Why are we so obsessed with what people were doing as teenagers?

by TheSourceress on 18/12/2013

I was mainly watching Star Trek and knitting as a teenager, so not much has changed for me. Most people are not so set in their ways though.

Last week I had a couple of conversations about whether or not it is necessary for those recruited into certain job roles to have a degree, more specifically a 2:1 or better from a Russell Group University. Some jobs absolutely need very specific University qualifications – like being a Surgeon, for example. The only justification for the role I was working on was that the person needed to have very strong analytical skills.

I realised that when I am sourcing I rarely look at a person’s academics, unless they need a particular qualification, like a Cisco certification or Qualified Teacher Status. Obviously this would not hold true for graduate roles, but I have never really got involved with that aspect of recruitment. I am usually much more interested in a person’s critical experience.

That this is not the case for most hiring managers and recruiters. Many will put a lot of stock in the degree obtained by a potential candidate.

Perhaps this comes from the fact that I haven’t found my degree particularly helpful in my life outside of academia. I still draw on skills I learned at A-Level, GCSE and Primary School but rarely feel that I would not be able to achieve what I’m doing if I had not been to university. Some of my smartest friends either did not go to university or did not finish their degrees.

I don’t think you can judge someone’s career prospects based on what they were doing between the ages of 18 and 21. Sure – it doesn’t do any harm to see great academic achievements on someone’s CV or LinkedIn profile, but I would never discount someone that did not have them.

Last week also saw a resurgence in the debate over what teenagers say online coming back to haunt them in the future and preventing them from getting a job.

Teens are a large part of the online community now. If they weren’t then I doubt that “Selfie” would have been the Oxford English Dictionaries Word of the Year 2013! (The selfies posted above were taken solely for research purposes, of course ;-) )

Let’s face it, as teenagers we all did stupid stuff. We all went to school dressed a Klingon or threw up in the bus stop outside the Purple Turtle (OK, maybe the first one was just me). We all insulted people in the heat of the moment to chants of “fight, fight, fight” in the playground, before we knew better how to handle people and life. Just because there was no one standing by with a smart phone to capture the moment, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. It doesn’t mean that most of us weren’t irresponsible and obnoxious. It’s normal. Teenagers are learning what life is all about.

It isn’t teens that need to change their behaviour; we just need to get over it. We need to stop judging 25, 35, 45 and 55 year olds based on what they did when they were teenagers. People change and evolve. I might still be knitting and watching Star trek, but I am a very different person (particularly when it comes to my attitudes to work) than I was 10 years ago, even 5 years ago.

What do you think? Should we be able to look at what great things candidates are doing now, and leave their teenage years in the past, or am I missing something?

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