A report published in Medical Xpress over the weekend suggests that young professionals are particularly incapable of adjusting to job ambiguity. When surveyed, an alarming portion professed feelings of stress and a lack of confidence in the face of uncertainty.
Curiously enough, older workers were not only found to experience less anxiety over new challenges but they also proved to be better at adjusting to them. Because globalization and automation have fattened the need for adaptability I’ve spent some considerable time ruminating over it. My thoughts on the philosophical implications of this find can be found here, but I’ve yet to explore the tangible ones.
There are several proposed causes of my generation’s allergy to unmapped terrain. One, also cited in Medical Xpress’ report, is a cultural one. The idea is that a shift to soft-overbearing parenting has produced adults that cower when presented with problems that lack a definitive solution. This explanation often bleeds into a larger polemic about political correctness, so forgive my decision not to dissect it too thoroughly except to say: If it is a cause I don’t buy it to be a primary one.
5 steps forward, 10 steps back
The Medical Xpress study didn’t find that younger workers were any less excited by new challenges, they just lacked the tools to properly cope with them. Exactly why is that?
The most compelling theory on the matter sets its crosshair on the advancement of technology – which, poetically enough, also serves as one of the reasons young professionals need to be adaptable in the first place. The technology most integrated into our daily lives reliably reduces our exposure to ambiguity. At the risk of sounding like the bitter foggy that I’m not, I fear we’ve been hijacked by too many devices of convenience.
Marvels like Shazam and Wikipedia have made the idea of day-to-day problem solving somewhat outmoded and Peter O’Connor and Karen Becker, quite correctly condemn video games as a toxic enforcer of repetition.
The panic so pervasive in young people besieged by flux can only be undone by reconditioning. If we’re going to reap the benefits of technology that makes our lives so much easier we must also seek out things that tax the mind. We must immerse ourselves in new things, surround ourselves with different kinds of people and make a point to seek out new environments.
Abigail Hess of CNBC believes that the kind of jobs that will be the most useful in the economy of the future requires of us skills that “separate us from software.” One-quarter of jobs will be affected by advancements in technology. A valuable employee is a versatile one.
Develop your mindfulness, nurture your emotional intelligence – aspire to be unfazed by unfamiliar landscapes.