Career Advice for Twenty-Somethings (Part Three): Navigating a Bad Economy

I graduated from college in March 1983. The unemployment rate was 9.6%, about what it is now, but the other economic indicators were much worse, not that I was paying attention to such things in those days. I moved from Minnesota to South Florida and found work as a waitress and then a secretary.  South Florida was a fun place to live.  I went to the clubs, hung out at the beach and had a great time. But GTL is a lifestyle and not a way to make a living.  I looked for a professional position but had no connections or contacts. I had a college degree, but could not find a job that made any use of it.

I decided to join the Navy, mostly because they valued me and my degree.  They also had a need. This was the era of the 600-ship Navy and they needed manpower to run the ships and staff the back-office operations. Applicants with a college degree were sent to Officer Candidate School. If you had a degree in business or economics and had done well, you qualified for the Naval Supply Corps.  At Naval Supply Corps school, they taught you how to run the ships’ food service, retail, supply chain and disbursement operations.  While there, I was selected for service in the Naval Reactors program.  Military service was a good starting point for me and I learned many valuable skills during my six years in the Navy.

Millennials are also likely to be looking for work in a bad economy.  The Great Recession has hit them particularly hard.  From a supply chain perspective, the job market is a “LIFO” operation: recent college graduates are the “last-in-first-out.”  Entry-level management training jobs are hard to find.  Employers don’t want to train you, only to lose you two years later.  They want to hire someone who knows how to do the job from day one.

Here are some things I learned about navigating a bad economy:

Stay close to home.  Home can be where you went to college or where you grew up.  For me, it was both.  I should have stayed in Minneapolis when I graduated. I had contacts and a place to live.  Yes, you can start from scratch someplace new, but you are only making it harder for yourself.

You guys invented social networking, so use it.  Anyone who has ever looked for a job knows the value of a good network.  Don’t be shy about letting your friends know that you are looking for a job. It helps if you know what you want to do.

Let Mom and Dad help.  Use your parents’ networks too, and your sister’s, brother’s, grandfather’s, aunt’s, uncle’s, and anyone else who will help. They want you to succeed, and are your biggest fans (really).  They can help, particularly if you are looking for a job near where they live.  If they get you an interview, follow their advice about what to wear and show up fifteen minutes early.

Save money by living at home.  This was not something I would have done, but Millennials as a general rule have a better rapport with their parents.  You tell them more about what is going on in your life so you have less to hide from them than we did from our parents.  If you are worried about losing your new-found adulthood, then treat your parents like roommates.  Help them with the household chores and offer to pay them rent.

Take advantage of your college’s career services office.  You (or your parents) are paying for them and they are there to help you.  Apply for an internship, paid or unpaid.  Sign up for on-campus interviews, if there are any.  Use the alumni network.

Consider government service.  Millennials are not signing up for military service. Only 2% of Millennial men are veterans at ages 18 to 28, as compared to 6% for Gen Xers and 13% of Boomers at this age. This is understandable.  When I joined the Navy, the nation was not involved in two wars and had been at peace for ten years.  Government jobs will be hard to get in the near future due to shrinking budgets, but there are other types of government service.  Consider Teach for America, the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps or similar programs.

Stay in school. If you did not get your high school diploma, get your GED. If you stopped after high school, go to college. If you just graduated from college, consider a graduate degree. As many of you are learning, college is a great place to wait out the bad economy. There are ways to pay for school,  and even ways to work off your student loans, like the public service loan forgiveness program.

Career Advice for Twenty-Somethings (Part Two): The Millennials

My posts these days are about giving career advice to twenty-somethings, mainly because my daughter is a twenty-something. She is a card-carrying member of the millennial generation.  According to the Pew Research Center (click the image below to read their report), my daughter and the other 77  million people in this age group share the following characteristics:

They use technology differently. They use their cell phones as computers and their computers like televisions. Social networking isn’t something they do, it’s a part of who they are.  The live on-line and connected to their friends and family.  Their cell phones are an appendage and always close by.

They value education. Millennials are on track to become the most-educated generation in our nation’s history. They are choosing college over military service.  College applications the last few years have skyrocketed and applicants faced stiff competition from their peers.

They are optimistic about their economic futures. Even though they are suffering in the recession and have one of the highest unemployment rates in decades for their age group, they believe they will eventually meet their long-term financial goals.

They value their relationships with their parents. They don’t mind having to live with their parents, because they get along well with them. They are also old-fashioned in how they think about parenthood and marriage, even though they were more likely to have been raised in single-parent households and have children out of wedlock.

They are more tolerant of diversity. They were raised in a multi-cultural world and tend not to think of others as being black or white or straight or gay. They don’t like to put labels on themselves or others. They are the only generation that favors the legalization of gay marriage.

They see their bodies as a canvas, and tattoos and body-piercings are how they paint. Millennials are more likely to have a tattoo, and if they have a tattoo, they are more likely to have more than one.  They are also more likely to have a body piecing in a place other than an ear lobe, particularly among their women.

Their attitudes and behaviors toward work are not gender-based.  Males and females of this generation want the same thing.  There is not a huge disparity in how men and women think about their careers and what they want to get out of life.  In fact, millennial women are now more likely than to have a college degree than millennial men.

These characteristics impact twenty-somethings’ views about how they work, where they work, who they work for, and what they want out of life.  They are important things to keep in mind if you want to provide them advice they can use and will value.

Career Advice for Twenty-Somethings: The Introduction

My daughter turned 20 this month. She’s a smart, hard-working, focused college student, a few years removed from starting her career. It occurs to me that she and her friends could benefit from what I have learned in my thirty-six years as a working woman.

As she is my daughter, I can’t say these things to her directly. The advice would get caught up in the “If your mom is telling you to do something, then she must be wrong” filter. I am not sure why this filter exists in every teenage girl and twenty-something woman who is fortunate enough to have her mother in her life at that age. It just does and there is nothing we can do about it.

Having had my own mother in my life until my mid-forties, I know this filter often dissipates as you get older, or get married, or have children, or just live and experience a little more. That’s when you start to realize there is some benefit to listening to someone who knows you, wants only the best for you and loves you unconditionally. I’ve sensed the early stages of this melting resistance to parental advice already in my own daughter.

According to my most recent Social Security Statement, I have been working since 1975, when I had earnings of $453.  In the 36 years since then,  I have worked as a bus girl, waitress, car hop/dishwasher, deli/bakery clerk, door-to-door salesman, retail clerk, secretary, Naval officer, program analyst, and attorney.  According to Social Security, my lifetime earnings have exceeded $1.8 million. Believe me when I say I earned every penny.

So my next few posts (until I run out of things to say, that is) will focus on the things that I have learned while working. My goal is to pass on some useful information to my daughter and her friends, both male and female. As I will discuss in my next post, the young men and women of the millennial generation, all 50 million of them, tend to want the same things out of life.  The attitudes of men and women of this age toward work and careers are more alike than they are different.

My daughter may not read these posts now, or she may read them and the advice may get caught up in the “she must be wrong” filter.  But everything on the internet lives on forever and can never be taken back (another future topic), so I am confident that she will read these posts someday, later if not sooner, and that my advice will not go unheeded and will help her in the future.

#You Know You’re Talking to a Lawyer When . . .

Another faux twitter post:

  1. You are telling an amusing story and he starts asking questions like you are a trial witness.
  2. She uses the word “tort” in a sentence, and is not ordering dessert.
  3. During a casual conversation, he can compose a grammatically correct paragraph that has more than three complete sentences.
  4. She uses the word “heretofore” in a sentence, and is not making a joke.
  5. He is taking notes during your conversation.
  6. She monitors the amount of time she spends talking to you.
  7. He asks for your opinion on a current event topic and then proceeds to tell you why you are wrong.
  8. She refers to you as an attractive nuisance.
  9. He can tell you the risk of being injured from (a) sleeping on the top bunk, (b) using a propane heater, (c) riding in the back of a pick-up truck, (d) driving a car on the Northway, or (e)  riding an ATV.
  10. She tries to defend the Big Bad Wolf in Little Red Riding Hood.