Gen Y should I

Job search and “Gen Y should I?”


As a parent of a Millennial and a search specialist with experience running graduate recruitment programmes, as well as being a university and business school coach who has written about entry-level issues, I am often  approached by young people to support them in their job search. But there response tends to be Gen Y should I? Rather than Gen Y I should.

A lot of column inches are dedicated to descriptions of the similarities in some attitudes between Baby Boomers and their Gen Y offspring. In the matter of job search I am finding this to be true. Astonishingly, but for both similar and different reasons, entry-level job seekers are just as closed to new job seeking methodologies as their 50 – something parents.

Tech savvy

Gen Y cut their teeth on modern technology. If my kids and their friends are a good yardstick, their cell phones will possibly need to be surgically removed from their bodies at some point in their lives. They barely walk 10 paces without an iPod. Their every waking moment is documented on Facebook and they communicate and disseminate information  with their peers at a speed that is unfathomable to us older types.

An article in the Economist The net generation unplugged suggests that  for the generation of Digital Natives “Growing up with the internet, it is argued, has transformed their approach to education, work and politics”

Where is “Gen Y not”? What happened to Gen Y should I?
So if this is true, why do they so obviously struggle with applying the technologies that make up the very fabric of their lives to look for a job?

Clive Shepherd  makes the point in his post “Is the net generation really unique ?”  that although Gen Y are familiar with social and digital media  ”  ..that doesn’t mean they understand – or care – about their power and significance; and just because they use these technologies to interact with their peers, doesn’t mean they’ll expect – or desire – to do the same at work.”

This has been exactly my experience. Although this generation has the skills to tap into all the information of job search available on-line for entry-level candidates, they are either choosing not to access it, or if they do, choosing not to implement the recommended strategies.

Feeling the pain

I contacted someone who is close to the pain of the unemployed graduate, Alex Try at Interns Anonymous. I can’t say  I’ve ever heard anyone using social media for job finding. Nobody. I wouldn’t think it would be an issue of resistance… more that it is doesn’t even come into consideration. As an entry-level job seeker myself – the idea of using Twitter and Facebook is a bit ridiculous. I can’t even imagine how it would work … I never even considered that LinkedIn might be used. I have never heard anyone mention social media in relation to a job search

My experience is that almost without exception that this is the sentiment of most of  the graduates with whom I have been in contact internationally. The standard of their CVs is almost universally inadequate and they would be lucky indeed to get past any ATS. 90% of my personal contacts are resistant to wholly embracing suggestions to create a “personal brand” and harnessing social and professional media in their job search. At a time when unemployment levels in the 18 – 24 demographic hovers at an all time high at up as much as 40% in some countries, you would have thought that any tips to raise visibility would be readily adopted. The 10% of my contacts that did exactly that, were successful in securing employment.

Gen Y  Should I?
I usually encourage them all to set up LinkedIn profiles, but once they go off my radar they tend not to maintain them – even the ones who get jobs. I am happy to report that my son has now replaced his tree photo with a personal one! Their Facebook pages are generally sacrosanct, reserved for social purposes only, accompanied by a deep reluctance to use them for any professional reasons. The idea that e-sourcers or CV data miners look on Facebook every day for entry-level candidates fills them with horror and suspicion. They can be forgiven for this when there is so much conflicting information circulating on this subject. I work in search – and trust me, I use these tools, especially professional platforms every day, as do my associates.

Filling the education gap
Gen Y  clearly can’t get the support they need in understanding the potential of these technologies from their Boomer parents,  because not only do they share the same doubts and reluctance,  their resistance is further compounded by a skill set deficit. On top of that Boomers using these limited skills very often coach their offspring in their job search efforts, with poor results.

So who then can fill that education gap? I checked out the web sites of  the career’s services of a dozen top universities internationally. There was barely a mention of modern job search strategies, other than a passing reference to   “internet research” or “networking”.  Alex adds  “university careers services have spent more time telling me what I can’t do, rather than offering ideas/suggestions. “Be a teacher” or “have a look online” seem to be the standard responses… “.

A life skill
Laurent Brouat in his post “The failure of  business schools and universities” makes a case for including job search techniques into university curricula. Like me he finds today’s graduates woefully unprepared for what they need to do to enter the work place. Although I wouldn’t go along with his suggestion that 25% of course time should be devoted to job search skills, finding a job is an imperative life skill and I believe deserves official and specific academic attention.  This should cover networking actual and on-line, plus creating, marketing and delivering a strong personal brand .

The ultimate irony is that despite all the information that is readily available on the internet,  the generation which is best equipped to exploit these technologies for career advancement, doesn’t  recognise the significance of  bridging the gap between social and profession on- line connections. Together with their parents they fall into  demographics hardest hit by the recession, but identically feel that these new technologies are for “other people,”  older or younger, but certainly not them!

Only time will tell.

21 thoughts on “Job search and “Gen Y should I?”

  1. Laurent

    Hi Dorothy,

    I fully support your idea that 25% of the time at Univervities should be granted for developing student’s skills not only on the job search side but also on the networking and personal branding side. So Gen Y I should sit on my bottom and wait for things to happen?

    1. Dorothy Dalton

      Hi Laurent – thanks for your comment. I don’ t think 25% of time should be given to job seeking skills – but certainly some official time, which would include social networking and actual networking.

  2. Rosy Rickett

    Hi Dorothy, just wondering what kind of industries this applies to? Do you think it is applicable across the board or just in certain sectors where internet networking skills are a must? Rosy

  3. Anders Borg

    Hi Dorothy, I wonder if we don’t have two different groups lumped together here. A/ People who already are out in a career and therefore have laid a credibility trail. They should be able to benefit from the social networking and other internet tools. B/ People who are trying to get their first job. They have nothing to show and I suspect that is why personal contacts work much better for them, if they have any that is.

    Having said that, it is unfortunate that so few are proficient in these techniques, even though the two groups should most likely find different ways for using them.

    1. Dorothy Dalton

      Hi Anders – thanks for your comment. I actually think Gen Y entry level candidates can make lists of achievements that will show case their various skills and strengths via social media. Those would be academic, extra-curricular, student jobs whatever. I am not suggesting that they replace actual with on-line networking but do both simultaneously and then continue to develop those networks throughout their careers as part of an ongoing strategy.

      The interesting factor is that this should come easily to them because they have the technical skills – but they don’t for all the reasons I mentioned.

  4. Chanelle

    I’m surprised and not surprised at the same time. GenY’ers seem to be divided among those that use technology and those that let it use them. Those that use technology know the importance of the web and are savvy enough to see the value in social media job searching.

  5. Cindy

    Just based on what I see my children do, they consider FB and other sites just for fun — not for anything serious. But the fact is that lots of adults also only look at those sites as a playroom. I’ve embraced social media for business and I hope my kids will catch on too!

    1. Dorothy Dalton

      Thanks Cindy – I hope so too. LinkedIn and other professional networking platforms are very powerful tools which are used on a daily basis by search and recruitment specialists. Now it’s not so much looking for a job – but making sure you are found, as so many job opportunities are no longer advertised. Maybe Gen Y will catch on soon!

  6. Eric Andersen

    Excellent post, Dorothy! I completely agree that the burden should be on the schools and universities to teach their outgoing students job search skills – and not just online/social media, but general job searching, resume writing, interviewing, etc. I attended Brown University, and was surprised how little assistance Career Services could provide – most of the effort was really taken up by the individual departments. Thus, if you were a Computer Science major, you would have great resources available (connections into tech companies, recruiting events, resume help, etc), but if you were a Math major, not so much.

    As for Gen Y specifically, I’m not sure I full agree with you and Clive that Gen Y doesn’t “expect – or desire” to use technology they’re already familiar with for job/work-related activities. I suspect it’s a bit more subtle than that. You’ve probably seen the headlines that “Teens don’t tweet”, and while that’s not exactly true (they are in fact the fastest growing age group on Twitter I believe), it is true that some of the biggest social media applications (other than Facebook) are primarily used by those in the ~30-45 age group. Most college students will never have any need for LinkedIn, and similarly only a small percentage currently use Twitter. So the fact that they aren’t using these platforms as part of their job search isn’t unexpected – just because they “grew up with the Internet” doesn’t mean their generation has latched on to a broader range of social media other than Facebook.

    And with respect to Facebook, its usage is culturally so tied to personal and family relationships, that it’s a major stretch to expect this to be their professional profile – and you touched on this already. But I’m not sure that the reluctance here is a problem – as long as their Facebook profile is kept private, they can continue to use this for personal relationships, and begin to develop their online presence through other social networks.

    1. Dorothy Dalton

      Hi Eric – thanks for your comment! I actually completely agree. But the fact remains that despite all the information that is available on line to everyone suggesting that recruiter’s use social media for identifying candidates, Gen Y are choosing to ignore it all. They also have the best skills to tap into and maximise this information. It’s an interesting phenomenon!

      Finding a job or profession that suits is a life skill, which is why I believe it deserves a place in the academic curriculum.

  7. Amy Pollard

    Hi Dorothy,
    You certainly have a point with regards to the shocking contrast between my generations use modern technologies for socialising and career development.

    As a twenty-something now, I grew up socialising through MSN, using the internet to keep in close contact with my friends in the years that I was too young to head out and about on my own (and too young to pay for the phone bills I was otherwise running up!).

    I think alot of us grew up with the internet being a means of recreation, not study. It was only occasionally used for homework in those days at school, and was sneered upon as a research method during University (I only graduated 3 yrs ago, but it really was considered the lazy option).

    MSN gradually evolved into facebook for us, but the use was the same, a head space for us to relax while catching up with friends.

    I think this is why it doesnt even dawn on us to use this as a means to finding employment- as it has always been a means of escapism, the two have been kept separate for so long!

    Though tapping into sites such as Linkedin it becomes apparent we are missing an obvious opportunity in keeping two sides of life apart- who knew through all these years of profile tweeking and cybersocialising we were developing transferable skills!

    Agreeing with the above post, it would be great to see universities and schools recognising these uses and educating young people on how to tap into them. Getting them used to the idea that social networking, and other internet tools, can be part of both their personal and professional lives early on.

    1. Dorothy Dalton

      Hi Amy – excellent points describing the evolution and impact of social media in your lifetime. Well said. Indeed it was simply a social networking tool – but now recruitment methodologies are changing and are more sophisticated, hopefully you guys can see the benefits that engaging fully in the process can bring, professionally as well as in terms of job search.

  8. Adam Lee Harrington

    Dear Dorothy,
    I found your blog very engaging. It’s great to hear an opinion on current topics as they are constantly changing and updating.

    I think the distinction lies between; what information you choose for your friends to see and that which your (future) employees see.

    Naturally everyone adopts different personas with friends/family/colleagues/bosses. As most would agree; we have personal and private information that is not suitable for the workplace.

    In my mind facebook has been reserved for the private details of my life (be it; nights out, snowboard trips, friends, relationships etc.) that perhaps would not reflect my suitability for work, on a professional level. Alternatively I view Linkedin as a professional media, containing my professional profile, with the information I would like prospective employers to view.

    The fact is we are creating profiles which target specific groups of people. Hence the reluctancy to merge the two. For those who recognise the power of social media, the answer is normally to create a separate profile for each.

    However my own downfall appears in taking far more interest in my personal life/profile (or more to the point my collective friends personal lives). Resulting in Linkedin being left to wilt and become out-of-date.

    In my experience of entry-level job searching, it was a lack of confidence in my CV that created a reluctancy to ‘wave it off into cyberspace.’ With the fear of rejection pushing me to prefer face to face applications and the hope of make a lasting impression.

    After all our CVs are not being employed, we are!

    1. Dorothy Dalton

      Hi Adam – thanks for your thoughtful comments and insights. I agree it’s not easy to make a mental switch from seeing social media as a social platforms for keeping up with friends, to understanding that they can be used for professional purposes and that in fact recruiters do access them for exactly those reasons. My point is that your generation have the technological skills to accesse the information that informs you that this is a current trend which you could take advantage of for job search if you chose to. But for all the reasons we have discussed – you don’t!

      Social media networking skills are simply part of your job seeking tool box to help raise your visibility so that you come onto recruiter’s networks. They should always be combined with traditional networking avenues. When you start to have success – your self belief and self confidence will grow, but to get there , you do need a strong CV that you believe in to open those doors!

      Good luck!

  9. Julie

    I am a Gen Y and I work in marketing. I am aware that social media can have a huge impact in making useful connections. For job, for business, etc. I happenned to speak about it at an event and most Gen Y over there were totally unaware of it. Unless you read blogs or blog yourself, you don’t realize how powerful this can be. It’s true that you use facebook as entertainment and seek jobs online, but the traditionnal way.

    As it comes to job search, I felt that they were most resistant to selling themselves. Creating a personnal brand? They don’t want to be seen as a bragger. They don’t want to take too much space. They don’t want to STAND OUT. And for the same reason they won’t tweet or facebook : I’m looking for a job and I can’t wait to dive into the field I studied of x years… or anything like that. Too shy – plus, they’re no begger. They prefer to do it in the shadow aka the traditional way.

    Plus, they believe that they don’t have anything to say (or don’t want to take the time to think about what they could say, the value they could bring, nor take the time to write about it.)

    Deep down, just like all gen. before in actual networking events – most Gen Y. feel insecure as new “professionnal” on and offline and just don’t dare to be bold. Yet, those who do still succeed!

    1. Dorothy Dalton

      Thanks Julie – great input! I can see everything you are saying – that despite Gen Ys technological skills there is still a confidence and credibility gap. They just don’t believe in the process despite all the evidence to the contrary.

      Good luck in your own job search!



  10. Lee Cooper

    Hi Dorothy – A late arriver to this post, wish I’d come along sooner. A brilliant piece, engaging, thought provoking, I really enjoyed it. I think the problem stems from education. Certainly in the UK we have had over the last 15 years in particular a huge push to further and higher education ( which is in itself to be applauded). However what the message would appear to have been is get yourself a degree and you will walk in to any job. We simply havent equipped graduates with the skills they need to enter the job market and they dont recognise they dont have the skills because nobody has told them! The other issue we face in the UK is that the push to education has meant we have massively devalued practical skills to the extent that we have virtually eradicated schemes in schools that get kids to see the value in being Plumbers, Electricians, Carpenters etc. We need to find a way of equipping generation y with the skills the labour market will demand of them at the earliest possible opportunity. In my view at least developing an awareness with them in their early to mid teens will start to plant the seed.

    Thanks again for a great piece, in future I plan to be a little earlier to the party, I feel like I have missed out!

    1. Dorothy Dalton

      Hi Lee thanks for your kind words – better late than never! I agree there are many factors going on here and with all your points. The issue I was focusing on was that despite having the technolgical skills Gen Y don’t use them for job search. Nor are they told to in universities and schools Only 1 of my Gen Y coachees has just gotten into Twitter. Big step!

      Looking forward more lively deate.


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