Category Archives: Millenials

Worker bee or job snob? Both are suffering – a year later!

Cait Reilly  – a year down the line

I  have followed with interest the story of  Cait Reilly , the Geology graduate who instigated a judicial review for contravention of her human rights. She was made to work unpaid at Poundland, a discount store,  stacking shelves and cleaning floors,  or otherwise be obliged to forfeit her government benefits of £53 per week job seekers allowance.  This scheme ,  followed by an interview for a permanent position is supposed to funnel young people into the workplace,  although in Cait’s case the interview never materialised.  She was  already working as a volunteer in a museum which she believed would support her chosen career path.  The issue for her was not working for free, but not being paid by an organisation which could afford her to give her a salary. Also significant was that the fact that the placement would not support the pursuit of her career goals.  A year after this post was originally written Cait has now won her court case.

Complex messages
There are lots of complex messages here aren’t there? This contravention of a human right is hardly in the same category as a resident of Homs being bombarded by his/her own government,  or a detainee being tortured and walked around naked on a  dog leash in the Abu Ghraib prison. So the backlash against the seeming preciousness of Cait’s case and accusations of job snobbery were in many ways understandable.  However, it was an effective and timely move, with many companies withdrawing from the discredited scheme, where unpaid graduates filled positions which should be offered on a full-time paid basis.

Inflated expectations
As you know I  have been an early champion of the exploitation of  Gen Y and unpaid internships. But we are observing what seems to be a massive disconnect in global economies with the training of a whole generation of young people in national education systems, leaving  not only a huge number with simply nowhere to go when they graduate, but with inflated expectations. Youth unemployment is shockingly high in many countries not just in Europe and the US,  but globally.  But it is also happening at higher levels with graduate MBAs encountering the same dilemma.

 Worker bee  Many  deal with this situation by accepting any position they can get, simply to gain some type of experience, or merely to pay their bills. I spoke to John who graduated in 2009  at the height of the recession with a degree in Art. After working in a number of unpaid internships and a paid job where he was pretty ruthlessly exploited, he accepted a position in the hospitality sector gaining invaluable basic management and HR skills. The rub? In applying for jobs in his chosen area he is now told that he lacks the necessary targeted experience and effectively  has “wasted” his 2.5 post graduate years.  Manon, with her global MBA accepted a low-level position to start paying off her debts when she graduated in 2008  and now faces the stigma of having a ” confused and inconsistent” career history.

Job snob
But many don’t want to compromise in this way, sitting tight for the right opportunity. Enter now the job snob. This is a category of worker whose expectations have been increased by the culture in which they were raised and the education systems that have spewed them out.  We have a group who rightly or wrongly,  believe they are entitled to work in the field for which they have been educated,  at the level they believe they deserve and which meets the abilities they think they have, to pay off the debts they have probably accrued in the process.  They hold out for the right job, in the right sector, financially supported by their parents,  government or both.  This group is penalised for having gaps in their resumés.

Mismatch
Education systems and business organisations both play a role in this mismatch of expectations and opportunities. The business sector has to understand that the plug and play days are mainly over and many of the old assessment benchmarks are not appropriate for the times we live in.

It would seem that the only alternative would  be a utilitarian approach and to cut university courses for which there are no foreseeable employment opportunities. Now the latter route would open up a serious hornets nest debate about the philosophical role of education in our advanced civilised societies.  Should the best universities be measured by the employability of their graduates?

However, perhaps it’s just me but  a key question seems to be left unanswered in the Cait Reilly case. Why should an individual  be supported by benefits paid for by the taxpayer, work for nothing  in a profit making organisation that could afford to pay them a salary?

What do you think?

Helicopter parents crash into the workplace

Helicopter parents

I have  been somewhat bemused by the spate of   articles over the last weeks advising managers and recruiters how to treat helicopter parents in the workplace.  I do have to confess however, to quashing a particularly strong maternal urge last year to hop on the Eurostar to give my son’s boss a piece of my mind. At best he was a truly lousy manager, at worst a bully. You will be pleased to hear common sense prevailed.

Interfering or intervening?
Yesterday, I was quite taken aback by a call from a well spoken woman who introduced herself as Nina. After some solicitous enquiries about disturbing me (she wasn’t), my health (I was fine) expanding, she announced she was the mother of Christian,  a candidate I seemingly had the temerity to cut from an interview process at the end of last week. Apparently, according to Mme Nina, I had overlooked many of  petit Christian’s superlative qualities. She  politely wondered if I had the depth of insight, or indeed the very qualifications required to make such a judgement call. I was kindly therefore prevailed upon, in the nicest possible way, to reinstate him “tout de suite” .

Time wasting
It took me a good 30 seconds to  process the implications of this dialogue. I should tell you that Christian is 26 years old, probably stands at 1m 85 in his socks  and had grossly exaggerated his accomplishments, to the point where fact and fiction are completely blurred  in his petit head. He and the CV writer, possibly Mama Nina,  had wasted a number of people’s time, including mine.

I have also observed a recent trend of moving away from being exasperated with this reluctance to cut the umbilical cord,  to one of understanding and even in some cases to accommodating  this new parenting style.  Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters said as far back as 2008 HR teams should turn this trend to their advantage by striking up a relationship with the families of new recruits and accepting that winning the backing of parents can considerably smooth the path,” 

He continued   “While I wouldn’t expect to see quite so much involvement by parents once the young person gets to his second or third job, it’s best not to be too rigid about these things. It is quite acceptable for people in their mid-20s to still want loads of backing from home.”

Men and women
There are indeed very valid cases where young adults need more parental  support than would be expected at their age:  learning difficulties, health issues or disabilities come to mind. But for fully functioning, above average IQ men and women  (because this is what they are) I realise that  I am clearly out of step with the zeitgeist. I still remain firmly in the “exasperated” camp  and see this accommodation of a co-dependent trend not just as a worrying infantilisation of the work place, but also damaging to the candidates themselves.  So I urge:

Parents please:

  • Don’t write your child’s CV for him/her. They will not own their own message and fall at the first hurdle
  • Don’t send your child’s resume to prospective employers on his or her behalf. They should do that themselves.
  • Don’t call employees advocating for your offspring whether for the position itself or compensation package.  It will generally lead straight to the reject heap.  You are depriving them of learning valuable skills.
  • Don’t  accompany junior to an interview, job fair or  any other meeting in the process. This will in many cases be the kiss of death for him/her.

In the words of Pink Floyd  ” leave them kids alone

GenY please:

  • Do take responsibility for your own career strategy. Be clear about your boundaries with Mum and Dad.
  • If you need mentoring or help and your parents are too invasive,  look for a neutral professional. If you struggle financially,   maybe your parents can step in – but as a loan. Make a formal loan  agreement and make sure you pay it back.
  • Do not be afraid to fail or change your mind. Make your own decisions and accept  (and pay for) the consequences.
  • If you feel afraid to make a decision without  the deep involvement of Mum and Dad – perhaps there is a need talk to someone outside your family. Can friends or even a professional support you?

The parents of most Millenials are generally out of touch with the job search skills required in today’s market place and in many cases are  mis-advising their kids in a number of areas. Intervening (interfering?) is not doing their children any service, but depriving them of vital life lessons which contribute to their maturity and workplace value.  They are: independence,  sense of achievement,  self-reliance, the ability to work autonomously,  the ability to self advocate, the ability to plan for themselves and to think strategically,  a willingness to learn from failure and the capacity to successfully move on.

Like babies who  need to crawl before they can walk,  these early career knocks are key developmental experiences. Culturally we are in danger of creating a generation which will struggle to be self-reliant.

What do you think?

Job search: Are you missing in action?

Off the radar

Getting on the job search radar!
I have spent the past week with two different women, of two different ages. Their backgrounds could not be further apart. One is a young graduate, seeking entry-level employment, the other a woman in her 40s, with extensive supply chain and procurement experience, as well as an MBA. She has taken an eight year parenting break, relocated internationally with her husband and is now dealing with the inevitable challenge of explaining motherhood and her CV gap.

Both want to enter the workplace. Both are struggling. Both are drifting off the job search track and are M.I.A. Despite feeling they had nothing in common, even just idle chat reveals the numerous common elements. Not only were they simply failing to get the jobs they wanted ( when they could even find a job they were interested in) they were receiving no response to their CVs, sometimes not even a rejection letter.

Back on track
All job search candidates regardless of age, gender or time in life need to have some basics in place, so here are some easy tips to get back on track:

  •  Identify and articulate transferable skills. It doesn’t matter how you do this but this is a critical exercise, taking time and thought. I repeat my mantra – if you don’t know what you’re good at, how do you expect anyone else to know? Recruiters and hiring managers are not telepathic and don’t have the time to drag it out of you.
  •  This basic but critical exercise leads to the creation of an effective mission statement and elevator sounds bites. CVs should stop disappearing into cyber space and interview performance will be strengthened. If there is any hesitation in delivering your USPs – practise and practise again!
  •   Establish and develop a professional online presence. This is vital for anyone, male or female, young or old, entry-level or transitioning. Failure to do this is tantamount to professional suicide. The entry-level woman had received no advice from her university careers advisor to create this type of profile, which in my view is a scandal in itself! Careers advisors – read my open letter! The older candidate needs to resurrect and tap into her existing network from her days as a professional woman and connect with them virtually on platforms which simply did not exist when she was in the workplace ( LinkedIn, Twitter, Google +) This small step shows you care about your professional image and that you are current in your approach. Your LinkedIn profile url can also be used in an email signature or on other online profiles as a way of extending the reach of your CV.
  •  Create a modern CV with targeted keyword usage. Their current versions are probably not getting past ATS ( Applicant Tracking Systems) or coming to the attention of recruitment sourcers. 97% of CVs, it is maintained, are not read by a human eye! Once again this could account for a failure to obtain an even a first interview.
  •  Most jobs (estimated at 85%) are not advertised. Creating a strong online presence and strengthening a personal brand will drive traffic to your professional profile. It’s no longer about looking for a job – it’s also about raising visibility to ensure you are found. Many jobs are also only advertised on LinkedIn.
  •  There is no substitute for strategic networking at any age and stage. No matter how young you are, or how long it’s been since you were in the workplace, we are all connected to someone! Have some simple, but good quality business cards printed – you never know when you need them! Connect and re-connect. Join networking groups and professional bodies especially if any membership has lapsed during a career break.
  •  Be active. Inactivity is not just a barrier to getting top jobs, it’s a barrier to getting any job! It’s also a great way to beat negative thinking, and maintaining your confidence, vital in job search. It also gives you data to monitor, from which you can make any changes to your job seeking strategy.
  •   Tweak those strategies . Don’t panic and especially don’t be afraid to change. Nothing is set in stone and what works in one set of circumstances may sink like a lead balloon in another! Be flexible

But most importantly never give up. The estimated time to get a job is reported to be on average a minimum of 7 months currently. If you carry on struggling – seek professional help. It will be worth it in the long-term!

Good luck!

Open letter to university careers advisors

Graduate


Dear University Careers Advisor,

I’m not sure to whom I should write this letter, but perhaps you could pass it on to your colleagues if this is not your field.  I tried to contact directly, the heads of 3 university career services, in 3 different countries, posing the same questions, but received no response. I’m sure they are very busy. However, these questions continue to baffle me and have done for over 5 years now.

I am an international executive search professional and career transition coach. Through my profession I coach new graduates in the job search process and as a parent of 2 Gen Y kids I have a wide circle of friends with children of the same age, many seeking entry-level opportunities. So I come across on a daily basis, young adults who are simply overwhelmed by the process of getting a job. I just have to ask myself why that is. Then I thought I would ask you too – as presumably you must have the answers.

Gen Y have to be the most  technologically savvy  generation of all time,  multi-tasking is in their blood. So why are so many of them confused about what needs to be done? There is so much free information on the internet, yet many don’t use it. How much time do you spend with them introducing them to social media platforms explaining their value as a job search technique? Or are they simply ignoring you?

I have many other questions. Let’s start with basics. What percentage even use your services? I’m perplexed why so many of them simply don’t have the first clue. They don’t know what they’re good at and they don’t know how to find out. What sort of aptitude or personality tests are available to them via university careers offices?  Or is it that they just choose not to get involved and prefer this hit and miss process?

I’m also bemused why so many of their CV/resumes are so badly written.  It doesn’t matter where in the world they’ve been to college: US, Canada, UK, Europe.  Most are seriously suspect.

From my perspective, further education should be about two things : learning for its own sake and the acquisition of knowledge, but also to equip young people to be strong contributors to our economies and to make them self-supporting and sufficient. They are supposed to be our brightest and best. Do you think therefore, there is a place for job search techniques in our educational curricula, in the same way as we include Economic Theory, The complete works of Shakespeare or Engineering Applications of Artificial Intelligence?

So I continue to remain bewildered, as millions of young graduates year after year, flood our global workforce, seemingly poorly equipped to join international economies, or worse still expected to work as unpaid interns to gain even basic skills. I can’t help wondering if it isn’t time for educational systems to formally address this problem and ask what your plans are, if indeed you have any?

I look forward to your feedback.

Yours faithfully,

Dorothy Dalton

Why Gen Y need to plan ahead

Gen Y: Career Strategy and Longevity

Career strategy and longevity
I spent the weekend socialising with a crowd of fabulous people all substantially younger than me. It’s graduation season and there was some exhilaration and some angst. Some results were better than expected, others disappointed. A few already had devised strategies, other’s hadn’t. One thing for sure is that any future career will not be defined by today’s degree results. There are many choices to be made and none are set in stone. They were looking for pearls of wisdom and I’m not sure my thoughts, one in particular, were what they wanted to hear. This generation needs to prepare, not just for a physically longer life, but a potentially more extended working career than its parents.

§ Longevity – Born in an era of a global gradual ascendancy of wealth, this generation has for many years been protected from their futures by their affluent “boomer” parents. It is only during the recent recession that their bubbles have started to burst. It struck me that career strategy for this generation will consciously need to start factoring extended longevity into the mix, more so than mine ever did. Not only will Gen Y outstrip their parents in life expectancy, predicted to be a minimum aged 80 on average, with typical projections of 87 for a man and 88 for a woman, many can expect to live longer.

Not unsurprisingly, clutching a graduation diploma, the last thought on anyone’s mind is a picture of themselves with false teeth, thin hair, liver spots and a walker.

§ Building a career that facilitates a longer working life , or at least into the late 60’s or early 70’s. Education will no longer stop at graduation and personal development and the acquisition of new skills will be ongoing. Flexibility and multi-skills will be key. On the plus side, the drive to get on a corporate ladder will be reduced, but on going commitment to personal development will be vital. Creating a portfolio of transferable skills will be the new mantra.

§. A need to save – Unless there is a sizeable inheritance in their futures, as pension plans both state and company reduce, Gen Y will need to be prepared to save an increased significant proportion of income throughout during a career. The Chinese save approximately 40% of their income. With high unemployment in this demographic and higher student loan payments, many young people will be saddled with debts into their mid 30s.

§. Opt for a simpler, low-cost life. As part of one of today’s largest consumer groups many are used to having it all, now. But on top of that, every day life requires more gadgets than ever before ( mobile phones, lap tops, internet accessibility and more) which eats into their pay cheques and reduces an ability to save. This is in stark contrast to my own graduation where apart from my books, all I possessed on leaving university, was a kettle and a few cups.

§ Protect their health – with obesity rates and associated diseases spiralling, this generation will have to consciously protect its health, perhaps more so than any other, with such a strong need to be economically active longer. Another interesting spin-off might be in our knowledge based economies, more sedentary jobs could become reserved for older demographics who are no longer physically able to carry out certain functions.

With a declining birthrate and fewer younger people supporting an aging population, will jobs requiring physical stamina start becoming economically more signficant and pay prime rates? Could we envision a situation where a young builder will be considered as, or even more valuable than an aging banker? Now that would be fun!

What do you think? What career advice would you give the class of 2011?