“Be honest: is my kid totally screwed?”
That’s the question I was asked by a worried father this weekend. He was referring, of course, to his son’s chances in the job market. The kid in question is a recent grad from a very good school who’s now entering the workforce—or trying to. Understandably, his pop is a bit worried. But when I started to tell him that the job market for recent grads was improving and that his kid would be just fine, he stopped me. “No, no,” he said. “I know he’ll find a job. What I’m asking is whether or not he’ll be able to keep it.”
Dear old dad explained that he’d read all about the problems managers have with Millennials. He rattled off all the tired generalizations—lazy, entitled, needy, unfocused, addicted to their devices, etc.—and expressed genuine concern that his Millennial son would draw the ire of his boss and ultimately wind up getting canned.
Admittedly, I don’t know the kid that well. But from what I’ve seen and heard, he’s bright, ambitious, and willing to work hard. He’s also a little unfocused, with a tendency to jump from interest to interest, and a perhaps a bit more of social butterfly than his parents would like.
In other words, he’s 22.
Here’s what I told his old man.
Yes, Your Kid Will Find a Job
Stop worrying. We know it’s rough out there. The recession packed one hell of a hangover, but things are getting steadily better. As I’ve noted previously, employers have reported being very bullish toward hiring recent grads:
A study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers reports that employers plan to hire 8.6 percent more graduates from the Class of 2014 than they did for last year’s crop of grads:
- Overall, 48.4 percent of respondents say they are increasing their college hiring; less than 30 percent plan to cut back. In comparison, last year at this time, 49.2 percent reported plans to raise their college hire numbers, but approximately 36 percent said they would trim college hiring.
- Nearly all responding employers continue to recruit and hire this spring; less than 10 percent say that they concluded their college hiring in fall 2013.
- Nearly two-thirds say they are hiring for full-time and internship positions this spring.
That’s not to say that the job search will be easy or quick. They may be back under your roof for a while, but that’s the just way things are these days. And let’s be honest: you just got a four-year vacation. What’s another month or three?
Your Kid Will Probably Change Jobs a Lot
Back in your day, people didn’t job-hop. They got a job and worked their way up. Heck, you started in the mail room making $2 a week and now you’re VP of finance. As much as you love to tell that story—And why not? You earned it—it doesn’t apply to today’s workplace. These days, people change jobs every 2-4 years. The most ambitious among them change more often than that. People have multiple careers before they’re even 30.
This isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s a sign of both ambition and smart self-preservation. The nature of the employer/employee compact has changed—arguably for the better, since neither party is still pretending that employment is anything other than an exchange of payment for skills, knowledge, and time. When junior changes jobs in two years, he isn’t being flighty or disloyal, and he isn’t tarnishing his reputation. He’s being smart.
Experimentation is Good
Did you know who you were at 22? Did you stick with the first career path that came along and ride it out until retirement? Of course not. (OK, this might be true for a select few. But you see where I’m going with this.) Your recent grad is barely old enough to order a beer without a fake ID, so don’t expect them to stay with one career path.
Encourage them to explore their options. (Within reason, of course. Yes to trying out a marketing gig, no to starting a yoga studio for gerbils.) And don’t be alarmed when they inevitably take a path that doesn’t gel with their diploma. Try seeing that expensive education as something other than the price of entry to the workforce.
Millennial Hysteria Isn’t Real
The media is filled with breathless panic pieces about Millennials in the workforce. These articles would have you believe that managers everywhere dread working with Millennials only slightly less than they dread amputation without anesthetic or another Steven Seagal album. The truth, however, is much less dire.
Sure, plenty of Millennials are spoiled little jerks who expect a trophy just for getting through lunch without drowning in their soup. But there are also plenty of Millennials who are smart, industrious, mature, and a pleasure to manage. If your child is the latter, they’ll be fine. If your child is the former, let’s just say he or she will need to grow up quickly.
Don’t buy the hype. Yes, your recent grad has a challenging road ahead of her, but it’s not as bad as you’ve heard. She’ll find her way soon enough. So take a deep breath. It’s going to be OK.
Except the student debt. That’s probably never going to be OK. At all.