Yeru Ebuen –
There’s nothing more important to millennials than work-life balance and personal and career growth. With a career spanning over 10 years, I’ve seen different kinds of bosses and have experienced different company cultures. It’s often hard for millennials to find a job that is a perfect fit for them.
Omani youth are no different. At least to the number of students and fresh graduates that I talked with.
Recently, I got reconnected with a previous intern who shared with me that she successfully found a job. Being with the company for almost six months, she shared she was happy that she got work in the industry that she really wanted but her frustration is that — there seem to be no room for growth.
She opined that after going through rigorous training in the university and after finishing a five-year course, it was instilled to her by her teachers that she needed to be in control of her career and not just a passive bystander. She was taught to be industrious, to be inquisitive, to have a mind of her own, to think and to innovate.
But to her surprise, she ended up working with a bunch of people that she hasn’t even opened her mouth yet, the answer was already no. She noted that she was quite surprised that she was made to function like a robot where whatever garbage was put in, it’s the very same garbage one has to put out.
In our barely 20-minute talk, I can see the disappointment on her face. I also noted a hint of defeat like it won’t take very long and she would have to give up this industry that she truly loved.
She was one of the brightest interns who joined us and having assessed her performance, she was one of the very few that got very high marks from me and along with it, a glowing recommendation. I’ve known her as an innovator, a quick thinker and a multi-tasker — an Omani who can think on her feet and can run after great stories.
But these skills, she said she has to let go. Now, she is stuck on a desk following what people tell her to do. She can’t make any slight deviations. In short, “Just follow what we say and there is no problem and you can work here till you retire.”
What a waste of talent really.
This quick interaction led me to a series of questions. In Oman, do we send our students to university for them to learn skills and widen their brains only to end up dumping them in routine works fitting for people already headed for retirement?
How many companies in the country give voice to fresh graduates? Or is it a trend to hire them, destroy their optimism and zeal and make them understand that there is nothing new they can bring to the table? How many companies are actually grooming their workers to be innovators and industry movers and shakers? What kind of programmes are in development for them and as workers of the future, are companies moving towards creating engagement or is this simply the job of the government to create programmes like Tanfidh?
One of the best company cultures I’ve seen is that of Thomson Reuters. They know that their leaders don’t have all the answers. Despite all their available technologies, they also know that their young workforce is their competitive, if not the best, advantage.
Annually, the company launches a global search for ideas. It starts with a very basic question. “What is your idea for a new product?” From this question, stems a few more harnessing the development of the idea.
At the end of six months, they select the top ten that has all the potential to become a multi-million-dollar innovation whether in technology, finance or legal industry. An industry expert and one of the VPs work with the owner of the idea to develop it further. As an end result, they have groomed a bright employee and they have a potentially great product in hand. Win-win.
While for sure there is a lot of argument why this is not applicable in Oman, I am hoping that it is where companies in the country are heading.
One of my favourite quotes is that “the youth is the hope of the motherland.” But fresh graduates like the one I’ve met — full of potential, smart and a possible mover of the industry — would not be able to reach their potential if we don’t give them a chance.
Let’s not lump all our fresh graduates as clueless. When we do, the disservice and the loss is always on us.