Helping, not hovering: Career assistance advice for parents of Gen Z students & recent grads

mom and sonDo you cringe when hearing the term “helicopter parents?” Nobody wants to be that parent—hovering over her child, offering unsolicited advice, attempting to thwart minor failures or skinned knees, and purchasing countless expensive gadgets and devices (because saying no is really hard!). But let’s face it. We’re all guilty of this occasionally–hovering, enabling, and causing  problematic behavior so prevalent in Generation Z students and recent grads.

Many experts in academics, career services, career coaching, and talent acquisition agree that by the time many Gen Z students graduate from college, they are simply not equipped with a strong set of soft skills. They’re often not confident about entering the workforce of today and contributing strongly to employers. Or worse, they’re overly confident.

Rather than spend time pointing the finger at our co-parents, blaming our school systems or higher education programs, or shaking our heads while gazing hopelessly at our own children and shrugging our shoulders, it makes more sense to ask ourselves that age-old question: “What’s my part in this problem? And how can I help ensure that my child is well-prepared for the world of work so that she finds a great job (and retains it) after graduating?”

cindy folmerCindy Folmer, Senior Human Resources Manager at L’Oréal USA, manages, coaches, and trains interns and entry-level employees daily. L’Oréal USA hires over 100 interns each summer. The company offers many of them the opportunity to join the Management Development Program. The program cultivates managers in distribution centers, manufacturing facilities, corporate headquarters, and other locations.

Folmer understands firsthand the challenges facing employers today in working with Gen Z college students and recent grads. “Proper manners, etiquette, ability to engage, and patience are all areas I see as challenges facing recent grads in the workplace. There are attitudes and behaviors, at times, that indicate those just entering the workforce believe they don’t have to put in the effort their parents did to move ahead as quickly. The challenge for employers is to engage this group so they are willing to learn and stay where they are in order to bring value to an organization. We’re committed to meeting this challenge at L’Oréal.” Folmer asserts.

What can parents do to prevent their children from developing attitudes like this to begin with? How can parents help their children develop strong soft skills?

  • Help children develop soft skills by encouraging the soft skill itself rather than by scolding the child for exhibiting its negative opposite. For example, if your child constantly procrastinates and never turns in homework on time, praise him when he turns it in on time. Visit with his teachers to open lines of communication; if you know when he’s submitting work on time, you can more easily encourage him. When he saunters downstairs one minute before it’s time to leave, express gratitude that he’s dressed and ready to go rather than making a snide comment about the way he fixed his hair (or didn’t brush his teeth).
  • Consider a technology-free zone in your home, a tech-free vacation, or a tech-free hour as a family. Model this behavior as a parent. If your child sees you with your nose in your phone, she’s not going to be inclined to put hers away. When you eat dinner—whether at a restaurant or at home—why not toss all your cell phones in a basket and engage in face-to-face conversation? This is a great way to encourage communication skills.
  • Teach children the art of waiting. Although we definitely need to stay ahead in the area of technology, we’ve made it easy for our children to get what they want when they want it. For instance, if they want to watch a specific television show they missed, we can jump onto In Demand,” suggests Folmer.
  • Encourage your children to find suitable career mentors and to explore their career goals early in life. This doesn’t require an extensive, formal assessment. Even elementary students can create vision boards and enjoy job shadowing and site visits. Most professionals absolutely love sharing about what they do, and chances are, your own friends and family members work in various career fields. Supervise this process to ensure your child’s safety, but don’t dictate which career fields your child chooses to explore, or you’ll take the fun out of it.
  • “Encourage them to absorb the pleasure of finishing something instead of jumping to the next activity. Give them something to do that will take time, such as learning a new sport, one they don’t really want to do. On the job, there will be tasks we don’t want to do; we have to do them, though. Then take a look back and talk through lessons learned, challenges overcome, and the excitement of success of each of these,” Folmer notes.

There are countless ways to help children learn soft skills and become confident in themselves. This confidence helps students, upon graduation, become candidates who are sought after by employers.

What if your child is struggling in his job search? How can you help? And should you help?

6950093_orig“College is a time for exploration, to learn, and to show that an individual can do things on their own,” said Matt Krumrie, a professional resume writer and career adviser who works with entry-level job seekers seeking that first job out of college. “Recent college grads should ask their parents for advice – but that’s it. They shouldn’t ask them to come to interviews – that really has happened – or expect them to lead their job search, or mention what they tell them in an interview.”

“Employers want to hire people who can think on their own, make decisions, and show they can get a job done without relying on someone else to always guide them,” Krumrie goes on to say. “When parents hover, or overstep boundaries in the job search, employers notice, and that hurts the job seeker. They wonder how much this will continue if hired, and in reality, it impacts hiring decisions. Once students graduates, it’s time to spread their wings, and show they are their own person ready to make an impact – without relying on mom and dad to lead them.”

Folmer agrees. “It’s very important at the stage of applications for parents to give their kids the opportunity to go it alone. I’ve seen too many kids come into the workplace with no idea how to complete an application. They also struggle with completing paperwork or making decisions. Be supportive, talk things out, and give them the tools necessary to go to the next level of their life.”

Each parent needs to decide the appropriate level of involvement with her own child. Whether you pay for career coaching for your child, encourage your child’s educational institution to offer soft skills training, send a career-related article to her, or offer no career advice and simply love her, the fact you took time to read this article means you’re a loving parent trying to do your best to help her—and she will be just fine in the end, no matter which path she chooses.

Contact me to discuss soft skills training programs, presentations, and opportunities for partnership with your child’s educational institution.

About to graduate? 3 networking tips for college seniors

It’s spring semester, and graduation is two months away. Congratulations! If you’ve been consistently branding yourself, networking your tail off, applying for grad school or jobs, and have your resume and other materials in order, you’re probably feeling ready to launch into the next stage of your life: transitioning from college student to entry-level careerist. If you’ve been procrastinating visiting with career services professionals on campus and never read articles like these (and your mom just forwarded this article to you, or you stumbled across it as part of some divine intervention), you may feel a little nervous about what’s coming in May.

It’s great to get an early start on preparing for your future career and job search, but better late than never. Networking is a huge piece of the career preparation puzzle; remember, experts estimate (based on research) that up to 85% of jobs are landed via networking. Don’t spend all your time researching companies online and applying for jobs without ever attending career fairs or networking events. Don’t fail to connect with real people.

“Don’t be afraid to put in work on the front end to connect with people who can help you in your career or job search,” says Becky Warren, Career & Disability Services Coordinator.

Here are several great networking tips for seniors in college ready to launch their careers.


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  • Talk.

Sounds simple, right? But it’s so easy to focus on everything else… your appearance, the food at the networking event, the overwhelming number of employers or attendees, the number of job candidates or students, the noise in the room, the pit in your stomach or butterflies dancing in your belly.

Focus!

If you don’t have genuine conversations with people at networking events, career fairs, alumni events hosted on campus, and in other situations designed to give you opportunities to engage with real, live people, you’re missing the point. And guess what? You need to branch out and avoid talking to the people you already know.

Give yourself an assignment to talk to at least three new people when you attend an event. Obtain business cards if possible because this gives you an easy reminder for following up later (and contact information, too). It’s great to talk to people in your career field, but if you can’t identify people in your field, that’s okay. The point is to practice overcoming your fear of communicating with new people and to make new connections. You might enjoy yourself, and you might build great new connections.

  • Update your brand.

Before you step out the door to attend a face-to-face networking event or prior to logging on to a virtual event, check your online brand. Log into every social media site. Google yourself. You should do this regularly, but definitely do it prior to events.

Recently, I attended an event on a college campus. I interacted with a really cool, engaging, savvy student. Immediately following the event, I searched for the student on social media. Her profile picture gave me pause and seemed inappropriate. I chose not to connect after all. The bummer for that student is that I’m connected to some really awesome employers, recruiters, talent acquisition leaders, and entrepreneurs. These are all people who may have benefited this young woman in her future job search. But I have to look out for my own brand. I don’t connect (or remain connected) with people who don’t portray themselves in a positive light.

Don’t let this happen to you. Put your best self out there online, particularly when you’re job searching and prior to graduation. Remember, you cannot disconnect your brand from your networking efforts.

  • Don’t overlook the little people.

When you’re networking, don’t make the classic mistake of walking into a room and glancing at name badges or honing in on the most important looking people in the room and ignoring the rest of the minions. It’s egotistical and rude to focus on a few “big names” in the room, and honestly, it might be a waste of your time because—news flash—many other candidates will be playing the same game.

You’re better off to network with everyone. Just as in life, mix it up and try to engage with a very diverse group of people from all socioeconomic backgrounds, all levels of experience in the workplace, etc. You’ll have interesting conversations, and you may be surprised that those “little people” often have some hidden connections which can help you later in your job search.

The same goes for building and maintaining relationships in the workplace (not just at networking events).

“Don’t sell any co-worker short. Someday that person may be a leader, in a hiring role, or know of a hidden job they could tell you about because you have a professional relationship with them. Be nice to everyone you work with. It will pay off,” encourages Matt Krumrie, freelance writer and career expert.

Remember, networking is a web of relationships you’ve worked to build; you have to maintain them, too.

“As with any relationship, what you put in is what you get out,” shares Warren.

Networking is a two-way street; what are you giving back to the people who have given so much to you?

“Be a resource for others in your network. Be willing to connect them with people you know; help them if they have a question. Always be willing to help them solve a problem. It may not pay off immediately, but it will someday, guaranteed. And that is much more rewarding,” promises Krumrie.

About today’s contributors:

Becky Warren works in career services at a community college. With five years of experience in higher education, she has a passion for serving students and helping others plan for their futures. 

Matt Krumrie writes about careers, jobs and workplace topics and issues. Learn more at resumesbymatt.com

For help building your network, branding yourself well, or writing your own entry-level resume, reach out to me for a free consultation. 

3 ways to avoid interview clichés

If you’ve interviewed for job openings more than a handful of times, you’re probably familiar with the body language an employer exhibits when he’s bored, tired of listening to you talk, or turned off by something you said.

Isn’t that a horrible feeling?

I was recently interviewed by writer Matt Krumrie for an article on ZipRecruiter.com about interview clichés. In addition to the helpful information in this article, I’m providing you with my top three ways to drive employers crazy during interviews—and ways to avoid driving them crazy, too, by avoiding interview clichés.

Which came first… canned interview questions or cliché interview responses? The chicken or the egg?

It doesn’t really matter, does it? If your end goal is to land a great job with a great company, you have to be smart and prepared. If the employer throws out 10 canned interview questions, and you’re adequately prepared for the interview, you’ll be able to respond candidly and concisely while avoiding interview clichés.

It’s important for you as a job seeker to understand that recruiters will likely ask a standard set of questions for a variety of reasons. Employers must ask candidates the same/similar questions to avoid exhibiting bias, and most employers also don’t have time to reinvent the wheel when preparing for interviews with candidates. Employers need to ascertain as quickly as possible whether candidates fit well within the open position and within the company’s culture. It’s your job as the candidate to provide unique, detailed information within the confines of standard interview questions. The only way to do this is by adequately preparing for interviews. Reality check: you will likely be asked standard interview questions. If you don’t prepare responses in advance, you’re choosing to perform poorly and weed yourself out of the screening/hiring process.

Here are three standard interview clichés and ways to avoid them.

  1. “What’s your greatest weakness?”

You’ll be asked this question in at least half of your interviews. Please don’t mention a strength and spin it as a weakness. This is a really old school tip, and employers see right through it. How many times have employers heard candidates say, “Well, I’m a perfectionist, and it causes me to spend too much time on projects?”

Even if this is true, employers will either call bull or roll their eyes at this response. Instead of taking this approach, mention a true weakness, but limit the weaknesses you mention to teachable skills. “I have to admit I wish I had more cross training experience in HTML. My lack of coding is very limited, and when I switch over to code occasionally, I am not as comfortable as I’d like to be. I’d like more training in this area so I can contribute in more ways to my team.” The reason this approach works is because most employers recognize that you’re mentioning a problem which can be easily remedied by professional development or training, and you’re expressing a desire to learn. Good employers don’t see these weaknesses as insurmountable problems but as opportunities for growth.

  1. “Tell me about yourself.”

Avoid responding by launching into a monologue about your life. Unless employers are hoping you’ll throw yourself under the bus so they can weed you out from a big pool of candidates, employers simply don’t want to know about every detail of your life, and they don’t have time to hear the story, either.

What do they care about? They care about what is relevant to the company, to the position, to your work background and future career goals. Briefly explain who you are, where you’ve been, and where you’re going. Keep it simple. Avoid sharing personal information which might give away information employers can’t legally ask you. If you’re not familiar with illegal interview questions, add this to your interview prep to-do list.

  1. “Where do you see yourself in five or 10 years”

Do not lie to your potential employer and respond with, “Why, working for you, of course.”

Employers understand that you’re a human being with hopes, dreams, and goals. They want to hear about your future career plans. However, use caution when sharing your plans during an interview; it’s probably not a good idea to mention that in two years, you hope to quit your job and move to Jamaica for the rest of your life.

Focus on what you hope to gain from your employment with their company, but more importantly, how you hope to contribute to the company’s goals or overall mission. Do you want to transition from a contributing writer to editor-in-chief within 10 years? Don’t be afraid to mention that. It’s ambitious, but a quality employer wants to hire candidates with drive and motivation.

It’s better to showcase yourself as caring deeply about your career than as someone who provides cliché answers due to lack of concern or preparation. With a little interview preparation, you’ll not only avoid clichés; you’ll also land your dream job.

Need help preparing for upcoming job interviews? Reach out to me for a free consultation, and connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn for more tips.

 

5 smart ways to fit into corporate culture before you even land the job

Corporate culture is all the buzz these days. All companies and organizations, whether small business or non-profits or monstrous corporate giants, want to create a buzz about what it’s like to work there. You’re familiar with this, right? The Googleplex? The lists upon lists of top companies to work for in the United States?

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Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Each company or organization has its own brand or identity. I like to think of these as personalities. I’ve worked for all types of companies and organizations, and I’m sure you have if you have much work experience. I worked for a small business owner whose over-the-top, charismatic personality oozed out into the workplace. He converted part of the second floor of the building into a workout facility and game room. This man was the king of fun, but we all knew there was work to be done, so we simply made work fun, too. I thrived in this environment and helped my sales team earn national recognition two quarters in a row.

I also worked for more than one organization with zero personality, or maybe the Debbie Downer personality type. These companies were characterized by low morale, boring meetings, quiet hallways and empty breakrooms, and embarrassing employee retention and attrition statistics. It wasn’t just that these organizations weren’t fun—they lacked passion, enthusiasm, and concern for the work being done. Nobody wants to show up to work each day in a negative, pessimistic, or stifling work environment. Can I get an amen?

I’m sure you’re like me, and you want to work for a company known for its great corporate culture. How do you learn more about a company’s culture and values? And once you determine you want to work for a particular company or organization, how do you go about convincing that employer to hire you?

I was recently interviewed by my former colleague, Matt Krumrie, for a FlexJobs.com article about cultural fit. In addition to the information I shared with Matt, these five tips will help you strategically research companies, determine if they’re a fit for you or not (remember, fit is a two-way street), and then convince your ideal employers to bring you on board during the job search and application process.

1) Do your research about the company before tailoring your resume or crafting your cover letter. If you don’t research the company prior to applying for openings, you don’t know the company well enough to apply for positions. Part of applying for job openings is selling yourself as a candidate. To sell yourself well, you need to convince the person reading your cover letter and reviewing your resume–most likely a hiring manager, recruiter, or human resources coordinator–that you are not only a great fit for the position, but that you are the only fit for the position. How do you do that? You display an understanding of what the company needs (and demonstrate that you’re the best person to give it to them).

2) When conducting research about the company, don’t just peruse the website randomly for 30 minutes. While this is better than nothing, it won’t cut it if you want to dig in and learn about corporate culture. Be strategic in your approach. Is there a media kit available online with quick, hard facts available? A FAQ page about the company? An “in the news” page? Become as familiar as possible not just with statistics but also with information about how the company is posturing itself in the community or world. How is the company selling itself? This helps you gain insight on the pulse of the company’s ethics and values–the corporate culture.

3) Ask yourself whether you are attracted to the interests of the company as well. Is the company endorsing civil rights publicly? That’s fantastic if you care deeply about civil rights. Did the company post several articles about its affiliation with a non-profit organization which promotes health and wellness? That might not be something you find interesting. While this isn’t often a deal breaker in helping you decide about applying for a job, it’s still something to consider. Are you an avid volunteer? If so, a company’s social or political interests might matter more to you than you think in the long run, so take it into account.

4) Don’t overlook opportunities to talk to real people who work for the company. Talking to employees is often the best way to learn about the company, even though you should take opinions with a grain of salt. Employees and former employees know the inner workings of a company or organization better than anyone else. Most people aren’t shy about divulging their experiences if you just ask (especially if you offer to pay for lunch or coffee!). If nothing else, you’ll build your professional network, and that’s never a bad thing.

5) After completing the research phase, tailor your resume. Polish it up in the traditional sense–with the help of career services employees (if you’re a college student) or with my help if you no longer have access to career services employees on your college campus–but keep your research in mind. Share what you learned to your career coach or career services expert, and explain why you want to work for the company. This helps me help you!

Did you learn that the company is a non-profit organization which tends to hire employees with strong backgrounds in the non-profit sector? Play up your volunteer experience and that one non-profit gig on your resume. Even if you don’t normally emphasize that position heavily, this might be the time to add more accomplishment statements to describe your work in that position. Consider discussing your own love for helping others in your cover letter, too. Perhaps you don’t have much non-profit experience, but you’ve always donated financially to two different organizations. Explain why in your cover letter, and if writing a cover letter makes your brain hurt, contact me for assistance.

Remember, your resume and cover letter are simply documents to help you land interviews. Think of them as door openers. You can’t afford to bypass the research phase, slap together a shoddy resume, and whip out a generic cover letter if you want the door to open. In today’s competitive job market, it’s important to use every tool available to ensure your future employer sees you as a great cultural fit before she emails you to invite you to interview.

Do you need help creating a basic resume, tailoring your existing resume, or crafting a cover letter? Reach out to me to schedule a free one-on-one consultation, and let’s get to work.