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I am fairly used to be the youngest in the room, but I’ve found that being one of the youngest in the workplace a bit more challenging.

There are many stereotypes about young people in the workforce – some may have truth to them, others do not. Recently, I was able to address some of those stereotypes when I was asked to speak at my host site’s leadership meeting. This is what I shared about my experience in applying for jobs and what I am looking for in my next workplace:

Things I am looking for when applying/interviewing:

  • Work culture / office space
  • Availability to grow and learn through mentorship, workshops, certifications, internal events, etc.
  • Flexibility for the occasional remote work
  • Transparency of the pay and job details

Let’s go ahead and address the most incorrect assumption about young people looking for jobs: money! It is not everything. It is nice and necessary because sadly, living costs money – but it is not everything. I would much rather have a job that I enjoy, around people that I enjoy, than make lots of money and be miserable 40+ hours a week. Additionally, I want to go into my next job knowing there’s room for growth and flexibility for when life is throwing curve balls. COVID really showed that work/school doesn’t have to be that traditional 8 to 5 grind.

With all that being said, clearly state your pay range and job expectations. As an adult, I have bills – student loans, rent, car payments, etc. You waste everyone’s time dragging someone through a hiring process just for them to find out at the end that they can’t afford their bills if they worked for you.

Things I’ve experienced and been frustrated with throughout the hiring process:

  • Misleading job descriptions
  • How long it takes to get hired and the lack of communication during the process
    • It’s 2023, why are we not utilizing an automatic response for received job applications?
    • I’ve personally pulled my application as a finalist because of the organization’s lack of communication
    • AND don’t post the job if you are not prepared to hire
  • Not valuing transferable skills and undermining college and precollege experience

Two months ago, I applied for a position with Company A for a position I had seen 5 months prior. I had originally not applied because I did not think I would qualify based on the job description. I ran into the boss from Company A who told me that I did not need those qualifications and they could teach me everything. So, I applied and have interviewed twice since.

Sure! We would all love already trained experienced folks, but you will spend just as much time waiting for them, if not more, as you would spend taking a passionate teachable person. Additionally, hiring young folks and training them provides a bigger opportunity to build a bond with them than with someone who doesn’t need that assistance or training time.

If that position TRULY does not need those degrees, certifications, experience, and whatever else everyone adds to those long-winded qualifications, then quit requiring them. I watched an individual who had 30+ years of experience be turned down for a position a step above his current simply because he did not have a ‘required’ degree, yet his experience made him 100% more qualified than that degree would’ve.

COMMUNICATION! I may have a degree in it, but it doesn’t take more than common sense to understand why communicating with your candidates will help ensure you keep your candidates. If you can’t return an email within a week to a candidate that you’ve identified as a finalist, then how should such a finalist assume you will communicate when you work together? I cannot stress enough the importance of communication throughout the hiring process. An automatic response is better than silence.

Lastly, reframe your mindset around experience. Most college students are working during college as well playing a sport, running an organization, and more. Don’t undermine the number of transferrable skills individuals pick up at their first job in high school, planning the formals for their sorority, serving as student body president, being captain of their sports team, or simply working a job in a different field than the one they are applying for. Instead of tossing applications out, use the interview to find out how candidates plan to utilize the skills they do have.

Keep in mind that not everyone has access to resources for writing resumes and cover letters. You’re going to learn far more from a conversation with a candidate than an application submission. You can’t find a pearl without opening the oyster.