Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Wasted Resources

Two young women of my acquaintance find themselves in jobs where they are under-utilized. One graduated from college three years ago, the other two years ago. Both went to excellent schools and did very well there. One chose a cozy small company environment, the other a big company. Both were hand-picked for their positions after in one case an internship and in the other a ridiculously rigorous interviewing process. And both have spent the time since they were hired competently doing the meager work they've been given, begging for additional work, looking for opportunities to take initiative, and trying to fill up the hours they're required to spend at the office without going completely crazy. As one of them said, you can only surf the net for so long without getting bored.

I'm sure in both cases there's plenty of work to be done, organizationally speaking. And I'm also sure both young women are highly thought of. Both have gotten good formal reviews, for what that's worth, and both get along well with their coworkers. Both even have impressive written job descriptions. (If they actually
had the jobs described, they'd be swamped.) So why can't the companies that hired them live up to their end of the bargain and keep these employees busy? These women want to work. They want to be challenged and stimulated and busy. They want to learn and grow. They're dream employees - interested, smart, anxious to contribute, and cheap. You could give them just about anything substantive to do and they'd not only benefit from it, but be thrilled to do it, too.

I can guess the reasons they're being under-utilized. Managers who don't know how to manage. Poorly conceived organizational structure. Generalized disorganization. No time to train new people (in that classic "there's no time to plug the hole in the boat because I'm too busy bailing water out of it" silliness). Whatever. What bugs me isn't so much that companies can be lame in this regard (no news there, really), but that two bright, enthusiastic young women who came out of college all excited about the future are now struggling with disillusionment, broken promises, frayed dreams and anxiety about being bored full-time for the next 40 years. And they aren't even 25 yet.

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