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Job Search Season Begins

job-puzzleJune was once celebrated as close of the academic year: no more school lunches to pack, watching sports practices and games,  driving to school with the forgotten fill-in-the-blank, and most thankfully,  supervising homework.

But now that are children are older June marks the move back home and the job search for new college grads. One of the many roles baby boomer parents often take on is career coach, not an easy one.  It’s hazardous duty dealing with a 20-something who is emotionally recovering from realization that college is over and real life has begun.  Part of that harsh reality is that finding a job has never been more difficult.

Of course,  we all blame the recession but there are other reasons including increased competition from both their peers and parents, the “go nowhere mindset” and a sense of entitlement.

In terms of competition, almost 40 percent of young Americans hold college degrees, and the number increases every year. Even a half percentage-point increase represents an extra 100,000 or so college graduates, according to the U.S. Census.  Lower level jobs are not opening up because higher up the food chain baby boomers are delaying retirement.

Another part of the problem is the reluctance of many young adults to move away from the nest.  The likelihood of 20-somethings relocating to another state has dropped more than 40 percent since the 1980s, according to the Census.  So, yes there may be a job in Tennessee or Florida or Kansas, but our born-and-bred metro kids want to stay in familiar surroundings. That unwillingness to move can have a life-long impact. As we noted last week, it’s often through the “weak link,” away from friends and family, where young adults can experience the most growth personally and professionally.

Another reason for the tough job search is that some millennials want to work only for companies where they will be allowed to use social media during work hours as frequently as they sip coffee (or green tea). They won’t accept jobs where they can’t constantly use Facebook and Twitter, according to Addeco, an employment agency that presents all these job obstacles in a fascinating graphic, “Gen Y Can’t Get a Job.”

Enough with the negative news.  So what can boomerang kids do to help distinguish themselves from the competition?  The Brazen Careerist offered “7 Stand-out Tricks That Will Help you Land an Interview.”  Some are familiar to parents; among the most useful tips:

1. Get introduced for an interview by someone who already works for the company.  How to do that? “Reverse engineer the hiring manager’s connections on LinkedIn to see how the two of you are connected, and then  network to his or her circles.”

2. Invest in awesome resume design.  Yes, anyone can do a resume in a Word document but remember, as a career coach told me, a résumé is “employee-able you at a 60-second glance.” Invest some time—and money—getting a professional to help write and design the resume.

3. Create a website where hiring managers can find out more.  I require my new grad students to buy a domain in their own names, e.g. www.brendastarr.com (really dating myself here), where they post all their work.  When they are job hunting they edit the site to make it look as appealing and professional as possible with their best work, photos, resume and whatever else might help stand out among the competition.

4. Create a video resume for your personality to shine.  This can be brilliant or disastrous.  Whether this makes sense or not depends on the production values and the field.  A creative type yes; an accountant, probably not.

The most important tip on this list is #1.  More and more hiring is done through referrals, with companies using their current employees to find new hires, whether through personal connections, Linkedin, Facebook or other social media.  A San Francisco human resources consultant told the New York Times why applying blind online or going to job fairs is not effective:

“You’re submitting your résumé to a black hole. You’re not going to find top performers at a job fair. Whether it’s fair or not, you need to have employees make referrals for you if you want to find a job.”

Working those “six degrees of connection” with actual, in-person meetings doesn’t come easily to our digital young adults. They may have 500 Facebook friends but a networking, face-to-face is way outside their comfort zone.  They just might need a little push.

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