Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Are Today's Grads Unprofessional?

Source - InsideHigherEd. The entire article is a great read, but I have summarized it here!
A new study from York College of Pennsylvania attempts to shed light on the issue of whether or not today's new grads are unprofessional. As this small liberal arts college works through a re-brand the newly established Center for Professional Excellence is hoping to address some of the survey results.

Overall, 88% of the more than 500 human resources professionals and business leaders responding, defined professionalism roughly as follows:

"as being related to a person rather than the position. The traits or behaviors mentioned most by the respondents as being characteristic of professional employees were personal interaction skills, including courtesy and respect; the ability to communicate, which includes listening skills; a work ethic which includes being motivated and working on a task until it is complete; and appearance.”

The same survey defined unprofessionalism roughly as follows:

"The traits or behaviors most associated by the respondents with “unprofessionalism” included appearance, which includes attire, tattoos, and piercings; poor communication skills including poor grammar; poor work ethic; and poor attitude.”

The survey results showed that more than 37% of the respondents reported that “less than half of the recent graduates they have hired exhibit professionalism in their first year." Slightly more than 51 % of recent hires exhibited “professionalism.”

Among the traits or behaviors employers said they value most, here are the ones they believe are most deficient in the recent graduates they hired:

- accepts personal responsibility for decision and actions
- is able to act independently
- has a clear sense of direction and purpose

Not everyone surveyed believed the “professionalism” of their recent graduate hires has significantly declined in recent years. About a third, indicated that this lack of professionalism has declined significantly in recent years due to:
- an increased sense of entitlement
- new cultural values
- changed work ethic

Professor David Polk, whose research group at York conducted the study offered several insights as to whether or not these behaviors are totally a result of inter-generational differences or should be taken more seriously.

Polk offers that getting professors to buy in and serve as role models could be challenging since professors might see their role as "conveying knowledge and making sure our students comprehend it. I’m not sure how many would respond that it is also their job to help a student develop good behavior. There’s this moral authority that some professors get uncomfortable with. For this to work successfully, when a professor calls out a student’s behavior, the administration should be there to back them up immediately and say, ‘Your behavior is wrong.’ ”

The school's goal is to use the newly created Center for Professional Excellence to cultivate the “professionalism” employers want in the workplace. It will host seminars throughout the year where employers share expectations of employees and workplace issues. Polk said he would like students to be required to attend a certain number of these seminars throughout their college careers.

If you work with new grads - what say you? Do you agree? Comment at the end of the article here.

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