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The Biggest Mistakes 20- Something Job Seekers Make: Susan Adams


There was the young job seeker who showed
up at his interview 15 minutes late, failed to
apologize, and then asked if the interviewer
had a garbage can so he could throw away his
gum. There was also the 20-something
applicant whose call to the hiring manager
went dead in the middle of the conversation.
The young woman didn’t call back for two
hours, only to explain, without apology, that
she had dropped her phone in a tub of water
while she was getting a manicure. Then there
was the mother who called her son’s boss
when he wasn’t hired at the end of his
internship, and demanded to know why.
Dani Ticktin Koplik, 59, an executive and
performance coach in Englewood, NJ, has lots
of stories like these. For the last several years,
half of Koplik’s coaching practice has been
made up of so-called Generation Y, or
Millennial, job seekers. This group, age 20-32,
makes a series of job-searching mistakes that
stem from their sense of entitlement, lack of
deference to authority and over-involvement
by their parents. Koplik says in her own
practice, parents frequently call and email,
and try to micro-manage the coaching process.
To run interference, Koplik schedules a
monthly meeting with parents, mostly to tell
them to stop meddling. She also coaches them
to give their kids a consistent message. Too
many parents tell their offspring that they
have to earn a living, and then let them live
at home indefinitely rent-free. Koplik
recommends timetables and limits.
I asked Koplik for a list of mistakes her 20-
something clients make, and she had plenty of
ideas. Here is her list of the top ten.
1. Acting entitled
One of the consequences of over-involved
parents is that young people feel as though
they deserve an easy ride. Koplik tells of an
intern who, on the first day, informed his
supervisor that he had to leave early that
Thursday for a horseback riding lesson. “It
didn’t dawn on this person that he was being
totally inappropriate and sabotaging his
career,” says Koplik.
2. Starting the process too late
Ideally, college students should start looking
for meaningful internships for the summer
after their freshman year. Students who
assume that they will get a job without too
much effort, wait too long to begin the
3. Under-utilizing the alumni network
Though parents and their friends can provide
good contacts, the network of professionals
that comes through a college or university
should be one of the first places a young job
seeker turns.
4. Using a résumé that’s sloppy and too self-
Young job seekers are often weak on résumé
basics, like clear, tidy layout, careful
proofreading for grammar and punctuation,
and use of keywords from the job description.
Another big problem: the “objective” section
tends to be too much about what they want,
and not enough about the potential employer.
For example, young applicants often say,
“entry level position where I can use my
skills, ideas and enthusiasm and I can learn a
lot.” Instead, the emphasis should be on what
they can contribute to the employer.
Applicants should also leave off menial jobs
like camp counselor, unless they can quantify
their achievements, like saying they
organized waterfront activities for a group of
150 campers.
5. Writing cover letters that repeat the
Many young applicants regurgitate their
résumé accomplishments in their cover
letters. Instead, cover letters should be short
and vivid, and say something particular about
what the applicant can bring to the job.
6. Doing poor research
Young job seekers often just glance at a
company website before an interview. Instead
they should read everything on the site,
search for news clippings about the company,
and track social media information, like
Twitter feeds, on company managers.
7. Failing to clean up their social media
All of those drunken, bikini-clad pictures on
Facebook should be removed, or locked down
with privacy settings. Everyone, including
college students, needs a polished LinkedIn
8. Not showing enough appreciation for the
Young applicants often fail to conclude an
interview with an expression of gratitude for
the interviewer’s time. Always thank the
interviewer in person, make it clear you
would consider it a privilege to work at the
company and ask about the next step in the
process. Then follow up with a handwritten
thank-you note or email that references
specifics discussed in the interview.
9. Failing to show generational deference
Koplik tells of the summer intern who, at the
end of his time on the job, marched into the
office of the chief diversity officer at a big
company and said, “Could I give you some
feedback on my internship?” Young people
are so used to being included in
conversations, they fail to grasp their position
in the pecking order.
10. Relying too heavily on listings and job
I write this in every article about job search
mistakes, because it’s a chronic problem.
Koplik says that young job seekers are just as
guilty of spending too…continue reading on Forbes.com, the original publisher of this article.

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