Congratulations on graduating from college, Generation Z’ers!
Now contrary to what you’ve heard, I’ve got some sobering news: Landing that first job will be tough, no matter what your GPA is, how polished your resume looks or how nice that snazzy new suit fits. You’ve probably read that it’s a candidate’s market and unemployment is at the lowest in more than 50 years, but book knowledge, minus a couple of hyper specific curriculums, often means squat when searching for your first position.
That’s not to say a college degree isn’t valuable. It certainly is. But even if you interned for the same company for years and anticipate being hired in that organization, unless you are doing the exact same thing or something close to it, it’s not the same dynamic. The candidate with two to three years of work experience almost always has a leg up. You might go out there and change the world like, no doubt, many of your professors inspired you to do. But the reality is you’re not God’s gift to employment, Harvard and Stanford quantitative physics majors aside. There’s constant talk about a recession, and that is inevitable — as simple economics tells you what goes up must come down.
The bottom line is this: You need employers more than they need you.
So, let’s get you prepared. I’ve spoken several times to college seniors at my alma mater, Christopher Newport University, and they’re excited about landing an interview after applying to an online posting. I always ask, “What do you know about who’s interviewing you?”
Too often the response is “Nothing.” If you don’t have the name of the person you’re interviewing with, find out. Call and ask. There’s nothing confidential about knowing the name and position of whom you will be meeting with. From there, do your research. Punch the name into LinkedIn and Google and learn as much as you can about the person. Maybe they also played tuba like you did in high school. Know your audience so you’re not going into an interview in a completely powerless position.
Employers need to do a self-check, too, with Generation Z coming aboard. If you’re a baby boomer, you probably get frustrated seeing smart phones as an extensions of your new hire’s hands. Make sure you address cell phone use and set a policy consistent with the tone and culture of your workplace. I know many baby boomers who would like cell phones to be locked up for the day and handed back at 5 p.m. That’s not terribly realistic these days, safety aside. Nobody on the manufacturing floor should risk losing a finger to respond to a text with a thumbs up. And, yes, it can be a security matter if cameras are not allowed in specific areas of your business. But confiscating your employees’ cell phones for the workday is almost never the answer. Make sure everyone knows the protocol. If one of your employees is watching “The Office” while at the office, talk to that person rather than putting a punitive measure in place that affects everyone.
The same sort of philosophy should apply to the internet. Nobody wants employees updating their Facebook status or buying off Amazon during business hours. The internet should be a business tool during the workday but understand that minimal web surfing shouldn’t affect your bottom line as long as it stays that. Again, don’t punish everyone for something one or two employees abuse.
It goes without saying that it’s a good idea to review the salaries your company pays along with the benefits and compensation you offer to make sure you’re competitive with your peers.
The good news for you if you’re a Generation Z’er is you will get that first job that sparks the beginning of your career. And if you’re an employer, this digitally savvy generation who grew up with evolving technology in hand offers a fresh perspective that will position your company for a successful future.