I’ve been slowly working my way through The World is Flat, a book by Thomas Friedman1. The subtitle describes the book well: A brief history of the twenty-first century.
In the first part of the book, Friedman takes a deep look a the exploding young professional class in India. In describing one call center in particular, the author notes that the business receives 700 applications per day and only six percent of applicants are hired. 10-20% of those employed at the call center are pursuing degrees in business, computer science, or both. The company sponsors MBA degrees for its workers. (pp 25, 28)
The business owner had an insightful perspective on the fast-paced, full-scheduled lifestyle of his employees:
“This is a high-stress environment,” said Nilekani, the CEO of Infosys, which also runs a big call center. “It is twenty-four by seven. You work in the day, and then the night, and then the next morning.” but the working environment, he insisted, “is not the tension of alienation. It is the tension of success. They are dealing with the challenges of success, of high-pressure living. It is not the challenge of of worrying about whether they would have a challenge.” (p. 28)
The challenge of worrying about whether they would have a challenge. I see this mindset in many of the young professionals I meet, including myself. The desire to accomplish “something great” or “meaningful,” or work on something you’re “passionate about” is in many ways seen as the benchmark definition for vocational success among my generation, though I don’t think the mindset a new phenomenon.
I believe we’re embedded with the desire to accomplish things—to make something with our skills, abilities and resources. On the other hand, I think that unbridled desire can lead to an unhealthy sense of entitlement and lack of commitment (according to Forbes, “ninety-one percent of Millennials (born between 1977-1997) expect to stay in a job for less than three years.”2).
I’ll write more on this topic soon, but needless to say it’s an interesting time to be working at a mission-driven company hiring talent who have an extremely high likelihood of short tenure with us.