The December jobs report came out on Friday, and well, yeah.
Unemployment fell from 7% to 6.7%, but the economy added only 74,000
jobs. 55,000 of these jobs are in retail; 19,000 are in "business
services." Can we get a side order of manufacturing production with our
The real story, however, is the labor participation rate. It's fallen to
62.8%, the lowest in nearly 36 years. Roughly 350,000 of us "left the
labor force" last month, meaning at least 350,000 Americans have given
up looking for work. To put things in perspective, the soundtrack albums
from "Saturday Night Fever" and "Grease" were topping the charts the
last time our employment motivation levels were this low.
Millions of young job seekers are dropping out of the workforce, too,
since they can't find jobs, either. Yet, every day for some reason there
are still dozens of new, cognitively dissonant business articles
imploring employers -- teaching them, really -- how to cater to the
Millennial job seeker. "Today younger workers see workplace flexibility
as critical to quality of life not just balancing home and work
demands," trumpets today's edition of The Wall Street Journal. "Be willing to see the world through the younger employee's eyes."
Meanwhile, an article on Chief Learning Officer states:
"A few ideas and icons that don't work at work for Millennials include:
Corporate ladder. Bureaucracy. Overly formal communication.
Inflexibility. Lack of diversity. Boring work. Millennials aren't afraid
to say these elements of business aren't working, and they're standing
up for the new rules of management and fostering a positive work
Every other article says pretty much the same thing. Now inflexibility
for the sake of inflexibility is stupid, and if your workplace's
management practices and technologies are still stuck in 1978 like the
labor participation rate then you could well use an upgrade to the 21st
Century. But "bureaucracy" and "boring work?" These elements comprise
97.5% of most jobs.
Now let me say that I don't dislike the Millennial generation. Like
every generation, it has its good eggs and its bad eggs, hiring-wise. I
simply think the butt-kissing coverage the Millennials receive on a
daily basis courtesy of the business media isn't helping them get hired.
Why? Because no one wants to hire a high-maintenance special snowflake
who can't pull his or her own weight in the workplace, is going to spend
the whole work day complaining, and has "a great new idea" for doing
everything completely differently without having the requisite work
experience to know that it's been tried before and it doesn't work.
At least, this is the perception one walks away with after reading "how
to" business articles about managing Millennials. As it stands, business
coverage of the Millennial generation is simply perpetuating a broad,
and potentially unfair, stereotype of these young job seekers as highly-coddled kids
who think they should always get a prize no matter how they've
performed, and that management should cater to their every whim and
fancy. Who wants to hire someone like this? (Hint: No one, that's who,
especially in this economy.)
If you're a Millennial job seeker, then keep in mind you're battling a
daily barrage of business coverage that's essentially, and most likely
unintentionally, painting your generation as a bunch of high
maintenance, highly entitled and demanding know-it-alls. How can you get
past this unhelpful press portrait in a job interview with someone who
reads business articles every day? Here are seven tips:
1. Don't believe the media hype. It's a tried and true principle
of the celebrity world that it's all downhill as soon as one starts
believing his or her own hype. The business press is crazy about you and
seems to have put you on quite a pedestal, Millennials, but refuse to
buy into it. You're still going to have to convince someone to hire you,
which brings me to Tip #2.
2. Tell employers what you can offer them. Question #1 on any
hiring manager's mind is: What could this job applicant offer us? Ask
not what the employer can do for you, ask what you can do for the
employer. After reading so many business articles, the employer assumes
you can use technology and software. What he or she wants to know,
however, is how good you are at analyzing and utilizing the data generated.
Can you interpret a spreadsheet? Can you think on your feet in the face
of an angry customer or problematic project that's two hours past
deadline? How good are your critical thinking skills under extreme
pressure? Address these questions on paper and/or in person, and the
employer will be suddenly very interested in you.
3. Don't talk about high school. Uttering "At my high
school/college..." is, uuuuuuugh, just don't go there, okay? Saying this
phrase simply highlights your inexperience to anyone within earshot
over the age of 25. Talk about your B.A. in a field of study, but don't
talk about band camp, being in a frat or Spring Break. Ever. Leave the
past in the past. We're talking about your future here. Where do you see
yourself in five years? Now you're talking!
4. Never let a parent contact a company on your behalf. I can't
stress this one enough. Unless you're deathly ill, never let a family
member contact a potential employer because it makes you look infantile,
unsure of yourself, and quite frankly, irresponsible. Your job search
is your job search, and you need to take full, up-front responsibility
for all aspects of it. Sure, your family members can advise you behind
the scenes, but you're the face of your own brand. And good brands can
5. Never bring a parent to a job interview. If you want the job, that is. See Tip #4, and this blog post, for a list of reasons why this is a really bad idea.
6. Act like you're interested in the job. Acting cool and above
it all might work on a first date, but it's not going to work in a job
interview. Dress for success, put your phone on mute (don't even think
about answering it/scanning it during the interview), spit out the gum,
try not say "like" every third word, and sit up and smile. Don't focus
on salary, benefits or vacation time up front unless asked by the
interviewer. Save such questions for the second interview when things
get down to business.
7. Don't be condescending about technology. Yes, we know. You
guys are great with everything from apps to .Gifs to social media, but
never, ever assume that someone of a certain age can't keep up with you
or won't "get" what you're saying about technology. Uttering something
like, "Um, I'm on Instagram, maybe you've heard of it?" is a sure-fire
way to get off on the wrong foot in a job interview. Who knows? The
person across the table could have thousands upon thousands of Instagram
followers and might simply smile before mentally moving on to the next
job applicant. You don't know what the interviewer knows, so never
There are other tips I could offer, but I have to remember how to post
this to Twitter. Bottom line, Millennials: For all the word space
dedicated daily to discussing how awesome you guys are, at the end of
the day you'll still need to sell potential, press-reading employers on
what you have to offer. And I do think you have a lot of great things to
Never assume, however, that a hiring manager will simply pick up on it by osmosis or by reading The Wall Street Journal.
You have to make the company want to hire you, especially after
everything they keep reading about you. Now get back to your job search,
and remember to use Spell Check before sending.