Practical Job Searching Tips for Millennials

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There's just no doubt about it: The job landscape for millennials is quite different than the one previous generations experienced. Even as the job market has recovered following the Great Recession, unemployment for millennials continues to remain high when compared to older, more experienced workers. And unlike baby boomers and Gen Xers, millennials simply can't stay at a single job for many years, gaining experience and promotions along the way.

Some classic job search advice — like avoid job-hopping — doesn't apply to millennials, who are frequent targets of layoffs and victims of industry instability. Plus, many millennials are forced to take jobs below their skill levels because of a small, competitive market for lower experience level positions.

Here, then, are practical tips for how millennials can meet with success during a job search, tailored to the realities of the changing employment landscape.

Identify Your Goals Before You Search for Jobs

The first step for any successful job search is a goal. What kind of job do you want to have? When considering this question, keep in mind the work you'd like to do on a day-to-day basis, the salary you need, and what kind of office culture works well for you.

But once you've hammered down a sense of your ideal role, release yourself from the need for perfection. Your first job — or even your second or third — might not be where you imagined yourself. And that's OK: These early roles will allow you to build skills, gain experience, and provide you with the building blocks for future, more ideal jobs.

As a millennial, expect that your path won't necessarily hew to the traditional progression from entry-level to mid-level to senior level, too. You may find that you'll need to work several jobs — an unpaid internship providing you with on-the-job experience, a minimum wage job that pays the bills, and a side hustle that further develops your career — rather than one single entry-level position. You may be interested in a job that's unconventional and not your traditional 9 am - 5 pm office job.

Millennials Can Use Social Media and Networking to Their Advantage

Millennials are the social media generation, and your network of friends and acquaintances on major social media platforms can do more than like statuses. Connections are valuable — from sharing a job description that hasn't been posted to making an introduction, your connections can help with your job search greatly. Here are a few tips for how millennials can build and use their network:

  • Sign up for LinkedIn. A basic account is free, and this social media network is geared toward job search. Recruiters are constantly scouring the site for potential applicants, and the site is also a source of job ads. See how to use LinkedIn in your job search.
  • Clean up your existing social media. Your social media accounts don't need to have less personality, but it is important that you don't have anything offensive on your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other easily searchable social networks. Employers will look at them, and a profile that is nothing but boozy pictures and salty language could work against your job application. Follow these social media do's and don'ts during your job search.
  • Get in touch with your college career office. This is a great free resource. Your college career office can help you know where to look for jobs, define the industries that interest you, and can even potentially review your job application materials and help you prepare for an interview.
  • Attend industry events. Interested in publishing? Volunteer at book-related events and attend readings. In-person connections can lead to more formal job oriented coffee dates and informational interviews, which can get you access to the industry and companies.

Every Job Application Requires Preparation and a Follow-Up

Much of the job searching process can be deeply frustrating. Why do you have to write a cover letter, when all the information is present in your resume? Why do interviewers ask questions that are clearly answered in your resume? Why are so many formal steps required?

This can frustrate millennials in particular, who seek to reduce unnecessary steps. But to older generations, this efficiency comes across as laziness, a reluctance to "pay dues," and an inability to absorb instructions.

Be sure to take these steps as you go through the job application process:

  • Submit your application properly. Read the job description carefully before hitting the send button, and make sure you include everything the employer requested, such as salary requirements, resume, references, etc.
  • Proofread, proofread, proofread. As above, keep the details in mind. A typo or small error in your application can have an outsized impact, and make you look sloppy. Here are proofreading tips for job seekers.
  • Follow interview courtesies. This means wearing appropriate clothing to interviews, turning off your phone (or at least silencing it) during the meeting, greeting people politely, and displaying good body language throughout the conversation. Do not bring anyone else — parents or otherwise — along to your interview.
  • Prep for job interviews. Employers expect you to be ready for the interview. Don't skip doing your homework: you should be familiar with common interview questions and feel comfortable answering them. You should also have a strong familiarity with the company. When you research the company before your interview, make sure to check out the company website as well as press mentions and the company's social media presence. Review these tips for getting the best possible job offer.
  • Send a thank you note. This is the final courtesy and a smart move. Interviewers expect a thank you note (emailed or handwritten) and it's a great opportunity for you to share why you're a good candidate.