Earlier this week, I was talking with some recent high school and college graduates. After asking them about the jobs they want and what they are doing to get them, it became clear to me that the expectations they have aren't very realistic. It seems that somewhere along the way, the Millennials haven't been given much instruction about what to expect during their job search and what types of behavior are considered professional.
I might just be getting old, but I noticed that the majority of people I spoke with, all of whom were in their early twenties, said and did things that I thought were very unprofessional. Of course, my opinion doesn't count for much, however it's important to remember that people who are my age (late 30's) are likely to be the people who are going to be making decisions about whom to hire. So, in order to really compete, it's important for those who are new to the workforce to make an effort to communicate in a way that is effective and professional.
Here are 5 of the most common mistakes young people make when applying or interviewing for a job:
- Not dressing appropriately: Even if you are simply going into a business to ask if they are hiring or to request an application, dressing professionally is crucial. In college, it's easy to become accustomed to a more relaxed dress code. However, in the professional world, you have to at least look neat and clean. It doesn't matter if the job requires a uniform, is business casual, or doesn't have a dress code at all, you will still be expected to present your best self each and every day. This means that things like flip flops, tank tops, sweatpants, baggy shorts and so on are not appropriate.
- Using slang: I'll admit that I enjoy using slang, especially on the internet. However, in a professional setting, it's simply not appropriate. If you are assisting a customer or talking to a coworker, it's expected that you will be able to answer their questions without resorting to using filler words, like...um...like.
- Having unrealistic expectations: Maybe it's because of how much attention we pay to celebrities, but it seems that people in their early twenties who are just entering the workforce have very unrealistic expectations about how hard they will have to work and how much money they will earn. Unfortunately, when you're just starting out, you'll have to work hard at entry-level jobs that pay entry-level salaries. Finding a decent job that offers a salary and benefits is an amazing feat. Even if you can't afford to drive a Mercedes, it's still a great job.
- Inappropriate contact: Just because you know someone's Facebook ID or see their phone number or email address online doesn't mean that it's okay to send them a friend request or text them. It's considered inappropriate, and it's something that can really upset a hiring manager. If the person has asked you to give them a call, don't send them a text instead. Email messages and phone calls are the best way to contact a potential boss. Unless you've been given permission, don't text, message or Facebook friend request them.
- Oversharing: With the increased use of social media, many people in their early twenties are extremely used to living their lives online and sharing just about everything with their friends. In some colleges, it's even acceptable to overshare with professors and advisers. That being said, it's not acceptable to ask for an interview on Friday morning so that you'll have plenty of time to party after. Also, employers do look at an applicant's social media accounts. Pictures of people partying with their friends, sharing silly drama on Facebook and tweeting about interviews all make you look bad. Be careful what information you share both online and in conversation.
When you're just entering the workforce, there will be so many things you'll have to learn. Don't worry, you'll get there. In fact, we were all new to professional life at one time or another. The most important thing you can do is accept that you don't know everything and be willing to learn anything that someone is willing to share with you. Being open to learning new things and willing to change will make you stand out from your peers.
What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
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