I am a realist ... with the exception of comprehending the fact that I am closer to a 40 something than, say, a "late" 20 something. A few things bring me back to reality when I consider my age. Two that I encounter fairly regularly.
First, I don't know about you, but I don't often see a 20 something holding a menu out just about to the other side of the dinner table. I either need to hold anything I wish to read clearly at arms length, OR dig around my purse for my reading glasses. (I refuse to wear them around my neck on one of those cute little necklaces.)
Second, talking to candidates who are seeking an employment opportunity with minimal experience is an eye-opener. With or without the glasses.
I recently came across a discussion on a New York Times Economix blog post on the Young and the Unemployed. Although there are significant variations among industrialized countries, the general message was that the young are carrying the burden of unemployment in the Great Recession. The percentage of unemployed young workers (defined as under age 25) is nearly three times that of workers over 25.
Surprisingly, I have thoughts and feel compelled to comment. I'm going to preface my post with a definition of my target audience: recent college grads seeking employment in the U.S.
If you have read my profile, you realize I'm a big supporter of the "road less traveled." I did not choose college out of high school, much to the dismay of my guidance counselor (and my mom). I chose the military. I enlisted with a plan to attend college part time and earn my education. After all, my parents taught me at a young age that a strong work ethic and hard work would always prove effective (the cynic in me is itching for sarcasm here, but I will save that for a future post.)
I had a passion (and romantic view of a Navy medic saving lives). I held the belief that working my way from the ground up was honorable. While there is truth in that belief, the reality was (and still remains) that a college degree was critical to my success. Whether active duty military or civilian, I would be judged on my education level and that is how I would get the job I wanted.
So I pass this down to my children: You will go to college and you will go full time (my path less traveled has me on a LONG trip!). I'm sending another message buried in that mantra: finish college, instant success.
I think that hidden message is one that has been sent to Generation Y as well. College graduates feel they have completed the steps they were told to complete in order to attain that dream job. Work hard, do as you are told, and be rewarded ... or not?
The painful reality of this economy leads to the credit analogy: The job application process for recent grads is much like the credit application was for their first credit card. You will be denied credit if you don't have credit established. But how do you establish credit when no one gives you the chance? How do you get your dream job when you are denied for lack of relative experience? No one is giving you a chance to get the experience.
In this market, the phrase "relative experience" takes on a new meaning. A co-op or internship might not be enough. Your competition has experience. In cases where they do not have the required education, work experience becomes an equivalent. In a market where companies are forced to carry a workload with less employees, it is more productive to hire someone with experience.
But I can guess the 30 something didn't land in that position right out of college either. My guess is that at some point your competition entered the workforce at the entry level with lower salary expectations. The painful truth of the matter is that Company X is getting that 30 something with experience for the same price you are asking with no experience.
I think there may be a sense of entitlement for recent grads. Out of college, most have enough exposure to know what job they don't want, and what salary they do want. I am left with a sense that they target a job based on their salary requirements rather than their actual skill sets and capabilities.
I think there may be a skewed sense of what realistic expectations are when entering the workforce. There is a percentage of young graduates that give off the impression that they are "too educated" to start in a lower level role.
What has more of a long-term effect on a career and/or a resume: starting in a lower level role, or remaining unemployed and discouraged for a long period of time?
These unrealistic expectations may have been founded by my generation and that before me. We may have forgotten to mention that once you finish college, you may have to do your time in a not-so-fancy job, with a not-so-fancy title, and a not-so-over-the-top salary. I mentioned earlier that the message was "finish college, instant success." The message is more effective when it reads, "finish college, open doors for instant success."
If there is one thing I have learned, it is that every experience in life is a stepping stone to the next phase. Every person you encounter during your education and career becomes a part of your network. Every relationship you build in that network is as critical to your long-term employment as your degree.
A few tips from the me that is closer to 40-something:
Be more open to entry-level positions.
Have realistic expectations about your experience level when applying for a position.
Be open to accepting a lower salary. Look at long-term opportunity and growth in position.
ASK QUESTIONS of the hiring manager about growth and don't be afraid to communicate your long-term career goals.
Do NOT get discouraged in this market. Keep at it and reevaluate your target positions and salary after every interview.
I don't have to tell you (wink, wink), but go on an interview prepared and humbled. Do not leave the hiring manager or recruiter with the impression that you are only going to work for a certain salary, in a certain capacity. It is much more powerful to leave the impression that:
You have successfully weathered the economic storm.
You are persistent and dedicated to your hunt for the right position.
You have a tenacity for hard work, and a desire to advance your career within the organization. You will use the experience you gain in any position to add value to the overall goals and objectives of that organization.
Oh, and gracefully thank them for the opportunity and consideration for the position. And please, be patient when they are removing those reading glasses before shaking your hand farewell.
This post was written by former Seamless Workforce Contributor Tammy Taylor