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Who says China's new young are stubborn and spoiled?
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The resignation letter from Chunxin came as a complete surprise. Just two years out of college, she was almost always the first to arrive in the morning and among the last to leave at night. At very meeting, she would have a pen in hand, taking notes diligently. She rarely asked questions, and when prompted to speak, she would blush and stammer. But she did her work beautifully, and every in a while, she would meekly voice a brilliant suggestion to make every head turn.

In a nutshell, she was nothing of the stereotypical spoiled post-80s kids one had heard so much about; rather, she seemed the stereotypical hardworking Chinese employee every boss would love to have.

Yet, now this stereotypical hardworking employee wanted to quit.

I arrived early in the morning to find her alone in the office. We sat down to talk, and she explained the key points in her long resignation letter: too much work, not learning enough, and feeling insecure with not learning enough. Plus, she wanted to do her job well, which led to long hours, leaving no time for her personal interests.

Oh, that should be easy, I thought to myself. I reminded her that it is natural to be overwhelmed by the real-world work environment, that on-the-job learning is a lot more chaotic and unstructured than school learning, and that the stress over obstacles was natural.

I could see her resolution waver a bit, in her eyes. Hadn't I just made a logically irrefutable case? She had not gone to a big-name university and her introverted personality had given us doubts at first. How could she possibly leave this precious opportunity to work for a multi-national for the other option?

Then she said no. She wanted more time to herself.

Ok. I took a deep breath and tried my big brother approach. Let's forget we are boss and employee here, I said. When I was at your age, I was confused about the future as well. I wished someone could have guided me a little in my early career. So here's my suggestion to you - stay here for two years, despite your insecurity and confusion, for having an international company on your resume will go a long way, regardless of what you plan to do in future.

She kept silent while I ranted on. Could she possibly refuse my sincerity? In my days, a chance to work for an international brand name would be a gold find for the newly graduated. In my days, any decision to leave a well-treaded track would have been an agonized decision. Moreover, aren't we Chinese taught from babyhood to suffer and sacrifice for a future payback? We had interns who gave up their preferred professions for the stable State-owned banks and oil companies. She could not be that different.

She agreed to think about it for a day. Then on Saturday, she called and said that she still wanted to leave. She said that the new job, though glamour-less, would give her more time to learn and think.

I listened to her halting speech in disbelief. What's happening to today's kids to make them so pig-headed about what they want? Don't they see the benefits of heeding their elders' advice and paying their dues in the right way to get ahead?

Yet I had to give them credit for doing what they wanted. It is not something that my generation would have chosen so resolutely. We worried too much about stability, direction, and the many what-ifs. We may have wasted too much precious time precisely for not taking the time to think and learn. The new generation, despite their spoiled stubbornness and egotism, has indeed progressed by being so sure of what they want.

So I told her over the phone - best of luck with what you have chosen in life.

(China Daily September 3, 2009)

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