I've been thinking a lot about the NetGeneration these days, given that they are in their second year in the workforce, the biggest demographic shift in history and how I work with people of various ages. But one smaller point is the differences in behaviors, skills and aptitudes for tools isn't just from growing up with new abundances and ubiquities.
Some of it is the same old same old.
When I got my first internship, at a non-profit in DC, I was told to do two things. The first was to write my own press release about joining. It was supposed to be an exercise, never posted, and worked to really get me thinking about myself and more. Today it would have been posted. Interesting.
The second was I was told to go to the file cabinets and organize them. A little odd, perhaps forward looking, or reflective of the resources at bay. Some of it really was industrial work, typing labels and folding them with just enough friction so they would stay in the plastic holder of the folder without slipping to the right or left. But confronting a system of organization, a pile in want, and what it could be and how to report how it was improved was both daunting and just the challenge to feel like my first real work.
Later I did things on my own volition like a database of people, or newsletter and such with more modern tools -- but it was these things I was presented with. Forward looking in function, not in form. Later on in life, as a professional, form followed function, as form follows funding or technology.
So while I have seen NetGens come into their first work with better ways to do things because they were exposed to push button publishing or tagging or wikis as consumers or students -- there are first tasks, and they are instructive.
Take spreadsheets, for example. I'd bet every liberal arts student does basic calculations as individuals in school, but its when they come to work that they learn how to use it with others. Or in groups. Or how inter-worksheet models actually run companies.
There are new aptitudes, fresh views and attitudes they bring to work. But when they get there and confront what was it gets interesting. I hope it does for them as it certainly does for me.