What I’ve learned from the media about job-seeking Millennials is pretty unflattering. Apparently, we don’t have a clue how to interview (let alone how to dress for the occasion), and we exhibit all kinds of casual, oddball behavior in professional contexts.
Yet paradoxically, the internet is churning out reams of contradictory advice on how to approach the job hunt in 2013. A single tweet now carries the same weight as a meticulous resume and cover letter. Instead of a resume that looks like a resume, submit a candy bar wrapper. Throw the old rules away. Streamline the job search with the tap of a touchscreen. Aren't these also casual, oddball methods?
So who’s to blame? Where did these new approaches come from? Is it the fault of Millennials? Are we too ready to adopt new trends? Are we looking for shortcuts? Or is it the news and blogosphere who propagate bold ideas and pronounce the death of traditional practices prematurely? Likewise, software developers and tech companies are scrambling to provide apps that remove formidable amounts of time and thought that typically go into a job search. It’s a chicken-and-egg scenario. Are they simply filling a demand that already exists?
The mismatch became apparent to me after watching this commercial for Proven.com, which follows a fresh-faced college grad through her nauseatingly easy job search. Of course, the ease and success stem directly from Proven’s user-friendly app. The commercial is cheeky and aware of its own unrealistic storyline, but all the same it propagates the same misleading stereotypes about unemployed young people:
- That we don't know how to communicate directly. When she turns down the farm job, she gives an uncomfortable, backpedaling speech in which she can't articulate why she's turning down the offer.
- We all have iPhones we can whip out of our pockets (not to mention expensive Apple laptops) that we cannot be detached from and are helpless without. What does this imply about her financial situation?
- That we refuse to sacrifice or disrupt our fun-loving lifestyle to accommodate a job search, and want a childlike solution to an adult-sized problem. (Or is this an older generation’s idea of what life is like as an unemployed youth, presented in an almost voyeuristic way? Applying for a job while getting busy in the sack? Hmm.)
- That we don’t spend time tailoring our resumes to fit different openings. This is evident by the fact that she clicks a single “Apply” button for each listing.
My own job search after college (and a second one, later on), followed a different school of advice: pore over your resume, revise it to fit the position, write a dazzling, succinct cover letter. Finding a job is a job in itself, and it takes sacrifice. (It really did.)
How do these shifts get traction, and how do they spread, and who stands to benefit? Is everyone involved in this app-based hiring process (software company, employer, candidate) on the same page? Does an employer -- a real employer, not the one depicted in the commercial -- want a generic, button-hitting, resume-spreading candidate? Do they value quantity and speed over quality? My hunch is no. They want a qualified candidate who gives thought to her application. But it's not immediately apparent who is supposed to bend and adapt to whom.
So can you blame Millennials for their casual approach when the technology exists to facilitate it? If I were to begin a job search right now, I wouldn't know where to start. When I consume advice from a variety of experts, it's not like comparing apples to apples anymore. All of a sudden there's a durian from outer space thrown into the mix.