Riffing off of @BillSledzik’s terrific (and ultimately helpful) rant, “Dear Millennials: Your Parents Lied to You,”
I wanted to spend a minute talking to these same Millennials as a
prospective employer. Here’s an Open Letter to Millennials (PR Industry
When Professor Sledzik suggests that the real world is tougher than you
think, he’s spot-on. Everything counts when you are job prospecting in
the early days, including your writing style and use of grammar in
resumes and cover letters, as well as your clothes, your advance
research and relevant questions in the interview, and, your attention to
the niceties of follow-up.
Let me be even more specific. When you are hunting for a job, it’s not
about you. It’s about me, the employer. I recently chatted with a fellow
industry vet who regaled me with stories of 20-something job candidates
whose questions included, “Why don’t you
why I’d want this job?” (That’s a terrible approach, in case you’re wondering.)
Your cover letter should be flawless and interesting. Grammatical errors
are perfectly acceptable—so long as you don’t mind if we immediately trash your letter
Get a friend, parent or professor to take a look. Does the letter stand
out, in a professional way, or is it generic? Don’t try to be extra
clever, just be sincere
. I expect that you’ve done some research on potential employers and have made my
agency your top choice. So, why is that? And how can you help us?
Your resume should not be overstuffed with extraneous details. I already
know you don’t have a ton of experience; I don’t really expect it.
However, before you even send in that cover letter and resume, you
should already be fairly visible on Twitter, Facebook, and/or your own
blog. You’ve got time to surf the Web for fun, so carve out 30 minutes a
day to post relevant content that prospective employers will find when
they Google your name (which they will, by the way). If I already know
of you, I’ll be glad to get to actually know you; I’ll be excited to see
your resume come through.
Your choice of clothes is also important when you come in for the
interview. Once you get the job, you can wear jeans to the office pretty
much every day. Until then, wear a professional outfit. We need
assurances that you care about your appearance—that we can trust you to
wear appropriate attire to a client meeting.
Take out the nose ring for now, too. While it may be a “part of your
personality,” in the job search it’s about sublimating the all-important
Y-O-U for the sake of the organization.
Yes, we do have a couple of employees who sport (subtle) body-art and
metal accoutrements, but they weren’t worn (or showing) during the
Got the job interview scheduled? Great! Now do some research. Read the
agency’s blog (or all of them, if there is more than one). Read several
weeks’ worth of posts. Take a look at the client list. Take a look at
the newsroom. Read the bios of the principals and other top execs. Read
up on the competition, too. Then come with questions. If you don’t have a
handful of thought-provoking questions, it’s a fail, dude.
And if you’ve been in a round-robin of interviews and exhausted all your questions along the way, I still suggest you never
tell your last interviewer, “All my questions have been answered by
your colleagues—thanks, though.” Instead, either a) re-ask those same
questions, to make
the interviewer feel important, or better yet,
b) ask follow-up questions based on previous answers. This shows that
you can think in the moment. That’s a big plus.
OK, now, you got the job. Congrats! Give me two more minutes to suggest what you do with it.
The Millennial Generation is already known for being self-involved and
in a rush. Luckily, many of you have the talent and drive to impress
curmudgeonly Gen-X and Boomer employers, and we soon learn to look past
those smarmy qualities. But the fact remains that those perceptions will
be hard to shake. It will only get worse if you engage in a lot of
job-hopping to find the perfect fit.
RELATED: It’s (still) hard out there for a millennial
My advice then—and you may see it as biased—is to stay put for a while. I
am talking three to five years, at least. There is no such thing as a
perfect fit. You must create the perfect fit. This is your
apprenticeship period. It is supposed to suck. There are supposed to be
crummy days when you feel under-appreciated. Such days will occur no
matter who signs your paycheck.
But there are rewards for loyalty, I promise. When I look around the
table of my senior staff meetings, for example, most of the people at
the meeting have been with the agency for five to 10 years. Some of them
started as interns, and now they run million-dollar teams. All of them
are under 40 (read: it doesn’t take forever to get there). I am sure
there were many days in the course of their careers when they felt
underpaid or under-appreciated. But sooner or later, those situations
were rectified; adjustments were made; it is a process
—one that required loyalty to something bigger than their bank account.
Meanwhile, I can’t tell you how many resumes I receive from “former vice
presidents” of large PR agencies who are pretty clearly not VP
material. They were overpaid and over-promoted—prizes often awarded to
folks who skip from agency to agency in search of a new title or extra
money. And when the economic downturn made that fact tough to hide, they
find themselves scrapping for account manager positions.
Summing up? Cultivate your personal brand. Do your research. Commit to
quality. Align yourself to the agency’s cause for the long-term.
Remember that it’s not all about you. Then go kick some ass.
Thanks for listening,
Your Future Employer (who is hiring, by the way),
Todd Defren is a CEO at SHIFT Communications. A version of this story first appeared on his blog PR Squared.