurt Rathmann, founder of ScaleFactor, an Austin, Texas-based software maker.

Allow me to paraphrase Rathmann’s point – the 2019 graduating class needs more grit than classes that have gone before them. They need to hit the ground running and be resourceful and resilient. With that in mind, here is a practical application. Instead of the traditional gift of some cash for the graduates in your life, make a lasting impact by giving them a copy of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, by Angela Duckworth.