I found Tom Jensen’s Front Porch essay (May 17) to be a bit off-putting for a number of reasons.
First, it seems Jensen has somehow missed the fact that the American culture in general is absolutely obsessed with youth, who have opportunities at young ages to a much greater extent than most cultures in the world offer. Older employees are often discarded–along with their retirement plans and higher salaries–in exchange for younger people willing to work at lower wages without benefits. Second, he seems to imply that middle-age workers are “as talented as they will ever be” and are a lousy bet for an employer despite their experience. Tell that to my friend who retired as a municipal department head only to attend nursing school and begin a second career in her 50s. Third, he also seems to think that experience is overrated and that young, educated people entering the workforce should be offered good, high-paying jobs over more experienced candidates for their potential alone. I agree that education is essential and should be valued. I also agree that young people in any organization are incredibly valuable resources and generally bring a level of excitement and enthusiasm to their work that is energizing, but as cliche as it may be, experience still is the best education. A willingness to work at an entry-level position to gain it is–to me as an employer–an excellent sign of a rising star. I’ve gained as much quality experience from my times waiting tables and cleaning instruments in the medical clinic as I have from my “professional” positions. What turns me off as an employer is a sense of entitlement. My advice to Mr. Jensen: If you want to stay in the state, be willing to take whatever work you are offered. Learn from people who do have experience. Give back to your community and become part of it. Your opportunities will come.