There was the young job seeker who showed up at his interview 15 minutes late, failed to apologize, and then asked if the interviewer had a garbage can so he could throw away his gum. There was also the 20-something applicant whose call to the hiring manager went dead in the middle of the conversation. The young woman didn’t call back for two hours, only to explain, without apology, that she had dropped her phone in a tub of water while she was getting a manicure. Then there was the mother who called her son’s boss when he wasn’t hired at the end of his internship, and demanded to know why.
Dani Ticktin Koplik, 58, an executive and performance coach in Englewood, N.J. has lots of stories like these. For the last several years, half of Koplik’s coaching practice has been made up of so-called Generation Y, or Millennial, job seekers. This group, age 20-32, makes a series of job-searching mistakes that stem from their sense of entitlement, lack of deference to authority and over-involvement by their parents. Koplik says in her own practice, parents frequently call and email, and try to micro-manage the coaching process. To run interference, Koplik schedules a monthly meeting with parents, mostly to tell them to stop meddling. She also coaches them to give their kids a consistent message. Too many parents tell their offspring that they have to earn a living, and then let them live at home indefinitely rent-free. Koplik recommends timetables and limits.
I asked Koplik for a list of mistakes her 20-something clients make, and she had plenty of ideas. Here is her list of the top ten.
1. Acting entitled
One of the consequences of over-involved parents is that young people feel as though they deserve an easy ride. Koplik tells of an intern who, on the first day, informed his supervisor that he had to leave early that Thursday for a horseback riding lesson. “It didn’t dawn on this person that he was being totally inappropriate and sabotaging his career,” says Koplik.
2. Starting the process too late
Ideally, college students should start looking for meaningful internships for the summer after their freshman year. Students who assume that they will get a job without too much effort, wait too long to begin the process.
3. Under-utilizing the alumni network
Though parents and their friends can provide good contacts, the network of professionals that comes through a college or university should be one of the first places a young job seeker turns.
4. Using a résumé that’s sloppy and too self-centered
Young job seekers are often weak on résumé basics, like clear, tidy layout, careful proofreading for grammar and punctuation, and use of keywords from the job description. Another big problem: the “objective” section tends to be too much about what they want, and not enough about the potential employer. For example, young applicants often say, “entry level position where I can use my skills, ideas and enthusiasm and I can learn a lot.” Instead, the emphasis should be on what they can contribute to the employer. Applicants should also leave off menial jobs like camp counselor, unless they can quantify their achievements, like saying they organized waterfront activities for a group of 150 campers.
5. Writing cover letters that repeat the résumé
Many young applicants regurgitate their résumé accomplishments in their cover letters. Instead, cover letters should be short and vivid, and say something particular about what the applicant can bring to the job.
6. Doing poor research
Young job seekers often just glance at a company website before an interview. Instead they should read everything on the site, search for news clippings about the company, and track social media information, like Twitter feeds, on company managers.
7. Failing to clean up their social media profile
All of those drunken, bikini-clad pictures on Facebook should be removed, or locked down with privacy settings. Everyone, including college students, needs a polished LinkedIn LNKD +0.48% profile.
8. Not showing enough appreciation for the interviewer
Young applicants often fail to conclude an interview with an expression of gratitude for the interviewer’s time. Always thank the interviewer in person, make it clear you would consider it a privilege to work at the company and ask about the next step in the process. Then follow up with a handwritten thank-you note or email that references specifics discussed in the interview.
9. Failing to show generational deference
Koplik tells of the summer intern who, at the end of his time on the job, marched into the office of the chief diversity officer at a big company and said, “Could I give you some feedback on my internship?” Young people are so used to being included in conversations, they fail to grasp their position in the pecking order.
10. Relying too heavily on listings and job fairs
I write this in every article about job search mistakes, because it’s a chronic problem. Koplik says that young job seekers are just as guilty of spending too much time applying to online listings, and through anonymous job fairs, as their more senior peers. We say this over and over: People find jobs through people they know, rather than through advertisements. If you see a listing for a job, try to find a personal connection to the employer and use that as your entry point.