June 22, 2012 10:46 pm

Little Johnny wants a job (work optional)

If you can’t make good coffee and take coats, there’s a good chance you’re not going to make a great senior editor

There’s a strong chance that earlier this week (or perhaps next) the following piece of correspondence fluttered into your inbox. While the details might differ, the general tone will have gone something like this:

Greetings,

It’s remarkable that the summer’s already here. What are your plans? I do hope business is going well and that you had a good first half-year. Thankfully, it’s all shaped up to be far better than what we were discussing back at Christmas.

I’m sorry we didn’t manage to grab drinks when I last passed through town but I should be back your way in the coming weeks, so hopefully we can do something then.

We’re taking the kids to northern Italy on a hiking and cycling trip next week, so hopefully we’ll see you on our return. Can you believe Elliott’s starting his first year at university (he’s going to be doing a BA in creative communications) and Sebastian’s going to travel for a couple of months and then look for a bit of work experience.

I know it might be a bit late to be asking but, given your expansion, I was wondering whether you might have any internships going? Elliott hasn’t had much practical experience in the working world, given all the clubs and courses he was enrolled in during high school, but I think he could be a real asset shadowing someone for a few weeks.

Also, Sebastian’s got a real talent – very organised (he arranged his mum’s apps on her iPhone alphabetically and also made a real paper photo album of her photos – so clever) and always eager to please. He’s booked a lot of his travel already over the next year but has a few weeks here and there where he could be really useful to someone on your marketing team. He likes thinking up concepts and developing big ideas but he already told us he doesn’t actually want to sell. I can totally understand where he’s coming from.

Anyway, let me know who they should send their CVs to and hopefully you can put in a good word. No pressure but it would be a great help as the boys have put so much into the past few years at school and I know they’d learn a lot from you and your colleagues.

Have a great summer!

Kind regards.

Your dear friend XXXXX.

So far I’ve received a couple of these letters (from acquaintances and close associates) and had to restrain myself from firing back a frank response. While it’s generally recognised in the global workplace that there’s a serious issue with Generation Y and their neediness, lack of general knowledge (I’ll just Google that ... ) and understanding of authority, it’s hard to write off a whole generation when their parents (and teachers) are largely responsible for creating such a culture of entitlement.

It’s increasingly rare that people applying for internships in my field (publishing and branding) have spent time stocking shelves, scooping ice cream, waiting tables or scrubbing floors. Sometimes I wonder if part-time jobs are left off CVs because they might say too much about a potential candidate, or whether many simply can’t be bothered to hold down a job between terms. Sadly, I suspect it’s more of the latter.

My favourite letters are the ones that say there’s a willingness “to fetch coffee, work late and even empty the bins”. Fantastic! The global economy is now safe thanks to your commitment to gingerly rolling up your sleeves and doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing.

In the coming month or so I’ll host a little summit for my most senior colleagues and I’m thinking that the lead item on the agenda should be a rethink of how and whom we hire. We do have an induction programme that involves many newcomers starting out on reception before moving up in the company (if you can’t smile, organise FedEx pick-ups, make good coffee and take coats, then there’s a good chance you’re not going to make a great account director or senior editor) – but perhaps it’s time to add a few other basic qualifications to our recruitment page.

Maybe Sebastian and Elliott’s parents would think twice about sending along such nonsensical letters if we listed the following qualifications for internships:

must have worked full-time, paid, over a full summer break;

must have worked in a service-based position for the equivalent of one term – preference will be given to those who have worked in bars, restaurants, retail and other hospitality venues;

should have a clear understanding of what it means to put in a full day’s work and that it doesn’t involve having a variety of chat screens and social media pages open;

should have a clear understanding that No actually means No;

being offered a job, no matter how junior, is in fact a privilege and not a right. The rights bit comes only after you’re given a full-time gig.

Next week I’ll be discussing why parents should also think about taking summer jobs rather than holidays.

Tyler Brûlé is editor-in-chief of Monocle magazine

tyler.brule@ft.com

More columns at www.ft.com/brule

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