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Epic Advice for the Millennial Job Seeker

Using common sense and understanding to land the job

Nothing is always true when it comes to people. Admittedly, the representation here of a Millennial candidate and Boomer takes a bit of a poetic license.  It’s meant to help the Millennial keep their sense of humor, have some perspective and connect with what is usually a more experienced manager shaped by their generation.  Recently I read an article in the New York Times called "American Dream is Elusive for a New Generation".  It states that there is a 37% unemployment rate for the Millennial generation based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  This is for the recent graduate who is still living at home, surfing the Internet and trying to find a job.  Keep your chin up and take action, we've all been there before.

While you are looking:

1. Exhibit a productive personal brand online.  Build a public portfolio of anything you have ever worked on that is relevant to your job search.  Write a succinct bio for the site and state some facts.  Put it on a new website like Wordpress, Squarespace or VisualCV.  Link it to your Facebook, Linkedin, Businessweek Exchange and Twitter accounts that have completed profiles.  Be responsible with your public brand.  Don't write anything on any social site that detracts from an image of professionalism.  You can be funny without looking like you're out of control.  Clever writing is good, stupid behavior makes it easy to filter you out.

2. Find someone in the company who can help you.  Networking is a beautiful thing.  Depending on your source, you’ll find that 70-80% of jobs are found because of knowing someone in the company.  Doing a little front end work can open doors and move you to the top of the pile.  Encourage your parents and their friends to ask around for you.  If you can connect to someone at the top of the company, that’s a great chance to combine influence with advocacy.

3. Look informed about the industry.  Research your targeted industry or profession at least once a week and even write about it if you want.  Look at company websites, annual reports, industry association sites and review sites like Wikinvest to see crowdsourced analysis.  Use a grammar checker and spell checker to protect your personal brand.  Run it by a trusted friend who will give you feedback before you post.  Provide links to your articles or blogs on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Businessweek Exchange.  At least you will become a better communicator which almost all companies could use.

4. Ask for help.  Go public with your friends and their parents that you are looking for a job.  Define that job or company broadly.  You can filter the jobs later when opportunities pop up.

5. Do your company homework.  There are people who will be hiring you that can tell when you've done your homework.  When you know something about a company's history and its goals, it says you like to be prepared.   Take the extra step to research what the role is in the company as well as what the department is responsible for in the company.  It will help the interview move on to more insight and less basic education.

6. Make more phone calls.  Call your friends often to get better at phone conversations.  Millennials are dependent on Facebook and text messaging for communication.  That may work with your buddies, but the older employees who control the money use the telephone and get-to-the-point e-mail.  You will need to get better at professional phone conversations if you want to impress the people who hire.

7. Practice the Interview.  Find someone who has a management background to ask you typical interview questions before you start interviewing.  If you know what you are going to say before the questions are asked, you’ll answer with more confidence and accuracy.

8. Be Engaged on the Interview:  Be positive, lean forward a bit and listen well so you respond with relevance.  No one wants to hire Eeyore.  They want to hire Tigger with brains.

9. Don't be short-sighted.  If the person hiring you seems sane and the company interests you, take the opportunity.  It's not just a job, it's a door of possibilities and a cash flow solution.  Either that company will offer you more possibilities in the next year or the next company will have more to go on to hire you.  For goodness sake, get out of your parents house, it's time.

10. Start curbing your Facebook addiction.  Facebook is good if used in moderation.  If using social networks is outside of your job description and you can't seem to get off of social networks, it will start to affect what you were hired to do.  Managers know they can find someone else that manages their time better.  Once inside, find out the company policy for social networks and employees use them.  Adhere.

11. Understand that it’s not always 1-2-3.  Getting hired may take a circuitous route.  You don’t know what’s going on in the company.  They may call you six weeks after meeting you and be ready to hire you after not responding to your inquiries the entire time.  Events can drive decisions.  Don’t take it personally.  Understand that while the world has become more data-driven, humans are still the ones doing the hiring.  Build a pipeline of possibilities.

The Hiring Manager’s Viewpoint:

1. My Boomer childhood was different from yours. I don't care about your trip to Barcelona unless you're applying for a job in Spain, had an internship, were studying abroad or were doing charity work.  I've never been to Barcelona and I was lucky to go to a Howard Johnson’s when I was a kid.  Unless this job calls for European travel, residency or somehow I bring up the topic, don’t mention it.

2. Talk about results, not just showing up. My parents didn't lavish me with praise like yours have.  They didn't allow me to give more credit to myself than I deserved.  I didn't get trophies for showing up, I was expected to win, place or show for anyone to care that I participated.  My parents were good people but in a way that focused on making me tough enough to make it in this world.   This company is more like my parents.

3. Help me laugh at life. I have problems like everybody else.  Maybe my kids are not fulfilling their potential.  It only takes one of my brood to worry me.  Maybe my mortgage is driving me nuts and just maybe I hate this job.  In any case, if you can put a smile on my face today, that would help.  Bring a sense of humor without trying to be a standup comedian.  Help me laugh at life a little (not people) and I’ll remember you.

4. This decision reflects on me. Make me look like I hire well and I will try to help you get what you want here.  Make me look like an idiot and I will never open doors for you.  Your choice.

5. Yes, I'm doing something right here. They've given me more responsibility than the average employee.  I'm supposed to make good decisions.  Ask me what it took during my career to get this position.  You don’t have to sound like a sycophant, just a person who wants to understand the path.

6. You’re not that special. In a world where Millennials have a 37% unemployment rate wrapped in an overall unemployment rate of 10%, it’s an employer’s market.  The manager allows for a well-grounded, confident and passionate candidate.  But if you give the impression that you feel entitled, they will just keep looking.  The reason is simple. Chances are things aren’t as special at the company as they are telling you because they’re selling you a little too.  Having someone here who thinks every day has to be great is the last thing they need.  There is a 99% chance that it’s going to be really important to the manager that you are a willing rower, not the guy who points from the front of the ship.  That might come later.  You have to earn that.

7. Give me a memorable story. Referencing point number six here, what makes you stand out from the rest?  Because later on this week when I’m meeting with my boss, she’ll want to know why I hired you instead of her cousin’s son. Help me help you with a story about results or accomplishment.

8. Facebook is a time killer. Oh sure, I use it too, but not for business.  I use it to make sure my kids aren’t posting pictures of themselves drinking with college professors.  I also use it to catch up with old friends who I don’t get to talk to over the telephone which is actually my preferred way to communicate.  But every time I walk by a computer in the middle of the day and see Facebook on the screen, I cringe.  That’s lost productivity and I can’t get it back.  One more thing, I have spent twenty years building up a reputation and assets in the real world.  Facebook’s privacy issues matter to me since I actually have something to lose even if you don’t.

9. I didn’t expect to still be here.  I’m not angry about it but I had big visions of saying goodbye to this hectic pace five years ago.  Then 2008 hit.  Help me make the best of it by being sane, showing up a little early everyday, getting things done and having a positive attitude.  If you’re willing to pay the price, I would love to grow my social wealth by adding you as a friend that I helped.  Years ago, I moved to benefit my immediate family and this company which led to losing touch with some friends.  I had mentors and it would make me feel good if one day you called me one.

10. You need the look. Finally, a candidate walks in here with the look in her eyes that tells me she’s willing to work for what she gets here.  When I was her age, the unemployment rate was over 10% and President Reagan was telling us to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.  In the early 80s, I would have crawled over glass to get a job like this one allowing me to stop sharing a 2-bedroom apartment with three people and thinking Wendy's was an expensive meal.  Living at home in my early 20s wasn't really an option.  Does she have that look or is she already looking out the window thinking she deserves better things?  If I see the look of a smart, ambitious and capable employee, that candidate just motivated me to find a place for her.

Start your journey and progress
Life doesn’t automatically become magical because you landed a specific job.  There have been many employees who took a job that has been misrepresented.  On the other hand, sometimes the opportunity is better than the manager depicts.  Life gets better because you are progressing based on principles of being smart, getting results and playing fair.  Your professional network will find a way to put more opportunities in front of you when you do that.  No one is asking you to earn the right to be an astronaut.  You're just trying to get a job in a company that offers opportunity where you will meet new people expanding your professional network. Sitting at home surfing the Internet and turning down opportunities in this employment environment is epic failure.  The Internet is a wonderful tool but it’s not paying much and it may be costing you plenty.  Good luck in getting a job so we can all start learning how productive and special you really are.

More Stories By John Ryan

John is an experienced leader with a strong background of defining and executing company strategies. He is especially skilled in channel management, market analysis, brand marketing and selling technology products and services. He has successfully served in a number of executive positions and has been in management for 20 years. John is currently writing a book on increasing revenue generation. He has been a co-author of a comprehensive marketing methodology for high tech companies and has helped venture capitalists and private equity firms gauge their technology investments. In 2004, John served as Vice President of Marketing for the NA arm of the $6B IT Services division of Siemens, AG. John served on the board of directors at WebTrends, purchased by NetIQ (NTIQ) for $1 billion in 2001. WebTrends was highly successful dominating the web site analysis and reporting space. Prior to WebTrends, John was the Vice President of Marketing for Tivoli Systems. John has worked as a contracted consultant for established companies, start ups and top analyst firms. John can be reached at john@johnwryan.com or you can follow him on Twitter @buyersteps

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