Are Young Adults Too Picky When it Comes to Work?


With the pandemic hitting the economy hard, it is inevitable that employment has also been affected. According to the Ministry of Manpower, the resident unemployment rate rose by 0.4 percentage points in the month of August to 4.5 per cent, a 0.3 percentage point increase from July.

Amidst the economic downturn, the demographic of the workforce is also rapidly changing. By the end of 2020, a third of the world’s workforce will be made up of young adults. As yet another generation of young adults joins the workforce in the middle of a pandemic, how do they feel about their job prospects?

A generation of lazy, entitled workers?

It’s no secret that young adults have gotten much flak for their work ethic. A simple Google search will bring up a list of labels that younger workers have been given — lazy, entitled, selfish, spoiled… the list goes on.

A lot of these criticisms seem to stem from the fact that younger workers tend to have lesser regard for traditional workplace habits, such as dress codes and meetings for the sake of meetings. They’re known as a generation of shortcut-takers, who aim to complete their tasks in the most efficient way, with maximum results. However, this may not sit well with older employers, who value workplace hierarchy and rules.

Just this August, entrepreneur Delane Lim’s Facebook post about younger workers went viral after he shared anecdotes of seven different interviewees who made various requests about the position they were applying for, ranging from not wanting to work on weekends to asking for transport allowances.

Lim said that he felt he “was being interviewed as an employer”, and that “these young talents [were] not hungry for a job”, because they were “not willing to be humble and not willing to suffer”. To emphasise his point, he also highlighted that the current economic crisis and pandemic, as reasons why these applicants should not be picky about job offers.

He ended the post by saying that although he was “pro-Singapore workforce”, these young adults were making it difficult for him to hire them.

Are young adults really that picky about jobs?

In order to understand the motivations of young adults when it comes to work, we spoke to two young adults to find out more.

Charmaine and Cheryl, both 23 this year, are final year Sociology students in Nanyang Technological University (NTU). Both on the brink of entering the workforce, they weigh in on whether young adults are picky for work.

As you know, the economy has been rather badly affected by the pandemic, does that make you feel worried about your job prospects?

Charmaine: Not really, I actually haven’t really thought about it. But I’m considering going into the social service sector, so I’m not too concerned about the demand for jobs in that industry.

Cheryl: I’m not too worried because I graduate next year, so there’s still some time for the economy to recover; I’ve just been trying to explore my options.

What resources have you been using to explore your career options?

Charmaine: I’ve heard about the SG United Traineeships, and my friend managed to get a job by using that platform. I’ve done some research but nothing too in-depth yet.

Cheryl: I’ve been using NTU’s platform called the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), and I’ve been taking a few courses here and there to see what I enjoy. I find it quite useful because it exposes me to a wide range of possible career pathways.

There’s also been news of young adults being too picky about jobs, and not hungry enough for work. What are your thoughts on that?

Charmaine: I think I do understand where they are coming from, actually. A lot of young people these days want to find a job that they’re passionate about, as opposed to just finding work for the sake of it. Which is why a lot of them also job-hop, because they want to know that it’s something that they really want to do before they commit.

Cheryl: Yeah, I feel the same way. And young people these days are about working smart instead of working hard, so it’s understandable that they may come across as ‘picky’ to some employers. Plus, a lot of us also recognise that life isn’t just about work. So when looking for jobs, we need to guard our own perspectives and values as well.

What do you think about Delane Lim’s comment on Facebook about young workers?

Charmaine: I don’t think it’s wrong of them to be upfront about their expectations during the interviews. Because we also need to know our rights as employees, and we need to know what we’re getting into. So getting more information about little things like the company’s culture is also important, it could even be a possible pull factor.

Cheryl: It’s a two-way street, really. It’s kind of like informed consent, because if I’m going to be your employee I feel like I have a right to know these things. There needs to be communication and agreement between employer and employee for things to work. I don’t assume to know what your rights are, so neither should you assume that you know mine.

A simple case of miscommunication?

Perhaps the misunderstanding between older employers and younger employees could just be a simple problem of miscommunication during interviews. Younger employees asking about benefits and staff allowances may not necessarily mean that they’re not willing to “be humble” or “suffer”, but rather just an attempt to better understand what a certain role entails. Older employers, on the other hand, might also need to take into consideration what the younger generation of workers value when looking for a job, such as passion and working smart — who knows, maybe these skills could be used to improve the company in more ways than one.


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