Use access key #2 to skip to page content.

Unrealistic/Idealistic Job Expectations?



July 30, 2011 – Comments (11)

I just read a post about a person who posted a "self-righteous and scathing" job resignation on a social network.

There are a couple things that really caught my attention in the post:

 "Experts wouldn’t be surprised if this is only the beginning: The Internet offers an easily grasped platform for a new generation of 20-something workers who’ve grown up social media-mad, consumer crazy and idealistic about their careers, they say."


 "She points to hard data from the United States, including large-scale surveys of high school students conducted annually since the 1970s, that show young workers have developed higher expectations for their careers —they want higher paying, higher status jobs coupled with more work-life balance. While the number of people who actually attain that success has remained steady, the expectations have shot through the roof, she said, so it’s inevitable for some to be angered by their perceived professional failures.

There’s also been a democratization of the workplace and the classroom, creating spheres in which everyone’s opinion is valid, Dr. Twenge said. Generally speaking, authority-questioning baby boomers have raised children with the same sensibilities but with far higher self-esteem, she said. They’ve also lived on a steady diet of social media and Internet savvy, making the online world the most natural place to air “dirty laundry and share a community of likemindedness,” added Bruce Tulgan, author of Not Everyone Gets A Trophy: How To Manage Generation Y."

I completely disagree that younger workers have become more idealistic about job expectations.  Everyone assesses their expectations according to what they see around them and we have been experiencing a declining opportunity job market.  Relative wages for the same kind of work has been declining.  For example, growing up my mother dropped out of high school in grade 10, was a teen mom and had 3 children by age 22.  She worked full-time, and with child support from my father she was able to afford to rent a 3-bedroom house, not an apartment, buy a new car, save for a down payment on a home.  I got lots of xmas presents, although I'd say new clothes were pretty lean.  But overall, my mother had a lifestyle that although money was always tight, we never went without, had some entertainment, and she was able to put some aside for building for a future, at least that was so once my younger brother no longer needed day care because he was in school.

In my own youth when I made the decision to go to university I was told there were job fairs at universities and most people found a job at these job fairs their last year in school and that I would never be for want of a job with a university degree.  Additionally, this was especially so because I was in the sciences.  I had many friends recently out of university and they shared what they were making and they all made very good wage increases every year I was in university.  When I got out the market reality was the starting wage expectations were probably about 75-80% of what my friend's starting wages had been and those jobs that were available had practically no benefits.  By the time I got out the starting salary available was about half of what friends who had graduated 5-8 years earlier were earning.  These friends were my age as I didn't go straight to university from high school.  At the same time the housing market had been making double digit gains the entire time I was in university, so housing prices had doubled.

There is no question in my mind if you look at the data of how many go through university these days it far exceeds the numbers in the past.  Page 4 in this shows that between 1980 and 2000 the population went from 16.2% to 24.4% for people with a university degree or higher.  In 1970 it was 10.7%.  The data is showing that all age groups increased their education level over the years.  If you look back at the 1990 data, the 25-29 age group had 22.7% university, whereas 10 years later it is 27.2%, a roughly 20% increase in the number of graduates competing for the same number of jobs that give the lifestyle they were constantly told they would attain if they went to university.  I didn't find easy to access numbers of the 25-29 age group for the 70s, but a roughly 130% increase in university graduates suggests that the rate was considerably lower.  Yet, as stated above, the numbers who attain that success remain constant, yet clearly far far more young people are working hard to try and achieve that success so you would expect that more have higher expectations.

One of the thoughts that went through my mind at our high school graduation last month as I listened to every speaker, they all gave the same message to our graduates, continue in school and you will get a good job.  It simply isn't true anymore, and I am probably quite different in how I talk to my students about their options.  Certainly I tell them they need high school or no one will give them a job, but I don't promise them that education is the end all and be all to success.  I tend to emphasis the need to be a hard and responsible worker and that you might get a job, but you need these to keep a job, and be hired back first and to get reference should you be laid off, which is common in today's economy.  There is actually tons of opportunity in the north still, but I talk to my students about the need to remain competitive against those who will come when they can't find work where they live.  Trades are actually far more important for the types off opportunities that exist. 

In any event, I don't think their expectations are unrealistic compared to what their lives have taught and shown them, however, the competition is way up for the amount of career training young people have done and the opportunity is most likely down because of the cuts to employment and lack of job growth just keeping up with population growth.  Expectations have not adjusted to this different reality and overall the older and wiser that guide them have not given them realistic expectation of the true nature of the economy they face.


11 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On July 30, 2011 at 4:17 PM, Option1307 (30.65) wrote:

Good thoguhts, +1.

Report this comment
#2) On July 30, 2011 at 4:40 PM, devoish (65.42) wrote:

Who are "the trades" going to build for?

Report this comment
#3) On July 30, 2011 at 6:35 PM, dwot (28.81) wrote:

Where I am there is small population and massive natural gas reserves.  I am not saying the trades for everyone, but I am saying for my students.

In two years I have not found an electrician to do some electrical work I would like to get done.  I do not have a high opinion of the gas fitter/plumber that I have used for overall substandard work, but there is no choice but to not argue and pay as if you do not, next time you simply will not be able to get anyone.  My pipes froze and it was 4 days before I could get a plumber in and I spent 4 hours calling around looking for a plumber and the bill was $6k.  They get paid very well by the oil and gas industry regardless of quality and gross costly errors and retail consumers compete with this for services they need.  

Workers are constantly imported here. 

Report this comment
#4) On July 30, 2011 at 6:39 PM, dwot (28.81) wrote:

And on the electrician, I saw one in the school parking lot, identified by the vehicle, talked him into coming to my home to survey the work and give me a quote.  He spent half an hour looking around and taking notes and I never heard back.  The time before I contacted them the guy said he'd worked 78 days straight and was taking some time off and he'd call me back.  Never did.  There is so much work for so few people, they aren't getting time off and I've kind of given up for now.

Report this comment
#5) On July 30, 2011 at 6:43 PM, dwot (28.81) wrote:

And the calling looking for a plumber, most told me 2 weeks was the soonest they might be able to get to me and I had no running water in my home, no ability to shower, flush the toilet, etc...

Report this comment
#6) On July 31, 2011 at 12:27 AM, HarryCaraysGhost (87.66) wrote:

+1 rec.

My options going out of high school were go to the desert in Iraq, or learn a trade. I picked the trade.

Report this comment
#7) On July 31, 2011 at 1:05 AM, HarryCaraysGhost (87.66) wrote:

Sorry you had a bad experience, it does happen but for the most part were trying to make the customer happy, I can only speak for my shop.but reputibale shops want repeat buissness and treat their customers well.

For all the Fools, whenever your having some work done. If your looking at quotes concentrate on the highest ones that have a good reputation.

If you try and cheap out you get what you pay for.

Report this comment
#8) On July 31, 2011 at 2:56 AM, ikkyu2 (98.21) wrote:

I read that 'scathing' critique and came away feeling sorry for the person who wrote it.  Not so much that he'll never get another job - though he won't, not so long as Google is still a functioning website - but that he's so absolutely clueless about how the world works.  Someone taught him how to spell, punctuate, use grammar and syntax; why didn't someone teach him that a job is where you go to get paid money in exchange for doing things that you wouldn't otherwise have done?

Report this comment
#9) On July 31, 2011 at 4:29 AM, XMFRosetint (55.62) wrote:

All good points, and I mostly agree. It's undeniable that as a greater percentage of the overall population goes to university and receives a degree, those degrees will become less valuable if demand for the people with such degrees grows at a lower rate than the increase in degrees purchased.

I'm not sure what I'll study when/if I go back to school. I'm guessing something in the natural sciences because I know little about them, and I'd be in it more for the actual education than purchasing a piece of paper th at often acts as little more than a glorified union card.

I doubt I would study business or finance, as I am happy with the knowledge that I already have in those fields and I think academia comes up with some particularly odd ideas at times, regarding them. EMH, anyone?

 I think the most important thing to do is keep learning, whatever you study. Whether the education is formal or not. I've found that doing so keeps my mind sharp, and has allowed me access to additional ways to profit in the market that I otherwise would not have, due to lack of understanding.

 +1 rec,


Report this comment
#10) On July 31, 2011 at 10:52 AM, devoish (65.42) wrote:

First off, just as an aside to the Sarah, the reporter for the National Post article you linked to. When you are going to write a story on the internet about something you read on the internet please link to what you read the way Dwot did. I like to form my own opinions, not trust yours. And as a reporter for the National Post, I also hope you took the time to check that this guy was really employed by Whole Foods. The letter has enough detail to seem like he was, but you are a reporter, not a blogger. 

Moving along.

It is interesting that the focus of the reporting is on "disgruntled thankless, selfish employee" angle rather than Whole Foods response to the charges levied in the employees letter. Which you can read most of here; 

First, as a customer of Whole Foods who is buying the value added of sustainability, healthy, local, food products I would like your public response to the charges levied against your business practices that violate those concerns. Because if I am not getting what I am paying for you will have to answer to me. I have already learned to shop elsewhere for as many things as I can find elsewhere because I don't believe I am getting the value added that you are promising and this only adds to that belief.

You also tell me how well you treat employees even without the support of unions. I am not sure you are delivering on that promise either. This employee expressed some legitimate and specific concerns about your handling of food, contrary to your stated values and seems to feel compelled to go public because of your lack of responsiveness. I would like to hear you speak more on those specifics, and why you think your current practices are best or what will make them better. I would also like to hear from this employee again, about whether or not you have contacted him/her to investigate what might be legitimate problems at one of your stores and whether or not employees should keep their mouths shut if their direct management is unresponsive and they are not protected by a union.

Second I notice that the emplyee has worked for Whole foods for over five years. So we are not talking about somebody who has been recently removed from college or high school and found they are expected to provide service. That adjustment happened five years ago. Whatever was going on probably took a while to build.

Some of the complaints are common of employees dealing with management - Take the holiday table for example. You have nothing to do with it, take credit for it and can barely remember the people who run it so smoothly. Who do you think you are - and - Your dot idea was a really, really stupid idea. Try to learn how an operation works before trying to "fix" it. All of your suggestions so far have been outdated, time consuming, poorly thought out nonsense. Some are indicative of very questionable management - You win a lot of awards in my book. Best at being a chauvinist. Least likely to realize he's about to walk into someone. Just another sign that shows how inconsiderate and egocentric you are. Or, if you do realize you're plowing through people... well, I won't get into that... Best at ruining the entire meat department vicinity by blasting terrible music. Do you ever think about the people around you? By the way, how did you manage to spit on the back hallway's floor with your head so far up your ass? You have no idea how insulting and aggravating it is to be around someone who is so condescending to all the women you work with. Stop calling them "mamma" don't refer to them as "beautiful"... for christs sake, just keep all pet names off the table. Pet names can be friendly, but probably not from a manager who also spits on the back hallways floor. Managment that will hack a loogey up inside a food establishment is not a disgruntled stock boy problem. It is a management problem.

But the first manager that gets written about seems pretty special and suggests to me that there really is a much bigger story here than "disgruntled employee". How you haven't been fired by now is a massive mystery to, not just me, but many people. You probably belong in a psychiatric ward. If you didn't have such a constant negative impact on everyone around you I might just feel sorry for you. BUT, you've hurt too many people. You create a hostile work environment with your flashes of insane anger and passive (I hesitate to use the word passive...) aggressive behavior. Please, just leave and piss all over the patio at [REDACTED]'s again. Did I just read that a manager pissed on somebodys patio? This is not an employee problem, this is a mangement problem. This store is a sh*thole place to work. And all of this makes it an executives problem to deal with.

If the letter is true.

Best wishes,


Report this comment
#11) On July 31, 2011 at 10:52 AM, dwot (28.81) wrote:


I found when I was in the market and doing tons of research on stocks I was learning so about a whole range of things.  

Watching Steven Keens videos really helped me understand what it is they are teaching n business that causes people to think so differently from what makes common sense to me, so I agree with your assessment there.  I did a business minor which given I so completely disagree with the philsophy that's taught is enough formal training in that area for me.

Certainly the "educated" job market isn't what it used to be because of the gross level of competition and I don't think the jobs pay for the cost of getting those degrees anymore, at least for most.  It is no longer a guarantee to a reasonable standard of living.

As a Canadian, I went through experiencing this change in the value of an education in the 90s.  It was right after free-trade went through and that was very bad for Canada as far as jobs went.  We saw many good jobs go to the US as business consolidated.  And the jobs that were more competitive in Canada and supposed to be our trade-off the US blocked in violation of the free trade agreement; lot of good it did for Canada that yes the US violated the free trade agreement when the legal battle was about 10-15 years.  And the job experience in the US was very different in the 90s, the job market was still pretty good. 

ikkyu2, good point about what to teach.  You remind me of a conversation I overheard between 2 14-year-olds.  The one was complaining she wasn't allowed to do homework at her job and the boss was expecting her to be working on something the whole time so her boss was unreasonable and she quit.  The other was thinking she never wanted to work there...

Harry, I have found 2 people that do work that I completely trust to do very good jobs.  They are still expensive, $90/hour, but they stand behind their work, do it correctly, and don't skim you for more or double and triple bill you all over in the bill.

Report this comment

Featured Broker Partners