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Souls at Work
The author of "Virtual Faith: The Irreverent Spiritual Quest of Gen X," talks about the importance of pluralism, pop culture, and generation-sensitive mentors.
Those who want to understand twentysomethings must take our pop culture seriously.
Corporate America has a lot to learn before it can tap into the full potential of young professionals. I have become convinced of this through my experience as a young professional--but not in the corporate world. My working world is ministry.
I work for churches that are trying to figure out how to reach us, the post-Baby Boomer professionals who are now in our 20s and 30s. Through my work, I have seen churches learn a great deal from the people they are trying to reach. First and foremost, churches are learning to accept the priority systems that young people use to make sense of an increasingly complicated world. A church that learns this lesson creates room for young people to be themselves and to see the congruencies between what they need and what the church has to offer.
I think the same lesson applies to businesses. By making an effort to understand young workers' priorities, companies can come to understand the souls behind their work.
Pluralism is a virtue
Yet, out of our varied backgrounds, this generation has developed one common priority: a belief that difference is something to be protected and treasured. We have a fundamental moral commitment to the value of pluralism, which gives rise to a strong ethic of tolerance. Our generation is at the forefront of accepting this country's ever-increasing ethnic and cultural diversity, and we expect everyone else to make an honest effort to catch up. We have grown up surrounded by real differences--sexual, racial, religious--and struggled to accept those differences without prejudice. We will not respect an organization that thrives on excluding others or making us conform.
Popular culture is important
Community inspires loyalty
Humility is the center of all authority
Generation-sensitive mentors needed
The best employees in the world of business, like the most faith-filled adults in the world of ministry, are those who feel satisfied in many different areas of their life. Economic satisfaction is never completely separate from spiritual happiness. We need our employers to share their passion for the job with us and to help us find satisfying work that will make a difference in life outside work. Many young workers are looking to combine a meaningful life with a meaningful job. Employers just need to remember that not everyone defines "meaningful" the same way.
Tom Beaudoin, 30, is the author of Virtual Faith: The Irreverent Spiritual Quest of Generation X (Jossey-Bass, 1998). Some of the ideas in this article first appeared in the April 1999 issue of U.S. Catholic magazine.
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