As a parent of a Millennial and a search specialist with experience running graduate recruitment programmes, as well as being a coach who has written about some entry-level issues, I am often approached by young people to support them in their job search.
A lot of column inches are dedicated to descriptions of the similarities in some attitudes between Baby Boomers and their Gen Y offspring. In the matter of job search I am finding this to be true. Astonishingly, but for both similar and different reasons, entry-level job seekers are just as closed to new job seeking methodologies as their 50 – something parents.
Gen Y cut their teeth on modern technology. If my kids and their friends are a good yardstick, their cell phones will possibly need to be surgically removed from their bodies at some point in their lives. They barely walk 10 paces without an iPod. Their every waking moment is documented on Facebook and they communicate and disseminate information with their peers at a speed that is unfathomable to us older types.
An article in the Economist The net generation unplugged suggests that for the generation of Digital Natives “Growing up with the internet, it is argued, has transformed their approach to education, work and politics”
Where is “Gen Y not”?
So if this is true, why do they so obviously struggle with applying the technologies that make up the very fabric of their lives to look for a job?
Clive Shepherd makes the point in his post “Is the net generation really unique ?” that although Gen Y are familiar with social and digital media ” ..that doesn’t mean they understand – or care – about their power and significance; and just because they use these technologies to interact with their peers, doesn’t mean they’ll expect – or desire – to do the same at work”.
This has been exactly my experience. Although this generation has the skills to tap into all the information of job search available on-line for entry-level candidates, they are either choosing not to access it, or if they do, choosing not to implement the recommended strategies.
I contacted someone who is close to the pain of the unemployed graduate, Alex Try at Interns Anonymous. “I can’t say I’ve ever heard anyone using social media for job finding. Nobody. I wouldn’t think it would be an issue of resistance… more that it is doesn’t even come into consideration. As an entry-level job seeker myself – the idea of using Twitter and Facebook is a bit ridiculous. I can’t even imagine how it would work … I never even considered that LinkedIn might be used. I have never heard anyone mention social media in relation to a job search”
My experience is that almost without exception that this is the sentiment of most of the graduates with whom I have been in contact internationally. The standard of their CVs is almost universally inadequate and they would be lucky indeed to get past any ATS. 90% of my personal contacts are resistant to wholly embracing suggestions to create a ” personal brand ” and harnessing social and professional media in their job search. At a time when unemployment levels in the 18 – 24 demographic hovers at an all time high at up to 18% in some countries, you would have thought that any tips to raise visibility would be readily adopted. The 10% of my contacts that did exactly that, were successful in securing employment.
Gen Y Should I?
I usually encourage them all to set up LinkedIn profiles, but once they go off my radar they tend not to maintain them – even the ones who get jobs. I am happy to report that my son has now replaced his tree photo with a personal one! Their Facebook pages are generally sacrosanct, reserved for social purposes only, accompanied by a deep reluctance to use them for any professional reasons. The idea that e-sourcers or CV data miners look on Facebook every day for entry-level candidates fills them with horror and suspicion. They can be forgiven for this when there is so much conflicting information circulating on this subject. I work in search – and trust me, I use these tools, especially professional platforms every day, as do my associates.
Filling the education gap
Gen Y clearly can’t get the support they need in understanding the potential of these technologies from their Boomer parents, because not only do they share the same doubts and reluctance, their resistance is further compounded by a skill set deficit. On top of that Boomers using these limited skills very often coach their offspring in their job search efforts, with poor results.
So who then can fill that education gap? I checked out the web sites of the career’s services of a dozen top universities internationally. There was barely a mention of modern job search strategies, other than a passing reference to “internet research” or “networking”. Alex adds “university careers services have spent more time telling me what I can’t do, rather than offering ideas/suggestions. “Be a teacher” or “have a look online” seem to be the standard responses… “.
A life skill
Laurent Brouat in his post “The failure of business schools and universities “ makes a case for including job search techniques into university curricula. Like me he finds today’s graduates woefully unprepared for what they need to do to enter the work place. Although I wouldn’t go along with his suggestion that 25% of course time should be devoted to job search skills, finding a job is an imperative life skill and I believe deserves official and specific academic attention. This should cover networking actual and on-line , plus creating, marketing and delivering a strong personal brand .
The ultimate irony is that despite all the information that is readily available on the internet, the generation which is best equipped to exploit these technologies for career advancement, doesn’t recognise the significance of bridging the gap between social and profession on- line connections. Together with their parents they fall into demographics hardest hit by the recession, but identically feel that these new technologies are for “other people” , older or younger, but certainly not them!
But perhaps Gen Y will eventually become “Gen Y I should! ” and just give it a whirl. Only time will tell.