Generations at work: Is the real injustice that success is elusive?

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LONDON — When I left university my dad wrote me three letters and sent me back to Montreal to deliver them to people.  I met the addressees, handed over the letter and waited.

“Nepotism is killing this business,” responded one gentleman. Another was less churlish and took me on as a news desk copy editor at the Montreal Daily News.  Which was very kind.  Although, admittedly when I asked to be paid after 3-4 months he sacked me.

I am interested in generations because of the uproar about protesters this week in London.  Sons and daughters of the rich and famous followed themselves on Facebook while screaming around London in chaos mode.

“I’m exhausted,” one well-heeled man I know exclaimed. “I had to find my son last night, passed out in a phone booth. He’d been hit on the head with a police shield.”


Successive generations feel compelled to rebel and test the system as part of growing up.  ‘If mum got arrested for a good cause then surely I should be able to do the same.’

However, just as the causes are harder to make truly black and white (were all the ‘protesters’ really students? Do they all really need subsidies for their education?) So too the nuances and requirements for success at work get more complex.  Increasingly good jobs are based on the elusive need for a good disposition (EQ, some like to say), a generally high level of curiosity and intelligence, and the motivation and drive to get things done without supervision.

Where do you go to get that?

They never used to teach it as part of most university or secondary school programmes.  But they’re starting to now.

At my dad’s old university, Bishop’s University, in Canada, the graduates are offered courses in softer social skills. And the courses are sold out.  At my daughter’s school they get taught ‘Personal Social Health & Economic’ and it leads to some great discussions at home. (We’ve got one Gordon Brown to thank for that I am told.)

If you look at the FTSE 100 list of major companies in the UK, a remarkable number make and sell nothing but services:

If you take out the mining companies (who don’t actually produce much in Britain) then the numbers go even higher.

We are close to being a ‘brain power ghetto’.  Its what and how you can deliver person-to-person that counts.

And to many people that’s quite a scary proposition.


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