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Career Advice for Young Adults

I recently invited a young editor from a top fashion magazine to share with students  some lessons learned as she climbed the career ladder.   (I didn’t ask her permission to quote her so I won’t use her name.) While her advice was noteworthy so was the reaction of the 20-something students.

This editor holds an enviable, glamorous position.  How did she get it?  Yes, she’s talented but more important, she told the students,  was that she followed several basic rules:

  • Take any assignment you’re given and do it with a positive attitude: “Sometimes I just want junior staffers to say ‘yes’ and not have a discussion when they’re given an assignment.”
  • Be the first to arrive and last to leave: “It’s always good to have the boss say,  ‘Don’t stay too late’ as she’s leaving.”
  • If you are leaving before your boss ALWAYS ask  your boss or internship supervisor first if there’s anything they need or anything else you can do. And do NOT have your coat and bag in hand when you ask this.

These common sense tips were a reality check for a few (not all) of the students.  Most students nodded as the editor spoke but a few wore cold-water-on-the-face expressions. Their  reaction echoed what I’ve heard from others  who think that all those years of SAT studies, top high school and college grades,  and prestigious internships somehow give them a dispensation  from starting at the bottom when they begin their careers.

Some 20-somethings believe they shouldn’t have to do mundane, mindless tasks.  Others are suprised by the business mindset of business, thinking it’s okay to text and take care of personal “stuff” while working. (A sign in my grocery store: “Cashiers are not allowed to text while working).

Many 20-somethings don’t seem to realize that a can-do attitude will impress bosses. While this advice may seem like a no-brainer to baby boomers apparently it’s not to some of our adult children.  The editor’s tips are worth passing along as the “kids” start internships and the new grads look for jobs.  If you’re looking for additional advice,  she also suggested a book, “Women for Hire” , which she praised for providing strategies and scripts for situations she encountered getting her job and promotions.

Career strategy books are always  good  gifts for new graduates, coming this month to a commencement near you. What exactly are the job prospects for the class of 2011?  Manpower, a HR firm, surveyed 18,000 employers across the U.S. and found that hiring will increase overall about eight percent.    The bad news: The worst area for finding a job this spring: the New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island metropolitan area. Only 11 percent of surveyed New York metro area employers plan to hire between April and June, while 13 percent expect to reduce their staff levels.  New grads might consider heading south for better job prospects as most optimistic forecast  for hiring this spring is Lexington-Fayette, Kentucky.

From the new grad’s perspective, the best jobs (besides the positions they get hired for)  are those with opportunities to move up the ladder.  Another survey, reported by Forbes, asked 8,000 students where they plan to look for jobs, how they like to be motivated and what it will take to retain them. While half checked salary in terms of importance, 55 percent valued  career advancement opportunities the most.

Graduation signals the big move back home for new grads as most are unable to afford living on their own. There’s plenty of advice on the topic and  mlive.com offered these suggestions:

  • Have them pay rent or do some types of maintenance around the house such as yard work, grocery shopping and cooking dinners.
  • Make sure they are making a job of looking for a job…everyday. There are job openings, maybe just not exactly what the adult child has as a goal job. Encourage them to take a less meaningful job because it could transition to something better.
  • While they are looking for a job, they should take classes at a community college or elsewhere to improve their skills.
  • If they still haven’t found anything in a reasonable time, have them volunteer.
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