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Alicia Blain

I came across this great blog written by a Gen Yer called Derek Singleton titled “How Manufacturing can Attract Young Talent Again“.  He is an ERP Analyst for a company called Software Advice and he covers the manufacturing software market.  In the blog he ponders why he never thought to choose a career in manufacturing.  He realizes that there are many reasons why young professionals like himself would never think of it either.  Things like not having popular role models in manufacturing. Can you think of even one person in manufacturing that you’ve heard of?   For that matter, when was the last time we heard a positive story about manufacturing?  All we hear about are plant closings and how the factories are being moved overseas.

Derek goes on to explain why it’s important to pursue manufacturing careers and his points are well taken.  What I liked best is that Derek had some suggestions to making  manufacturing cool again to attract Gen Yers.  Take gamification for instance.  Did you know that there are 3D games that show new hires (aka Gen Yers) how to operate oil refinery equipment? Or that there’s a game called Plantville which is similar to Farmville designed to teach manufacturing processes and technologies to new hires?  Companies like Invensys and Siemens have been investing their money in the gamification of manufacturing.  How cool is that?

Derek also had a great idea about having manufacturing summer camps!  Isn’t that great?  What about restoring shop classes back in high school?  The point is that you can’t expect young people to get excited about a career in an industry they have no exposure to or is not perceived in a good light.

It’s by attracting young talent that manufacturing can get a facelift and perhaps become cool again.  Derek’s blog reminded me of several blogs I’ve written this past year on a similar vein. Last year, I wrote about Kristine Harper who followed her father’s footsteps and choose a career in mainframes.  Yes, that’s right – mainframes.  She started an IBM Share user group called “zNextGen There are over 700 engineers, all of them Millennials, that are “looking to improve mainframe technology skills and find places to use them.” 

The manufacturing sector needs a Kristine Harper to jumpstart change, make it cool again and get Gen Yers excited about being a part of the change.  The Armed Forces is another example.  I’ve blogged several times about how different groups within the Armed Forces are using gamification to attract Gen Yers.

But first, Gen Yers have to know the industry exists in the first place.  They have to be exposed to it, hear about it, learn about it, see role models in manufacturing that are making a difference, that are making change.

What do you think?  Do you like Derek’s ideas on making manufacturing cool?  Do you think it will atract Gen Yers? What ideas do you have to make it cool? Or do you think it’s too late? I hope not.  Because if there’s an industry that needs the creativity, fresh blood and curiosity of Gen Yers, it’s manufacturing.  Here’s to making “Shop” cool again…

 

Last week, my friend, Gina Carroll, who also happens to be an awesome editor, reminded me that I had never posted the last blog in this series.  My bad.   So here goes.

The last of the disturbing trends that I see that can keep mediocrity alive & well in Corporate America is the resistance to tap into AND harness the talent that Millennials bring to the workplace.  Millennials have been in the workplace for 10 years now and still corporate leaders are having difficulty managing them.  As I work with corporate clients, I see their continued insistence to hold on to entrenched systems that worked in the past.  Having been in their shoes, I totally understand why they want to do that.  They have worked long and hard to get processes and systems in place. There’s a lot invested in corporate SOP (Standard Operating Procedures).  The thought of having to give up the tried and true for the trial and error isn’t something many leaders are enthusiastic about doing.

The problem is that continuing to hold on to the tried and true is a prescription for being left behind.  The Millennials are the messengers of the future. By pulling them into our 20th Century leadership comfort zones all but guarantees that we will miss the boat.  Instead, we should be letting them push us into the 21st Century.  But yet leaders are hesitant to do it.  This creates a Triple Jeopardy situation in the workplace.

1.      Exodus of talent. Talented Gen Yers leave the organization.  Tired and fed up with being hand tied and unable to make a difference, the very best and brightest just opt to leave.  Where is your future leadership pipeline coming from?

2.      Cost. The organization has just wasted time, money & effort on hiring those Gen Yers that subsequently leave.  In addition, the employees that remain have to pick up the slack until another replacement is found.  This further upsets an already overworked group of people.

3.      Rinse & Repeat.  The process of hiring the replacement starts the cycle all over again.  Without a solid plan in place to engage and leverage the talents Millennials bring, there is a high likelihood that the cycle of turnover will repeat itself again.   The organization is perpetuating the problem and falling further behind the innovation curve.

But it doesn’t have to be that way if leaders would be willing to shift their thinking a bit to see 20-somethings as allies instead of aliens.  By being unwilling to let go of the status quo, companies are snubbing their nose at 3 ways Millennials can bring profits, growth and vibrancy to the organization.  Here’s how they do that.

1. By being Solutionists.  20-somethings are wired to get things done. Whether it was the many demands placed on their time as young children, or the video games they play or the need to make sense of a chaotic world, Millennials are focused on solutions and being resourceful in getting to those solutions.

2.  Embracing Real-Time Reality vs. Delayed Action.  You will rarely see a Gen Yer opt to put something on a list so they can get to it later. They tackle the problem on the spot.  They look it up and get it done.  For Boomer leaders, this is uncomfortable and unsettling to see.  We prefer delayed action – let’s put it on our “To-Do” list,  let’s research it some more, let’s meet a few more times to explore the problem, etc., etc.  Millennials are in-tune with the fact that in today’s world, you won’t get to it later.  They never knew a time when there was time to spare.   Summers off to play? Only one after school activity? No volunteering on the weekends? This is all shocking to them because from an early age, their lives were full of activities that required you to be present and engaged and responding to things in real-time.  There is no missed window of opportunity.

3.    Plugging into the Collective.  You can’t beat a 20-something in their ability to tap the collective.   They realize that 2 heads are better than one and 10 are better than 2. They instinctively know to reach out to others in getting things done because the result will be a better product or solution.  Instead of the individual being front & center, it’s the group that works the magic.  The collective is at the root of the solution and the ability to tackle problems real time instead of putting it on the list.

Millennials have the 21st Century mindset imbedded in how they think, act and work. By understanding and leveraging that mindset, leaders can infuse fresh, new ways of doing things going forward.  Millennials are the messengers of the future and it’s vital that organizations retain the best of them.  We will retain them by letting them re-train our automatic defaults.  Those tried and true instinctive reactions we have worked so hard to master will get in the way of our ability to: make decisions in real-time, to test our best practices for future viability, to infuse innovation into our SOP.

If Corporate America is going to be a meaningful player in the future, it has to look inward and let go of a lot of the trash it has built up over the years.  Like Jennifer Hudson says in the Weight Watcher’s commercial ” It’s  a new dawn,  it’s a new day, it’s a new life”  for us as corporate leaders… and yes, embracing it all will also make us  ”feel good”  IF we give ourselves permission to be bold, experiment & try new things.  The Millennials are ready to work with us to forge a new way.  Are we?

Last week, I had the rare treat of being around NINE 20-somethings for 7 whole days. As many of you know by now, I love watching Gen Yers.In fact, I learned to figure them out by creating a living, breathing lab years ago as I started hiring them. They frustrated me so much that I knew that I either had to figure them out or put in for early retirement. I chose the first option. Putting Gen Yers under the microscrope changed so many things in my life but most especially it changed the way I saw them and the way I led them.

Last week, I had a chance to observe nine of them in a personal setting instead of a professional one. Although I’ve been able to do this in the past, I didn’t have the opportunity to do it for long periods of time like I did last week. Seven glorious days!

So let me give you the quick backstory. My fiance’s mother, June, turned 90 in June. Isn’t it cute that June’s name is her birth month? Anyway, I digress. June’s daughter decided to host a family reunion in August so the entire family could make it. It’s a pretty big family so you can imagine how difficult it was to get busy schedules to align.

What was so amazing is that June’s daughter and her husband PAID for the entire reunion!! And I mean everything from renting the house next door, to stocking refrigerators full of food, to paying for dinners, a suite at a Padres game, tickets to the local outdoor symphony featuring the Beatles and Rolling Stones, to a beautiful sunset birthday dinner at a golf course. It was a magical week full of wonderful memories and all made possible by the generosity of June’s daughter & husband. I know the karma gods will reward them generously for their beautiful and selfless gesture and we are all indebted to them for everything they did.

So, the nine 20-somethings were mostly June’s grandchildren and a couple of their friends. I got to talk to them, observe them, understand what was important to them and just immerse myself in their world. In doing so, I realized that today’s 20-somethings are just like we were at their age – but with a 21st Century twist. I also realized just how much I had forgotten what it was like to be 20-something. Here are the 3 things that stood out:

1. They love having fun. Whether it was playing bananagrams in the dining room table or making signs to take to the Padres game or rocking out to the Beatles & the Rolling Stones at the Pops concert, 20-somethings live their life to the fullest. Seeing their zest for life and the dreams they had for the future, reminded me that I was exactly like them at their age – I had just forgotten.

Here’s the  twist:  At the same time they were playing bananagrams, some of them were playing scrabble on their smartphones with either someone else at the reunion or a friend online.  Before going to the Rolling Stones concert, they went to iTunes to listen to some Stones hits so they would recognize them at the concert.  Remember, the Beatles & Stones aren’t bands they listen to but yet they were totally cool about getting to know them & going to a concert that showcased their songs.  At 20-something, I know I wouldn’t even dream of going with my parents to a supper club to hear Frank Sinatra.  How about you?

2.  They love to Party.   While the boring Boomers would scramble to bed exhausted at 9:00 or 10:00, their evening was just beginning.  They would either congregate in one of the houses or they’d go to a local bar.  Sometimes, I’d hear them getting back at 3 0r 4 in the morning.  It reminded me of how I’d do the same thing in my twenties. But again, going to bed at 10PM makes you forget the days when 10PM meant you were getting ready to go out and party the night away.

Here’s the twist: Unlike their parent’s generation, I found that 20-somethings today are more aware of the hazards of drinking and driving. Instead of putting their lives and those of others at risk, these 20-somethings chose to let someone else do the driving instead. I find that 20-somethings today take cabs after a night of partying rather than get behind a wheel.  For a group that’s considered to be immature and irresponsible, that’s a pretty responsible thing to do and it’s smart too. How many times did you call a cab after a night of partying?

 Through all of their partying, these 20-somethings are connected at all times to their smartphones/cellphones.  They are either letting their friends know where they are, or finding a place to go eat afterwards or taking a picture to put on their facebook page, the technology is always with them and utilized all the time. Boomers will never know what that feels like.  We had to find our way to a payphone and prayed that it worked if we wanted to make a call.

3.  They love their families.  One of my fondest memories of this reunion will be how well all the generations – Veterans, Boomers, Xers, Gen Yers and iGen (yes, there were even children under the age of 11) got along.  There was love and respect even when understanding a certain way of thinking was difficult.  After all, what someone in their 90s thinks is important is very different than what a 20-something thinks it is. I loved how everyone laughed and interacted with one another and the genuine interest the 20-somethings had in the stories told by the older generations.  I thought back to the family reunions I attended in my twenties and how despite our differences, I respected and loved my family.  I still remember the wonderful family stories that were told that I still remember today.   I had just forgotten where I first heard them.

Here’s the twist:  20-somethings today really like to hang out with their parents.  They didn’t congregate in a group removed from the older folks, they got right into the conversation and the action.  In  my twenties, I distinctly remember how the younger group would separate themselves from the older folks and hang out separately.  Not so today.  Here’s an even bigger shocker – these 20-somethings didn’t even mind if their parents hung out with them at the bar or late into the night.  That NEVER happened when I was in my twenties.  Parents were simply not allowed into our space.  Not so with this crop of 20-somethings.  They include everyone… at least to a certain point.

It seems like every day I read or hear someone highlighting how different or strange these 20-somethings are.  After spending seven fun-filled days with nine of them, I can tell you they are more like us than we give them credit for.  It’s just very hard to think back to the days we were their age.  Also, they have their own unique twist that makes them unfamiliar – but not different.  From the generation that lived the  sex, drugs & rock n’ roll mantra, imagine how frightening we must have been for our very proper and “square” parents?

I think that if we start from a place of acceptance and commonality, the differences among us aren’t so stark. They add flavor to the rich fabric of our personal and professional lives.  And we are all the more blessed because of it.

To all the 20-somethings out there – You ROCK!!

Like most Baby Boomers, I am used to getting information with enough detail and relevance that I can use it as needed. Notice I said as needed and not necessarily immediately. In other words, I like my information to be relatively meaty. One of the biggest lessons I learned in my lab when I was a corporate executive was that 20-somethings or Millennials don’t like information delivered the same way I like it. In fact, it’s just the opposite. They like it bite-sized, punchy and when needed and not a minute before. Instead of a meal, they want a snack.

That changed the way I communicated with this group in my team. It was also one of the determining factors in transforming the way I led. Since I learned and honed my management techniques and style under the 20th Century model, I was committed to communicating in the same way to all my team members. After all, I didn’t want to be accused of being inconsistent or treating people differently. How many times were we told that “one size fits all” was best when it came to employees? That way there was no confusion or misunderstandings.

Well, in the 21st Century model, when it comes to our newest job entrants and customers, one size fits all simply doesn’t work & is totally ineffective. When it comes to communicating, it’s absolutely necessary to chunk down your message. It’s called “information snacking”. Love the term!

I’m including a video where Mark Ragan, CEO of Ragan Communications is talking to Erin Lieberman Moran of the Great Place To Work Institute. By the way, the Great Place to Work Institute is the company that selects the top 100 companies to work for every year and Fortune Magazine reports on the results in their magazine. According to their website, Ragan Communications is the “leading publisher of corporate communications, public relations, and leadership development newsletters”. So both Erin and Mark know a thing or two about communicating in today’s world. Check out what they have to say about information snacking.

Right below that video, I included a video I did a couple of months ago from my Gen Yer on Fire series. The goal of the series is to highlight “the other side of Gen Y.” In other words, the good side of Gen Y that many of us as leaders often overlook. The series shows how Gen Yers are opting out of corporate careers and applying their creativity and hard work in areas they are passionate about.

So here’s Erin and Mark chatting about information snacking :

Here’s my Gen Yer on Fire video with a different but similar slant on information snacking. Oh, yeah, and one more thing: I’m not an actress and you’ll clearly see I don’t play one on the video. I’m just doing what Millennials say to do: live out loud and share my message!

So what about you? What can you do today to provide your 20-somethings with an information snack rather than a meal? I know you can do it !!!

I want to first start out by thanking my colleague, Susan Whitcomb, a wonderful career coach and President of the Career Coach Academy for sending me this article in the Business Insider written by Vivian Giang titled:  ”If You Want to Retain The Best Young Workers, Give Them A Mentor Instead of Cash Bonuses“.  According to the article, in a recent annual Global CEO Survey  conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, 20-somethings, also known as Gen Y/Millennials rated training and development way above cash bonuses as their first choice in benefits.

The research that I did this past year validated the results from the survey.  As I interviewed 20-somethings that had been working from one to five years, over 80% had either left a job or were aggressively looking for one.  Why?  All of them were shocked by the reality they faced when they started working.  None of them were prepared for it and all of them wished they had known ahead of time so that perhaps they would have asked better questions during the interview to determine if there was a good fit. But even if they still had to take a job regardless of fit, they all felt that knowing would have helped with a better transition.

What was shock #1 for these Gen Yers?  Having to report to bad bosses and/or not having mentors they could go to.  In my new e-book, New @ Work:  An Insider’s Survival Guide to a Crazy Workplace,  I give new hires some probing questions to ask during an interview so they can determine if their prospective employer embraces mentoring and whether or not their next boss has “horrible boss” characteristics.

In my experience having worked as a corporate executive for over 25 years,  I find that new hires don’t take enough advantage of the interview process.  The interview provides a great opportunity to get to know important things about the organization and the person who will be your boss.  Too often, young interviewees are so concerned about making a good impression that they either don’t ask a lot of questions or ask very predictable ones. 

Interviewers have typically been through hundreds of interviews and usually have heard the same questions being asked over and over again.  A way to stand out is to ask them questions that make them think, that get them out of their comfort zone.  As long as you ask it in a non-threatening manner and from a place of curiosity, the interviewer will most likely remember you from the countless other interviews he or she has had.  In today’s world, young interviewees need to find creative ways to get on the employers radar preferably before the interview but certainly during the interview.

As I was reading the Insider Edition article, I was noticing some of the comments that were  posted.  Many of them appeared to be from Gen Yers who disagreed with the survey results and rated cash bonuses over mentoring.  Although this is understandable in today’s unstable economic times, I believe it ultimately backfires.  It’s a case of being penny wise and pound foolish.

Having had mentors and being a mentor during my long career, I can attest to the huge benefits mentors provide.  They are able to fastrack your career.  They show you where the landmines are located, what to do and not do and how best to stand out and get noticed.  Mentors provide a shortcut to becoming successful at work.  Although that may not be as appealing as a cash bonus in the short term, I can vouch that it has much better financial benefits in the long term. 

Mentoring has allowed me to make strategic moves in my career that have ultimately gotten me  higher increases,  better bonuses and more importantly, positioned me to become a high performer which is the cream of the talent crop in an organization. Cash bonuses could not have done that and eventually, those bonuses would probably shrink without a “Success GPS”  that only a mentor can provide.

In my e-book I give some advice on how to find mentors in or outside an organization if someone finds him or herself working for a bad boss or an organization that doesn’t foster mentoring.  Mentoring is that important to your career whether you are 20-something or 50-something.

When you have a good mentor, the cash will come.  Without one, it’s a rocky road.

In today’s USA Today, an article titled:  College offers scholarship for Twitter ‘essay’   written by Luke Kerr-Dineen and Natalie DiBlasio caught my attention.  The University of Iowa held a contest worth $37,000 – the price of a full scholarship to their business school – for prospective students to submit a Twitter entry in place of a second essay.  That means that students would have to get pretty creative with 140 words in order to win the contest.

I thought that was a great example of the type of experimentation that is needed today in both universities and corporations.  As usual, the article highlighted the voice of some detractors that were not in agreement with the experiment.  I find that to be the typical reaction that plagues the leadership in many organizations today.  It’s the need to hold on to the “tried and true” instead of the “trial and error”.

Is it just me or does anyone else question  the intensive focus that is placed on the essay part of the college/MBA applicaiton process by most parents today.  Every one of my Boomer friends who has had a child apply for college has been intimately involved in the application process. Some of them more so than their children. Some have hired professional writers and editors to “review” (read redo) the essays their children prepare.  Most have spent countless hours perfecting the essays.  As Jodi Schafer, the University of Iowa’s director of MBA admission says, this intense focus on the essays has made them “unoriginal and often highly edited”.  I couldn’t agree more.

Doing something creative like the University of Iowa’s MBA program  is doing has 2 advantages:

  1. It gets people comfortable with trial and error.  The University of Iowa had no idea whether this experiment would work or not but you can be assured that going through it will give them a ton of ideas and ways to perfect it the next time or do something different.  They didn’t let the risk of failure stop them.  More universities and companies need to adopt that way of thinking if innovation is going to thrive in the future.
  2. It utilizes 21st Century tools.  Instead of relying on contest tools that were used in the past, the University decided to use the twentysomethings tool of choice to challenge them. After all, these are the tools this generation is comfortable with and will undoubtedly keep using as they get older.  As organizations bring in twentysomethings and begin to tackle the challenge of grooming them to be 21st Century leaders, they will need to get creative in how to employ these tools.  Shutting them down and prohibiting their use may not be the optimum reaction to effectively embracing innovation in the form of new tools.

It’s refreshing to read about how some universities are finding creative ways to deal with the challenge of adapting to the 21st Century.   The article highlighted other creative ways organizations are using social media in contests to help students find funding alternatives for college. It’s a win-win for both the students and the organizations that choose the scary path of experimentation.

What about you?  What new ideas are you trying in the workplace today?  Are you holding on to the tried and true or venturing into the trial and error?  Take a page from the University of Iowa: don’t just think outside the box.  Throw it out and see what new idea takes its place.

Yesterday I was reading an article that referenced a survey conducted by Mercer  indicating that over 30% of employees are disillusioned and disengaged at work . For Gen Yers on the job, the number increases to over 40%.

The interviews I held with Gen Yers this past year validates the results of the Mercer survey.  In fact, I found that over 80% of the Gen Yers I interviewed had already left an unsatisfying job or were aggressively looking to leave.

But here’s what I find most baffling.  As I work with business leaders who want to get the most out of their Millennial staff, I find there is no desire on their part to change their way of leading or try something different.  A surprisingly large group of business leaders still believe that the Millennials are the ones who are going to have to adapt to the way organizations work.   I find that so many leaders are disillusioned themselves and are just plain tired of the corporate grind.  They have no desire or incentive to try something different, to capture the minds & talent of their Gen Y staff. Many of them have gone as far as to tell me that they are absolutely NOT going to “rock the boat”.  They are desperately holding on, keeping things the same until they can retire.

I find that to be sad and troubling.  By 2014, it is estimated that 50% of the workforce will be made up of Gen Yers yet they will be reporting to bosses who are holding on to the status quo and are not that motivated to engage & retain their young staff.  Many of them turn a deaf ear when it comes to understanding why Gen Yers are unfamiliar to them as new employees.  And even more interesting than that is that many leaders show a disconnect between how they raised their own Gen Y children and what they expect from them as employees.

Here’s an example. Recently, I was working with a manager who talked constantly about how involved she was in her college children’s lives.  She explained how she researched the universities they attended, talked with the dean and other assorted faculty & staff at the various colleges they were considering and countless other details that showed how involved she was in their selection and in their lives.  She didn’t think anything of her deep involvement in her children’s decisions and the ramifications that would later have.  After all, if someone is THAT involved in making decisions on behalf of her children, how can her children be expected to do things on their own.

While I worked with her, she was constantly receiving texts from her children & responding to them.  She called them often & researched things for them.  So you’d think that someone like that would have a lot of understanding and tolerance for Gen Yers that reported to her.  Not at all.  She constantly complained about how lazy & unmotivated her young staff was.  She was frustrated at how much time she had to “waste” holding their hand through every minor detail of their work.  She was appalled at their work habits but fully expected them to “get with the program” and figure things out themselves.  After all, no one ever showed her how to get things done.  She had to figure it out on her own and so do they.

See the disconnect?  Like my client, many Gen Y parents were and are heavily involved in their children’s lives. But when these parents put on their “leader/manager”  hats at work, they expect Gen Yers to miraculously figure things out on their own.  But how can they when all their lives Gen Yers have had hands-on advisors helping them every step of the way?

Unlike other generations of young workers, Gen Yers have many more employment options than existed in the past.  Many leaders mistakenly believe that with the recession Gen Yers are going to have to conform & “get with the program”.  They may do that temporarily but here’s something you probably don’t know about your Gen Yers that you would if you spent any time trying to get to know them.  Many Gen Yers have side gigs.   I believe Pamela Slim, author of  “Escape from Cubicle Nation” calls them side hustles.  In their spare time, Gen Yers are following their passion, volunteering in non-profits, working part-time at a home-based business.  The more disengaged they are at work, the more effort they’ll put into their side hustles.

They also have options around the companies they work for.  There are many successful companies that have been started by Gen Yers that are attuned to the needs to Gen Yers & are extremely attractive to them. Think Google, Facebook and many in the non-profit world such as Invisible Children.  And we haven’t even talked about the unprecedented access to angel funding & venture capital that is available to someone with an idea, a lot to offer and working for a boss who doesn’t care.

So my advice to leaders out there is this: If you want to attract and keep the best of  Gen Y talent and prepare them to lead effectively in the 21st Century instead of the 20th Century, let go of the status quo and stop holding on until you retire.   We owe it to our children, your young staff to give them the tools they need to be the great leaders of the future.

As I’ve mentioned in many of my recent posts, this past year I had the pleasure of interviewing young professionals who had been working from 1 to 5 years out of college.  Over 80% of them had been unhappy in their first job and had either left it or were looking to leave. But all 100% of them agreed on one thing:  they were not prepared for what to expect once they had the  job.

This is not unusual but it’s a fact that doesn’t get talked about much.  The reality is that college doesn’t prepare you for the world of work.  Going from college to corporate is one of the hardest transitions we all make.  Don’t think it’s a new reality either.  When I graduated from college many, many, many years ago, I almost quit after my first two weeks.  Actually, I wanted to quit after the first week but decided to wait until a got my first paycheck.  I figured it was the least the company could do for having me go through the shock of working in a corporate environment.

As it turns out, I never quit.  The economic situation at the time very much resembled the one today’s college grads are facing.  I had many friends who had not found work and when I told them I was quitting, they told me I was crazy & that I needed to stick it out even if I was miserable.  I listened and I did stick it out. Of course back then, the career or job options available to a 20-something were much more limited than they are today.   There weren’t any internships or contracting work that a young person could take to make a living.  But the truth is it took me a LONG time to get used to the work environment because it wasn’t easy to figure out.

Today’s newest and youngest entrants to the workplace told me the same thing.  In fact, they told me the 5 key areas that shocked them the most about working.  So I made a decision.  I decided to write a series of ebooks to give college grads the upper hand in transitioning from college to corporate.   The first ebook  which comes out this month is called New @ Work: An Insider’s Survival Guide to the Crazy Workplace.  It gives college grads 5  insider secrets about the world of work.  It busts the myths many of us had about the workplace before we worked there.  It’s the 5 that were highlighted by the young people I interviewed this past year.

Let me give you 2 examples of what I mean.

1.  As a college grad, you probably expect that your boss will not only be a good boss to you but that he will be a good leader for the team you work for.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  The likelihood is that he or she won’t be.  The inside scoop that seasoned workers learned the hard way is that there is an overwhelmingly large number of bad bosses in the workplace.  I call them batty bosses and I’ve described some of their characteristics in some of my previous blogs.  In the ebook, I go into each of them and explain why they exist.  I also provide some probing questions you can ask during your job interviews to uncover if you will be working for one.  If you get lucky enough to land a good boss, count your blessings and don’t do anything to jeopardize that relationship.

2.  As a college grad, you probably expect that your workplace will encourage and foster collaboration among employees both in and outside your team.  Maybe. Maybe not.  The insider truth is that collaboration doesn’t always flourish in many of the more established companies and it certainly doesn’t do so at the level that young people today are used to collaborating.  There are a lot of reasons for that which I explain in the book and I give some pointed questions you can ask during your job interview to get a glimpse of how collaborative or not your future employer is.

The point is that as a college grad you should not go blindly into your first job.  The hundreds of thousands of us that have done so either quit our jobs or took a long time to figure it out.  You don’t need to do that. It’s important that you know exactly what to expect.  Instead of being miserable or wasting time trying to make sense of it all, you can be ready for it and concentrate on making a great impression and showcasing your talents and desire to make a difference.

One thing you can do now to get ready:  talk to your friends who have been working for a year or more.  Ask them what surprised them most about work.  Ask them for 1 to 3 tips to prepare you so you can know what to expect.

In the meantime, look out for my ebook announcement and the special offer for the class of 2011.

Most college grads think the way to stand out during a job interview is to be as prepared as possible for the questions employers will ask them during their interviews.  That is partially true.  Job interviews are the first impression you are making to the employer.  Being able to anticipate their questions and answer them well is a strong start to making a good impression.

But do you know there’s another effective way to stand out during your interview?  Here’s an insider secret: The interview process gives you a rare and often unutilized opportunity to put the employer under the microscope by asking them some probing questions.

The questions provide 2 immediate benefits.

1. It Showcases YOU:  Here’s another insider secret: Employers don’t usually expect to get probing questions from young employees. That’s expected from the more experienced candidates who have been working for years and know the “real deal”. The questions will distinguish you from other interviewees in 3 key ways:

         a.  Savviness. You instantly show you are savvy about what goes on inside the corporate walls. It demonstrates you went       above and beyond the normal research and due diligence.

         b. Surprise. Employers already know the typical questions young and inexperienced candidates ask. Time after time, they respond with the same routine, memorized answer. Pointed questions surprise them and make them take notice. It breaks them out of the expected and it’s a way for you to stand out among a sea of other applicants.

         c.  Spunkiness. Employers were once in your shoes and know how uncomfortable it is for a young person to ask tough questions. Most will admire your courage because so few do. It shows spunk and that shows the employer that you are bright and on the ball. It makes them feel confident you’ll get up to speed quickly when hired.

2. Forewarned is Forearmed. Many young employees make the common mistake of focusing all their attention on making a good impression during the interview process. This is an extremely important thing to do, but it isn’t the only thing you should be doing. You need to understand the work environment you will be walking into when you accept the job. Unlike the majority of young employees who start work and are clueless about what they’re getting into, you will know. You won’t waste time being surprised. Instead you can focus  on what you have to do to get on the fast track to advance your career.

Take those tips from my previous blogs and start coming up with a list of questions to ask your employer during the interview.  You might find those questions to be the key ingredient to standing out and going to the front of the line during the selection process.

I know that in today’s challenging economy, college grads are concerned about finding a job.  You are spending a lot of time preparing for your interviews & making sure you are ready to answer the tough questions employers will throw at you so that you can stand out.

Well, guess what?  That’s only half the battle. What steps are you taking during the interview process to determine if your prospective employer is a good fit for you?  Here’s a reality that most college grads are unaware of when they are seeking their first job: over 80% of college grads wind up hating their first job.  That’s a LOT of people that are unhappy.

How do I know that?  I spent the last year, interviewing college grads that were working between 1 and 5 years. Most of them – 80% – said they had either left their first job or were unhappy there and were aggressively looking for another job. When I asked them why they were unhappy they all said the same thing:  we didn’t do our homework on the company hiring us.  Like most of you, these young professionals currently in the workforce did not take the time to really ask the employer some penetrating questions to determine what it would be like to work there.

All of the young people I interviewed said they were just laser focused on getting into a company & starting their career.  They did not focus a lot of attention on asking their employers some penetrating questions.  Whatever questions they asked was to show the employer how much they knew about the company. After they started, they realized what most experienced employees already know.  Finding “a job” is often not the right approach to take even though you may be extremely tempted to do that. 

Most of the young people I interviewed said that taking “a job” had not been a good decision for them.  Many wished they had taken the time to question their prospective employer (and boss)  instead of just trying to be as prepared as possible for the employer’s questions.  Most interviewees felt sure that if they had taken the time to ask better questions they would have either chosen not to take the job or, if they needed to, they would have known ahead of time what they were getting themselves into. 

That’s good advice.  The difference between an inexperienced interviewee and an experienced one is that the experienced one knows that getting “a job” is not the answer.  It’s finding one that’s a good fit for you.  That’s why people that have been working for some time make a list of probing questions to ask during an interview.  They know the importance of putting their prospective boss and employer under the microscope.   

A job search is an exhausting process and not something you necessarily look forward to.  Experienced job seekers don’t want to be in a situation where they look for “a job” and are unhappy and have to look for another one soon after. Being prepared for the interview by asking a series of good questions to determine if there’s a fit is what experienced job seekers do to prevent that situation from happening.

Take your cues from the pros.  Being prepared to answer an employer’s probing question is an important part of getting a job.  Asking the employer your own probing questions is an important part of finding the right fit and wanting to stay on the job.

Here are 3 tips to finding the right fit.  

Tip #1: Take some of the questions I’ve highlighted in my previous blogs as a starting point to preparing your list. 

Tip #2:  Ask your friends & family members who have been working for a few years, what questions they wished they had asked when they interviewed for their first jobs.  Everyone will be more than happy to give you their set of questions. 

Tip #3: Take the questions that have been repeated by most people and add those to your list.  That’s going to give you a huge advantage over other job seekers.  While they are busy finding “a job”, you’re busy finding the “right job” for you .

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