Ah, spring approaches, and a young man’s fancy turns to… internships. Alas, I’m losing patience with all the sad headlines about unemployed young college grads and their tough circumstances. Here’s why.
I am of an age that for a few years now, my old high school friends have been going through this with their own children. The kids have graduated, and some have struggled for a year or two trying to break into their fields. During holiday visits last year, the topic came up. I’m in the DC area where, despite all the cutbacks, jobs may still be had. I have experience evaluating, hiring and firing; I can look at things like resumes and online profiles and see what employers see, because I have been in that seat. I have a network of old colleagues in a number of different companies and fields; it’s amazing how retired military people branch out into just about anything. I cannot just call someone up and get these kids jobs, but I can give them some good ideas on where to look, how to network, and how to make themselves look professional.
“Do you have a LinkedIn account?” I asked one. She did. I looked at it. Her profile shows her in very relaxed clothing, looking more like a high school student on Spring Break than a professional looking for a job. “You need to take a picture of yourself in a suit, preferably, or at least a dress shirt.” She and her Mom nodded. I showed them what an employer will pick out from her listed experience; it was too focused on “summer job,” and not enough on her real skills and experience, which were actually pretty desirable… if only she would phrase them that way. Her parents were at a loss on where to look for work in her field, but it’s actually a good one for the DC area; I showed them several specific networking opportunities. It’s not a resume that gets most people hired, I said; it’s real acquaintances, and for that, you have to physically get up and go somewhere. I recommended attending a free lecture series downtown when the topic was anything at all resembling her field, and don’t be picky about the exact subject. The companies and organizations that do the guest lecturing can be an eye-opener for a wealth of opportunities. Wear a suit, and take business cards with you. Meeting people is key. She and her parents nodded, seemed excited, and thanked me for the advice.
Here we are a couple of months later, and her profile picture is still that juvenile, casual image. She has not updated her experience. It looks like she has done nothing. So naturally, what do I think? I think she is not serious about getting a job. She’s waiting for one to drop into her lap. Good luck with that. She is the daughter of a friend, but I’m not wasting any more time on someone who won’t even be bothered to do a little homework on her own behalf.
Another friend’s son is a junior and looking for summer internship opportunities. The Washington DC area is loaded with organizations that focus on his field. I gave him a list of the major think tanks, contracting companies and government agencies that would likely have those kinds of opportunities. He eagerly gave me his email so if I heard of anything specific, I could send him a note. I have sent him two opportunities since the holidays. I have heard… nothing. Did he get the email? Did he not like the specifics? Does he think I am just some old biddy who don’t know shit, because he knows me as “one of Mom’s friends?” Does he mistakenly think that a retired military officer doesn’t know anyone in the civilian sector? On my end, it does not matter what he thinks. What I perceive is a kid – yes, a kid – who can’t even be bothered to fire off a quick reply, “Hey, thanks.” If he wanted to kill any networking opportunities through my contacts, he’s doing a pretty good job.
No wonder managers are reportedly three times more likely to hire a Boomer than a Millennial, based on the glaring mistakes that the Millennials make in their interviews. Can’t say I’m surprised, given what I am seeing even before the applications are filled out.