Millennials, or the so-called “me me me generation,” are seeing high rates of unemployment and now make up a large portion of the current hiring pool. When asked for a list of mistakes that 20-something job seekers make, performance coach Dani Ticktin Koplik cited “acting entitled” as number one. Many people are beginning to see that the millennial generation’s uncompromising nature can actually be a strength. Today’s young people know that employers aren’t looking out for them, so they are looking out for themselves.
That said, when it comes to the job search, applicants of all ages should know to shift the focus from what the company can do for them, to what they can do for the company. According to a recent study, what millennials actually can do, unfortunately, may not be enough. The Princeton University-based Educational Testing Service found that American millennials are among the world’s least-skilled workers compared to their peers in other countries. These results, based on an online test, should be taken with a grain of salt. But this isn’t the only study showing young Americans often aren’t ready for the job world.
A 2014 survey from CareerBuilder and CareerRookie.com revealed that one in four employers say recent graduates aren’t adequately prepared for the professional landscape. The most common concern among employers was “too much emphasis on book learning instead of real world learning.” Recent grads frequently dedicate the first half of their resume on education, coursework, and honors, when what employers are looking for is work experience, first and foremost.
The first step for young job seekers is to be prepared for the workforce, and that means experience outside the classroom, such as internships, apprenticeships, and any other positions that will provide career-oriented skills training. Once the job search begins, here are the most common and costly mistakes that recent college graduates should avoid.
Failing to use a college network
A school’s alumni network and college career center are great resources for recent graduates. While the quality of career services depends on the college, graduates owe it to themselves to at least give it a shot. This is one of the services that student tuition helps make possible, and it can be a great way to jumpstart the job search.
Knowing nothing about the company
Showing up for an interview with no knowledge of the company is a frequently-cited mistake young job seekers make. It may seem like a no-brainer, but researching the company’s culture and recent announcements and making reference to this information in the interview is essential. Jayne Mattson, SVP at a career management consulting firm, says, “For all job interviews, job seekers must always go to the company website and research their products, mission statement, and find out about their competition.”
Generic cover letter and resume
Employers know when they are reading a resume or cover letter that wasn’t written specifically for the position in question. “One of the biggest mistakes many millennials make is not customizing their cover letters and resumes,” says Tom Gimbel, president and CEO of a staffing firm. “Most have generic cover letters that reiterate bullet points on their resume. A cover letter or introductory email is the first document an employer reads, so it’s important to make it stand out.” While using language from the job description is advisable, copying large chunks of text is a red flag for employers.
Inappropriate social media presence
Before applying for a job, it’s important that job seekers do a comprehensive audit of their social media presence. You’d think tech-savvy millennials wouldn’t forget this step, but it’s a very common mistake. Check for unprofessional photos, comments, and even unsavory posts from friends. Negative posts about former employers are also a big no-no. Try looking at each profile through the lens of a perspective employer, and adjust privacy settings accordingly.
Not saying thank you
If you think it’s “old school” to send a thank you note, you’re wrong. Young people frequently fail to make this simple yet important post-interview step. It’s a gesture that shows common courtesy and appreciation, and it also serves as a good reminder for the employer after the interview is over. A thoughtful email, or better yet, a handwritten card, will force an employer to think about the applicant again — and in a way that doesn’t show an ounce of entitlement.