We are in a period of high youth unemployment and extremely high inflation, and, as a result, a large number of young professionals want to leave the country, sometimes incurring massive debts to do so. Therefore, we at Politeknik are attempting to illuminate the circumstances that force engineers, architects, and city planners to leave their home country.
We reached out to five young engineers and architects and spoke with them about their work experiences. We will share our findings from the online meeting in this report.
The participants are men and women who are currently employed in relatively good and secure positions. The experiences they shared with us were useful in demonstrating how the standards for ‘good work’ have lowered.
Joining the Workforce
In Turkey, university students enter the labor force while still enrolled. This is not surprising given the large number of universities offering low-quality education and the scarcity of good-paying jobs on the market. During their student years, they attend certificate programs and participate in professional activities as well as other career-related activities to build a network of acquaintances, as well as other career-related activities. When they still find no jobs available, they fill this “void” with master’s theses.
Even though it is still common to find jobs through friends and close contacts, looking for work could itself be considered a job. Before graduating, students send their resumes to hundreds of companies. The general expectation is that they will be able to interview ten companies out of a hundred they may apply to.
From Students to Workers, What Has Changed?
Recent graduates understand and like the discipline that the new social environment of workplace demands, however they don’t fully grasp the impact of centering work in their life. They feel they have developed the skills brought on by employment such as sleeping on a schedule, taking responsibility, confidence, being outgoing, negotiation skills, etc. On the other hand, work takes hold over their whole life:
Responsibility is a must. Every project has a deadline, if you fail to deliver on time once, even if you are really good in the next 20 projects, that could still create problems in the future. (C, Male, Engineer)
I have become a more serious person. (B, Male, Engineer)
I have developed a time anxiety. I have problems making time for my life. Being in a white-collar job takes life. (D, Female, Architect)
You are at your job all day. We will never be this young again. It’s true that working satisfies you but being forced to negotiate for some time off from work, or frankly having to get someone else’s permission for your personal life holds you back. (F, Female, Engineer)
They are questioning whether “it is right to spend all your day at work” or whether “can you be really free if you have to ask for permission for an hour of your day. Work centered world is a phenomenon which has been practiced on previous generations and highly discussed in academic fields for decades, has become a more common discussion subject with the coming of the global epidemic. The graduates we interviewed showed interest in the subject as well.
Young professionals have friends outside of workplace, so they don’t feel asocial. They have hobbies and a social life.
For that reason, they tend to have major problems with bosses and managers who disregard the boundaries of their workers’ social life by overworking them, forcing them to work at weekends, etc. Those issues are more frequent in small businesses.
Many workers lost their jobs during the pandemic. Recent graduates who worked from home at their first job had issues with communication. They didn’t know the company language for email and had problems that could have been easily solved in person. It took them longer to solve these issues via email and they felt lonely at home.
“My manager wrote “ok” in his emails I couldn’t understand if that meant a good or a bad thing” (A, male, Engineer)
Our research showed that for recent graduates, even though direct benefits like wages, insurance etc had an impact, they also care immensely about less concrete issues like the social environment.
We observed a giant rift between the reality of work and what graduates wanted from their jobs. The biggest difference was their wage: the wage they get is much less than that which they think they deserve. The second big difference was ambiguous work titles. All of the participants were convinced that the biggest problem for recent graduates was low wages. Recent graduates thought that unemployment and overwork were more salient issues for them. The highest area of concern was about whether their work was being recognized and whether projects were being reviewed against concrete criteria.
Uncertainty of The Future
Workers from this new generation don’t want to spend their whole career at the same company like previous generations. They don’t feel relieved after they get their first job. Even if they are happy with their current job, they still have a backup plan. It is said that in times of crisis, you don’t really plan ahead. However, young people always have a future plan. They are constantly looking for information about other companies. Those who know a second language look into opportunities to work abroad. They prioritize the companies that offer them a future plan, they want equal benefits with their coworkers, and they care a lot about their relationship with the company and their coworkers.
Some graduates are not happy at companies which have political connections with the AKP and which reflect their politics in the company culture. Many recent graduates even said that they would prefer a lower wage in another company. This proves that for graduates there are red lines for work life. However, those red lines are only related to working conditions for the time being. It can be speculated that those red lines may include professional ethics later on.
All those factors sometimes force companies to provide opportunities such as seminars and professional education to their employees so that they won’t want to leave.
Even though young professionals think their positions are relatively secure, conditions of their friends worry them, this worry creates an anxiety of, if they don’t hold tight to their jobs, they might fail in life. Those experiences include wages that are lower than the legal minimum wage, doing errands around the office, insurance cuts, etc. There is also discrimination against female workers.
“There are offices which force their workers to work on weekends. When you go to a coffee shop to relax, they call you for a meeting. I understand that sometimes you have to work intensely, but this shouldn’t happen constantly.” (A, Male, Engineer)
“Companies should understand that their workers are human and need to have a social life. Sometimes our female colleagues are sexually harassed at small companies, but they are afraid to resign because of the current economic conditions.” (B, Male, Engineer)
We had published an article related to the last subject, you can reach it in here:
We observed in our previous research that 50% of recent graduates still take financial support from their families. 61% of them still live with family members (parents or siblings).
The age of marriage has increased and young people live with their parents longer than previous generations. However, this doesn’t mean that they don’t grow up, it means that their jobs can’t provide them with an independent life. They think buying a house or a car is some kind of a privilege that only previous generations of white-collar workers could afford.
Geographic location does not make any difference because in big cities expenses are high, and in small cities wages are low.
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