Most readers will be busy today, spending time with the mundane tasks needed to make Thanksgiving the holiday it was intended to be: watching Dallas lose to the Redskins, saying nice things about a turkey, marveling at the cylindrical nature of cranberry sauce in its natural state.
While many are offended by family values as a political plank, not only because they’re the values cherished by someone else’s family to be imposed on other people’s families, but because we have family values of our own. We do not eschew family values as a voluntary exercise. We love family values, and today is a day to honor them. Often with pie.
We do so by sharing our good fortune in having such a wonderful family and such abundance in our lives with those less fortunate. We do not do so because a judge in Stark County, Ohio, well known for the disgusting stripsearch of Hope Steffey, thinks that would be a “poetic” sentence.
In Ohio, Stark County Common Pleas Judge Frank Forchione has sentenced Valerie Rodgers, 46, to making Thanksgiving dinner for three police officers on leave or unable to work. In addition to the dinner, she will be on one-year probation for felony assault and three misdemeanors. This follows another judge who sentenced a teen to ten years of church.It’s good to embrace faith, but it’s not something that can be imposed by judicial fiat. If there is poetic justice, Valerie Rodgers will be a lousy cook. And Forchione will find himself alone today, eating the microwave version of turkey.
Rodgers pleaded guilty to knocking over a police officer while he was directing traffic.Judges know that this type of punishment is hugely popular with the public. It is a trend that is erasing the line between entertainment and the law. She has been a continuing and growing trend of this type of abuse by judges…These judges make a mockery out of our court system and sit like little Caesars in meting out their own idiosyncratic forms of justice — often to the thrill of citizens. They degrade not just their courts in such novel sentencing but the legal system as a whole. This judge appears to relish his reputation as the gavel of God — sending felons to embrace faith.
But Thanksgiving is one of the uniquely secular holidays, an America invention remembering how Native Americans, called Indians for hundreds of years until someone decided that it was hurtful, gave us help and comfort before we destroyed the fabric of their world to make it more suitable to our desires. That means that there will be no cranberry sauce today in the real India, where the denizens are properly called Indians, even though they have no personal relationships with tomahawks.
Yet, despite their tryptophan deficiency, it appears they are far more like us than we realize. Via Bill Henderson, a letter to graduating Indian students from Mohit Chandra, a KPMG partner, that first appeared in the New York Times, and which I post in full, as it captures the spirit of the day:
Dear Graduates and Post-Graduates,
This is your new employer. We are an Indian company, a bank, a consulting firm, a multinational corporation, a public sector utility and everything in between. We are the givers of your paycheck, of the brand name you covet, of the references you will rely on for years to come and of the training that will shape your professional path.
Millions of you have recently graduated or will graduate over the next few weeks. Many of you are probably feeling quite proud – you’ve landed your first job, discussions around salaries and job titles are over, and you’re ready to contribute.
Life is good – except that it’s not. Not for us, your employers, at least. Most of your contributions will be substandard and lack ambition, frustrating and of limited productivity. We are gearing ourselves up for broken promises and unmet expectations. Sorry to be the messenger of bad news.
Today, we regret to inform you that you are spoiled. You are spoiled by the “India growth story”; by an illusion that the Indian education system is capable of producing the talent that we, your companies, most crave; by the imbalance of demand and supply for real talent; by the deceleration of economic growth in the mature West; and by the law of large numbers in India, which creates pockets of highly skilled people who are justly feted but ultimately make up less than 10 percent of all of you.
So why this letter, and why should you read on? Well, because based on collective experience of hiring and developing young people like you over the years, some truths have become apparent. This is a guide for you and the 15- to 20-year-olds following in your footsteps – the next productive generation of our country. Read on to understand what your employers really want and how your ability to match these wants can enrich you professionally.
There are five key attributes employers typically seek and, in fact, will value more and more in the future. Unfortunately, these are often lacking in you and your colleagues.
1.You speak and write English fluently: We know this is rarely the case. Even graduates from better-known institutions can be hard to understand.
Exhibit No. 1: Below is an actual excerpt from a résumé we received from a “highly qualified and educated” person. This is the applicant’s “objective statement:”
“To be a part of an organization wherein I could cherish my erudite dexterity to learn the nitigrities of consulting”
Huh? Anyone know what that means? We certainly don’t.
And in spoken English, the outcomes are no better. Whether it is a strong mother tongue influence, or a belief (mistakenly) that the faster one speaks the more mastery one has, there is much room for improvement. Well over half of the pre-screened résumés lack the English ability to effectively communicate in business.
So the onus, dear reader, is on you – to develop comprehensive English skills, both written and oral.
2. You are good at problem solving, thinking outside the box, seeking new ways of doing things: Hard to find. Too often, there is a tendency to simply wait for detailed instructions and then execute the tasks – not come up with creative suggestions or alternatives.
Exhibit No. 2: I was speaking with a colleague of mine who is a chartered accountant from Britain and a senior professional. I asked him why the pass percentage in the Indian chartered accountant exam was so low and why it was perceived as such a difficult exam.
Interestingly (and he hires dozens of Indian chartered accountants each year), his take is as follows: the Indian exam is no harder than the British exam. Both focus on the application of concepts, but since the Indian education system is so rote-memorization oriented, Indian students have a much more difficult time passing it than their British counterparts.
Problem-solving abilities, which are rarely taught in our schooling system, are understandably weak among India’s graduates, even though India is the home of the famous “jugadu,” the inveterate problem solver who uses what’s on hand to find a solution. Let’s translate this intrinsic ability to the workforce.
3. You ask questions, engage deeply and question hierarchy: How we wish!
Exhibit No. 3: Consistently, managers say that newly graduated hires are too passive, that they are order-takers and that they are too hesitant to ask questions. “Why can’t they pick up the phone and call when they do not understand something?” is a commonly asked question.
You are also unduly impressed by titles and perceived hierarchy. While there is a strong cultural bias of deference and subservience to titles in India, it is as much your responsibility as it is ours to challenge this view.
4. You take responsibility for your career and for your learning and invest in new skills: Many of you feel that once you have got the requisite degree, you can go into cruise control. The desire to learn new tools and techniques and new sector knowledge disappears. And we are talking about you 25- to 30-year-olds – typically the age when inquisitiveness and hunger for knowledge in the workplace is at its peak.
Exhibit No. 4: Recently, our new hires were clamoring for training. Much effort went into creating a learning path, outlining specific courses (online, self-study) for each team. With much fanfare, an e-mail was sent to the entire team outlining the courses.
How many took the trainings? Less than 15 percent. How many actually read the e-mail? Less than 20 percent.
The desire to be spoon-fed, to be directed down a straight and narrow path with each career step neatly laid out, is leading you toward extinction, just like the dinosaurs. Your career starts and ends with you. Our role, as your employer, is to ensure you have the tools, resources and opportunities you need to be successful. The rest is up to you.
5. You are professional and ethical: Everyone loves to be considered a professional. But when you exhibit behavior like job hopping every year, demanding double-digit pay increases for no increase in ability, accepting job offers and not appearing on the first day, taking one company’s offer letter to shop around to another company for more money — well, don’t expect to be treated like a professional.
Similarly, stretching yourself to work longer hours when needed, feeling vested in the success of your employer, being ethical about expense claims and leaves and vacation time are all part of being a consummate professional. Such behavior is not ingrained in new graduates, we have found, and has to be developed.
So what can we conclude, young graduates?
My message is a call to action: Be aware of these five attributes, don’t expect the gravy train to run forever, and don’t assume your education will take care of you. Rather, invest in yourself – in language skills, in thirst for knowledge, in true professionalism and, finally, in thinking creatively and non-hierarchically. This will hold you in good stead in our knowledge economy and help lay a strong foundation for the next productive generation that follows you.
Together, I hope we, your employer, and you, the employee, can forge an enduring partnership.
The world may be flatter than anyone thought. The Slackoisie can take comfort in knowing they’re part of a universal movement, as well as the existence of curmudgeons (like moi) in Delhi.
For the most part, my posts end up with a cohesive theme, a point. This one is random, as are the things for which we are thankful. Both my children slept under my roof last night, in a home that had heat. For this, I am thankful. We will eat Dr. SJ’s fabulous pies after a dry turkey dinner, for which I am thankful. Maybe Jack and I will go for a ride in the Healey between games today, and if it starts up like a champ in the cold New York weather as it always does, I will be thankful, as I always am.
Perhaps some of you will persist in reading to this point, for which I am extremely thankful given its length. I write without knowing whether anyone will read, and without knowing whether it will be embraced by anyone or reviled as stupid and dangerous. Though I don’t write for your sake, I do appreciate that you spend your time reading what I write, that so many think it’s worth their time to read what I write. Thank you.
If there is any message to be had in this post, honor your own family values, whatever they may be, and try to find something to be thankful for. It’s a mean, nasty world out there. Someone will be harmed today, whether in the name of the law or to sate some narcissist’s vision of justice. Even on Thanksgiving, someone will suffer. It’s okay to take a moment to do what you can to right the wrong, and then have some pie.