How Are You Preparing The Future Workforce?

Recently, I was talking to Megan Burkett about her blog post that dealt with preparing college students and recent grads to make informed decisions when picking a major and career path. As we discussed our experiences with this, we reflected on the things we know now that we wish we knew then. Although life is about the journey and making mistakes to determine what is actually meant for us, I think all of us can agree that when it comes to our futures, we’d like to be a little more prepared. We would like to make sure that the decisions we make today are the ones that will help us get to our ultimate goal, even if there is some missteps and stumbling along the way. So in this respect- what are Gen Y and our future generations asking for? Some real, individual guidance.

Our teachers and advisers try to help us when it comes to deciding our degrees but more often than not, they aren’t able to give us the most informed overview of what this degree can do for us. Sure, they can throw around some general job titles that we might be able to land with a degree like that and maybe some of the required classes will give us an idea of some of the things we will be dealing with once we get into the working world. But the issue is: it’s so general. Many of us are left with little information to help is figure out what the next steps are to prepare for graduation and the working world. Do we take an internship? If so, what type of internship will be useful? What should we expect? Is the experience we get through these internships, college jobs, and classes going to be relevant to what we’re aiming for after graduation? Do we even know what we want to aim for outside of college?

More often than not, we are unprepared for what we’re going to face in the real world. What we thought a job or role would entail is completely different than we had assumed. We learn that we didn’t have right credentials or we need more experience and schooling to land the RIGHT job. We don’t know where to look or how to get noticed. We don’t know anything about company culture, searching for a company that has values that are aligned with ours, or the importance of a company that offers us a future beyond the entry-level job.

Our advisers, professors, mentors, and parents try hard to give us an idea of what we should expect but often times it’s not detailed enough to work for our individual questions and needs. Colleges and companies are taking great strides to perform career fairs and bring awareness to students, but is it enough? I don’t believe so.

I would love it if more mentors and leaders took the time to really listen to early careerists or students and provide better feedback to help them be proactive in an effective way. Teach these individuals about internships, externships, and other programs that will help them build the skills prior to looking for full-time work. Teach them the importance of networking, effective job seeking, and how to research company culture. If you’re a company, help create transparency and take the time to help these job seekers easily understand why they should work for you, what to expect, and determine if it’s a fit for them. Employment branding is important but sometimes these fancy words and campaigns don’t make much sense to people who haven’t had experience or business-know-how to determine the message. Bridge the gap and help them transition.

Gen Y will be dominating the work force before we know it. And with that being said, it’s important that we prepare them in the best way possible to ensure that our workforce will be strong from the get-go. What efforts are you making to help prepare, educate, and offer experience to the generations to come?

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Connect with Megan on Linkedin

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Are You Giving Realistic Job Previews?

Recently, I had a nice discussion with Dr. Marla Gottschalk in regard to a study she did a few years back about Gen Y in the workplace. As we talked about some of the statistics she found during this study, I was quite interested when she mentioned the reasoning behind why a certain percentage of Gen Yers are unhappy and unsatisfied with their jobs. It turns out that a good portion of this is due to the fact that they were not presented a realistic job preview before they decided to accept a role with a company. As I researched this workplace issue more, I found that no matter what generation you’re a part of, there still seems to be this common issue. Are employers working too hard at presenting their company in the best light that they’re not giving realistic job expectations and previews?

One of the things I often like to research and write about is creating and promoting your employer brand, which is extremely important to do when it comes to attracting quality talent. However, it can come to the point where trying to make your company appear to be the “employer of choice” could actually hinder your ability to attract and retain quality talent. It has come to my attention that many companies are competing to be the best company to work for and often will try to paint an ideal picture of their company and the job. Of course, showing only the best side of your company will easily attract a ton of candidates but many of these candidates aren’t necessarily the right fit for your company, causing your recruiters to be overwhelmed. Additionally, some of the candidates that have applied could be a great asset to your company but can easily be discouraged when they learn that the job and company is what they initially were led to believe. In this situation, employees may have lower engagement and turnover numbers can increase. So, what can you do to ensure you find a happy medium?

  • Give a realistic overview of your culture:  this can help candidates see if your culture will match up with their personal values.
  • Give a realistic overview of the job details: many job descriptions have almost become like a marketing strategy. They are well written and enticing, however, people can get caught up in this rather than the actual job itself. Be sure to lay out a thorough job description.
  • Break down and give details about the day-to-day: take the time to break down the day to day duties. This can help candidates determine if they have the experience to perform these duties successfully and it can also help them determine if this is a job that they’d enjoy doing.
  • Give realistic timelines: many jobs talk about advancement opportunities (especially for top performers), and many candidates who accept a role may have a skewed idea on how quickly they can move up. Be sure to give realistic timelines on this.
  • Talk about the negatives: negative things about a job are realistic factors. I appreciated it when a recruiter once told me that there would be weeks where I could work 10-20 hours of overtime. It helped me know if this type of job would work with my lifestyle and other responsibilities. This also allowed me to not be surprised when my boss required me to be there on extremely demanding weeks.
  • Welcome your candidates to talk to multiple people in the department/job/company: it’s always a great idea to allow candidates to get multiple opinions on this. I once went to a job interview where I casually sat down with multiple people in the office. Having the time to talk to them in a casual way allowed me to see the truth behind the company, job, and so on and allowed me to appropriately decide if the job was right for me.

If you are an employer, it would be wise to consider the importance of realistic job previews. By giving the details (including the good and the bad), unqualified candidates can stop overflowing your inbox and ATS with their resumes. Additionally, candidates who accept the role can feel happier with the decision because they were well informed of what the job required and what the expectations were, which can ultimately reduce grievances and turnover.

 

Links:

Realistic Job Preview

Gen_Y_Survey

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The Multi-Generational Workplace: Learning from Each Other

Last Wednesday’s #TChat touched upon the multi-generational workplace. The discussion talked about how the workforce is changing and now includes Gen Y, Gen X, and Baby Boomers all within one workforce. As expected, a good portion of companies can feel some strain caused by the differences of the generations. So what’s the best way to understand one another and open up chances to collaborate? Create opportunities to mentor one another, and that includes reverse mentoring.

Typically, Gen Y is mentored by the older generations because they have had more experience in the working world. Although this makes perfect sense, it is also very important to allow Gen Y to also mentor Gen X and Baby Boomers on the things they are “experts” at. Essentially, everyone has the ability to teach one another but you must create a workplace environment that encourages this type of mentoring.

  • Create weekly or monthly meetings where different generations can host a “Lunch and Learn” session.
  • Assign groups of people who represent different generations to collaborate on different projects.
  • Create learning events almost similar to speed dating: have set tables for different topics and have your employees move around and learn from one another.
  • Create incentive or recognition programs for those who go above and beyond to teach others things that will benefit the company.

Opening up these opportunities can help generations understand one another and truly respect what individual attributes and qualities they possess. These ideas can help open up the minds of those in the workplace to show that we honestly can learn from one another, despite if you are a seasoned professional or a recent grad just entering the working world. With this mentality, businesses can benefit and grow together.

Here’s a #Tchat Recap for your viewing pleasure.

Thanks, Sean Charles, for the schnazzy picture.

If you’re interested in learning more about #Tchat topics, be sure to join us on Wednesdays at 7pm EST.

Early Careerists: Don’t Burn Yourself Out

Post written by: Vera Swain

Did I format my résumé correctly? Should I have included a cover letter? When I follow-up on the application who do I follow up with?! Such are the questions I and thousands of other job-seekers have asked ourselves during our job search, and for some of us, myself included, at times, we’re still not sure of the answers. Such are the trials of the dreaded job search. But these are trials we must all go through at one point, so how do we cope? How do we stay positive when it looks like no one wants us; why do we continue to apply when we believe no one’s reading the multitude of applications we’ve already put forth?

I’ve been applying for jobs since I was 15 years old. I guess you could say I was an über-early careerist. At that age, though, landing a job was a lot simpler. I went down to the local Taco Bell because it was within walking distance, I filled out an application, and I was hired on the spot. Then I went through hell for six months until I was 16 and could apply for a more lucrative position in the bakery of Atlanta Bread Company. Today, the job search could still be done this way. Taco Bell is still open and doing better than ever. But now that I’ve been out of college for a few years and am officially an adult, this isn’t the kind of job search I’m embarking on lately. It seems that once you walk across the stage, diploma in hand, you’re no longer allowed to fill out paper applications for jobs. The job you want involves an online application to which you must attach a résumé and a cover letter and maybe even references. No longer do you complete your application, walk up to the cash register and say, “Is your manager here?” And just like much of your adult life, this new job search is a lot more stressful than it was as a teen.

So, how do we make the process less stressful? How do we see the light when it seems like the end of the tunnel is barricaded by a brick wall, ten feet high? Follow these simple steps and you may be able to survive the job search with your sanity intact:

1. Slow down. I know your instincts might be telling you that you need to apply to as many jobs as possible because with more worms, you’re bound to catch at least one fish. I think, at the height of my job search madness, I once applied for at least 50 jobs in one day. This was when I moved to Las Vegas after graduating college and I was determined to find a job in hospitality. I don’t know about you, but filling out one application is stressful enough; imagine 50! Slow down. Take a break. Do two to three applications a day. You can’t devote the proper attention and time needed for an application if you’re doing this many at a time. Write cover letters. Customize your resume. Breathe.

2. Network, network, network. I’ve found that networking has helped me alleviate some of the strain of the job search because it makes me feel like I’ve got a team on my side. Through networking, I’ve been able to gain access to recruiters and hiring managers I never would’ve found if I didn’t know who I know. Talk to your friends; if they’ve got a job you admire or work for a company you’d like to work for, see if they can connect you to a recruiter at their workplace. Use LinkedIn. I’ve been introduced to several recruiters and hiring managers by a friend who is a very avid LinkedIn user. When your friends and previous coworkers can help you in your job search, it takes a large weight off your shoulders.

3. Read. Do your research on performing an effective job search. There are countless books on the market on how to go about finding a job. These books can help you find new methods when it seems like you’re not doing anything right. In addition to these books, read articles on the Internet. I’ve learned so much about constructing a cover letter, strengthening my resume, and contacting recruiters through articles I’ve read on the Web and books I’ve borrowed from the library.

4. Have a drink and RELAX. Sometimes the easiest way to de-stress is the most obvious. Take a break when your eyes start to blur. Ride your bike. Watch a movie. Go out with friends. Clearing your head will better prepare you to tackle your next round of applications and will give you a new lease on the process.

I know the job search can be stressful. I’m actively searching. But it doesn’t have to be maddening. Use your resources, relax, and breathe. You’ll find the job you’re looking for because you’re experienced and suited to it, not because you drove yourself crazy looking. And when you do, let me know; I’ll treat you to the drink I mentioned above.

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About the writer:

 Vera Swain is a young professional who is active in the job market. Currently, she is seeking a position in Marketing in the Los Angeles area as she is in the midst of relocating from one coast to the other. When not writing and job searching, Vera can be found with her nose in a book on her feet on the dance floor. Always seeking adventure, she is an avid traveler who loves to see and experience new things, especially food. To hear more from Vera, follow her on Twitter at @swverausc214 or check out her LinkedIn profile here.

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Managing Gen Y in the Workplace

One of the topics that I’m interested in and passionate about is Gen Y (Millennials) in the workplace. Being a Gen Yer myself, it is interesting to read about some of the qualities that I possess that seem to be the norm. It’s also been interesting to see how my fellow Gen Yers are challenging the current practices and procedures that workplaces have been doing for years. Many companies are starting to realize that Gen Y will be dominating the workplace and have started to restructure in a way that will work well with this generation.  Therefore, today’s post will discuss how to manage Gen Y.

Last month, I wrote a post about what Gen Y wants from an employer. As a refresher, the main points I made were as follows:

  • Gen Y values company culture.
  • Gen Y strives to grow professionally and wants feedback.
  • Gen Y wants workplace options.
  • Gen Y wants an employer that has integrity and makes a social impact.

Although those are only a few off of the long list of qualities that this generation hopes that their employer has, these seem to be the most common. In order for a company to know how to properly manage this generation of workers, they must know and understand these. Additionally, they must find a way to tie them into their restructured management style. Here are some tips on how to manage Gen Y effectively:

  • Show them a connection: Gen Yers know that more often than not, they are bound to leave their employers within the first few years of employment. One of the main reasons they leave is because they do not feel that the company culture (something they value) is aligned with their own personal values. To ensure you are hiring and retaining quality talent, be sure to discuss the culture and what the company has to offer. Ask the candidate what they highly regard and what would be a deal breaker down the line. Determining the connection of company offerings against candidate values can help reduce turn-over in the long run and increase employee engagement if the candidate is hired.
  • Set clear rules and expectations: Gen Yers can be extremely self-sufficient and driven; however, gray areas can hinder some of their performance. The best thing a manager can do is to let the employees know what the rules, expectations, and goals are straight out of the gate. Additionally, they should place this information in an area that is easily accessible for employees’ reference.  Having these clearly defined can help the employees know exactly what they can and cannot do, and go from there without second guessing themselves.
  • Provide useful feedback on a regular-basis: Receiving regular feedback is not just expected by Gen Y, but it is demanded. This generation of workers is focused on finding solutions and making improvements. In order to get valuable insight and discover resources to do so, they rely heavily on the feedback from their peers, clients, and managers. Making this a routine task of management can prove to have significant benefits for the organization.
  • Get your scheduling done ASAP: Gen Y is an expert at multi-tasking. They grew up in the technology era, which makes doing three things simultaneously a breeze. However, they are only able to take on this much work by learning how to schedule things properly. In order to ensure that your employees are keeping up with their abundant workload, be sure to stay on a set schedule for meetings, quotas, goals, and so on. Also, if you need to schedule something that isn’t part of the norm, try to give them a time and date as soon as possible so they can reschedule and plan accordingly.
  • Track their performance: This generation wants to know that their efforts and contributions are making a difference. They want work to be meaningful and feel like they’re doing something for a reason. One way to make them feel that way is by keeping track of their performance and incorporating those details into the regular feedback you provide. Gen Y is also goal-driven so be sure to show them how their performance ties in to their career path and goals. If necessary, give them additional mentoring in areas they need to improve. Showing that you are invested in their professional growth will help gain their commitment and trust.

Gen Y can be tricky to manage if you don’t take the time to understand how they think and why they do the things they do. In order to manage this generation effectively, managers must create an open, two-way communication with employees. Participative leadership style may be key in keeping up with them. This can help managers learn what the employees need from them in order to get the best response and performance. Lastly, please listen and try to follow through with any promises you make. Trust me; they’ll hold you to it.

More links on the subject:

Manage Gen Y and Interns.

Managing Gen Y Infograph.

NBC- Managing Gen Y Effectively.

Leadership Development for Gen Y.

What Gen Y Wants from an Employer

Today’s topic will be about Gen Y and the workplace. I felt that this subject was important to bring up mainly because Gen Y will dominate majority of the workforce by 2025. With that being said, employers need to focus in on the characteristics of Gen Y and develop a plan to attract and retain talent. I also particularly like this topic because I am a Gen Yer and majority of my peers are Gen Yers in the workforce. Needless to say, I am surrounded by discussions regarding this generation and what they want from an employer. Here are some facts, in no particular order:

Gen Y values company culture: I’m sure if you’ve read any of my previous blog postings you can see how much I stress the importance of company culture. I’ve been placed in all kinds of work environments over the last few years, so I’ve had the pleasure of seeing good, bad, or non-existent cultures. My work ethic was affected by these environments. If I loved a company and was proud to work there, it would be evident. My performance would definitely show it and I would not hesitate to broadcast everywhere that my employer was better than your employer (:-P).

I didn’t really realize the importance of company culture until I worked at CreateSpace (an Amazon.com company). They seemed to really know how to celebrate individualism, embrace diversity, and encourage people to be openly innovative. The managers I had were great in the sense that they knew that everyone was different and, therefore, had to be managed differently in order to get the best results. I distinctly remember my Team Lead asking me, “How do you like to receive feedback?” I think my mouth hung open as I processed the fact that my supervisor actually cared enough to find the best way to manage me effectively. The leaders there also celebrated people for a job well done and knew how to make the workers feel like their contributions mattered.

Also, as I mentioned yesterday, Benefitfocus seems to hone in on the fact that culture is valued by this generation. They were passionate enough about it that they actually published a book on the subject. I’ll be receiving that soon, so there look out for future posts regarding it!

Gen Y strives to grow professionally and wants feedback: This generation relies heavy on feedback and mentoring. It’s not because they’re needy and require praise all of the time, but simply because they want to know what they do well and what they can improve on. They want to work hard, grow, and move forward in the working world. They’ll value an employer that gives them suggestions and opportunities to do so. Some of the better employers recognize this and make an effort to give regular feedback, discuss career paths, and present opportunities for employees to gain experience. For example, Apple and Google have classes so employees can continually learn and increase their knowledge. It was nice to see an employer invest so much in their employees’ educations.

Also, feedback is important for reasons other than helping employees grow. I distinctly remember a friend telling me that her company is big on the “no news is good news” philosophy. I was actually appalled by that. How could a company only give negative feedback? Needless to say, the employees of that company were extremely uneasy because they never knew if they were doing things right. Anxiety caused productivity to waver, employees to be less invested/committed in the company, and turn-over. Those who left the company told me that they’d rather be with a company that didn’t keep them in the dark than stick with a company that may unexpectedly fire them for mysterious reasons.

Feedback can help an employee see a future with the company. If no one shows them that a future is there, they’ll move on to greener pastures.

Gen Y wants workplace options: We are a technically savvy bunch which means we hope our employer can find other workplace options for us than just the typical 9-to-5-sit-at-a-desk-workplace. Although having a routine is nice, it can sometimes kill creativity, innovation, and feel like a cage. Technology and portable devices make it easy for employees to be mobile and stay connected. We hope that employers realize this so it allows more freedom: flexible work schedules; work-from-home; flexible workspaces around the workplace; and results-only-work-environments are some options that come to mind.

Although some employers are reluctant to do this for fear that employees will take advantage of these alternative work options, I think they will be pleasantly surprised to find out that Gen Y wants more responsibility. They want to be accountable for their work/contributions to the company. Additionally, they want recognition for their work. So instead of making your company feel like “Big Brother is watching”, consider other ways to measure productivity besides a punch clock. Perhaps adopt a work option that focuses more on end results.

Gen Y wants an employer that has integrity and makes a social impact: We just want you to be like our favorite superheroes. You know; the ones that do things for the greater good. Nothing is more of a turn-off than seeing a company go all “Machiavellian” and only do things that help their personal gain. If your company does good for others, your employees will feel good about working for you. I mean, who wouldn’t be proud to work for a company that somehow makes the world a better place?

Your company will seem trustworthy, which is a big thing that attracts talent. For example, candidates decided to take job offers with Salesforce.com because the company was involved in donating to a foundation and encouraged employees to volunteer and participate in community service. Who would have thought that you can attract candidates because of your social impact strategy?

It’s time to start training your leadership to change some of their practices. There are companies out there that will help you re-structure and develop your leadership efforts to help cater to the changes in the workforce. I’ve actually had the pleasure of networking with Martina Mangelsdorf via LinkedIn over the last few months. Over a course of a few e-mails and Skype conversations, I was able to learn that her company did just that. I was delighted to see that there are people out there that really understood what Gen Y needs out of an employer. So, employers, it is in your best interest to get prepared because Gen Y is coming for you!

Links to read (I apologize that my hyperlinking function isn’t working!):

Martina Mangelsdorf LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/martina-mangelsdorf/1/611/740

Leadership training for Gen Y: http://www.gaia-insights.com/

What Gen Y Wants- Time: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1640395,00.html?goback=%2Egmp_4358820

Harnessing the Power of the Loyalty Generation: http://socialmediatoday.com/davidjohnson4/563490/gen-y-harnessing-power-loyalty-generation?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Social+Media+Today+%28all+posts%29&goback=%2Egmp_4358820%2Egde_4358820_member_127717648

Benefitfocus: Winning with Culture book: http://www.benefitfocus.com/culture/

Google Classes: http://www.businessinsider.com/google-11-amazing-classes-that-google-employees-can-take-2012-3?op=1

Apple University: http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/11/10/06/apple_university_revealed_as_plan_to_teach_executives_to_think_like_steve_jobs.html

Companies mentioned:
http://www.createspace.com
http://www.amazon.com
http://www.apple.com
http://www.benefitfocus.com
http://www.google.com
http://www.salesforce.com

The Importance of Hiring Employees That Ask “Why?”

It seems to me that too many companies are reluctant to hire candidates that have a strong sense of curiosity, especially in terms of why company policies and procedures are the way they are. The reason why companies choose to pass on these candidates is because they feel that they will be too hard to manage. Additionally, most people are defensive when it comes to change. However, sometimes this change is necessary.

In the past, employees only got information from education and what their employers taught them. They rarely questioned if there was a better way because they didn’t have access to information to make them wonder. But now, things are different. Candidates in this job market have the advantage of technology at their fingertips. They can research information on subjects, explore different ways to do things, and network with people around the globe to get different perspectives. With this knowledge, people tend to start questioning an employer’s current practices and offer suggestions for better ways to handle business.

I believe that this is the age of “why” and some people have dubbed the new Gen Y as Gen “why” because of this. The issue is that many employers seem to shy away from this rather than welcome it. They may fear that the worker that asks “why” will cause issue in the workplace and cause chaos because they will influence other workers to start question “the way things are.” Although that is a valid concern, I think that more employers need to embrace that and find a way to channel it in way that can benefit the company.

To gain a competitive advantage, you need to be one step ahead of your competitors. You need to know how the market is shifting, what the consumers are demanding, and how to create a product or service that can be addicting to the public. How can a company be one step ahead and look forward to new opportunities if their whole workforce dutifully follows all policies, procedures, and practices that they were taught? To move ahead you need to have the people that challenge what is. You need to encourage innovation, allow employees to express their ideas and suggestions, and find a way to control the idea enough to make it work for your industry.

Too much regulated structure in education and the workplace will kill creativity, and ultimately your competitive edge. Do not deny the person that questions things. These will potentially be the people that find a way to have three steps ahead of the competition rather than one. Be open to it, encourage it, and listen to those who have the courage to speak up. I often wonder how many companies have kicked themselves for denying a candidate or employee that seemed to go against the grain, only to have that person go on and create their own empire. I think of people like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates that got denied jobs and went on to outshine the companies that turned them away.

Companies need to stop telling people that things can’t be done because they’ve never been done before. Stop closing your minds to new ideas. Why not be the company that wows the world once they show them what is possible? Why not go down in history as the company that took that chance? Why?

Find the candidate or employee that asks you why- they will be the one that changes the business world.

Here are some other articles you can read on the subject. Enjoy:

http://www.inc.com/harvey-mackay/the-power-of-why.html

http://www.reliableplant.com/Read/18393/power-of-asking-%27why%27-how-it-makes-employees-think-grow

http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/03/change_your_employees_minds_ch.html