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In First Jobs, Grads Sport Skills - and Attitude

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For many college students, graduation is the apex of life.

Why shouldn't it be? You've sweated through at least four years of exams and papers, and you've just been handed a certificate that says you're pretty smart.

But as twentysomethings enter the world of work, they're learning that it takes more than smarts and a new suit to succeed. Many managers and corporate recruiters say new hires - perhaps more than their predecessors - need an attitude adjustment to gain more patience and greater respect for authority.

"There's a huge difference between twentysomethings today versus the twentysomethings 10 years ago," says Bob Wery, director of college recruiting for Sears, Roebuck & Co. "They very much have an air about them of self-confidence."

Every new generation of workers clashes somewhat with the generation in power. But a profound shift in the US eocnomy is exacerbating the tension between employers and the new generation of employees. In particular, analysts say, corporate downsizing and loss of job security have made today's new hires more intent on building their skills than on patiently climbing the career ladder at a single company.

When young workers are asked what it takes to be successful in a new job, many say the same things baby boomers said: Be prepared to start at the bottom, respect workers who have come before you, and don't be a know-it-all.

Yet Generation X'ers (often dubbed "busters") seem to have a different interpretation of what some of this means. For one, they tend to be less patient than boomers were when it comes to staying on the bottom rung.

"There is certainly an attitude among them that there is less patience for the pace of progress," says Mark Chain, national director of recruiting for accounting firm Deloitte & Touche LLP.

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