Tag Archives: networking

The Process of Letting Go of Entitlement

Hi loyal readers and new readers. I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus for the past four months as I finished up my final semester of graduate school. Lots of sleepless nights slung over a keyboard, sipping coffee, while crying. The pain paid off and I finished my Action Report, graduating with my master’s in public administration two weeks ago. So for the last two weeks I’ve been recharging and trying to shift modes from academia to beginning my career journey in earnest.

Before I continue I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge fellow millennial blogger Erin for providing inspiration for this post with her article today over at Broke Millennial.

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My amazingly supportive family. No, that’s not Al Roker.

In truth, I really began my career journey nine months ago in December, 2012 when I made a few critical decisions.

  • Start creating content

  • Start applying heavily for jobs to get in the habit of career searching

  • Try to network as best I can, especially with people in New York

These were my preliminary goals, as I knew my journey as a student would be winding down. The way I created content was by starting this blog. It was a rough first few weeks (as you can tell with my first few posts), but over the next few months I think I grew into my voice as a blogger, something I had never even attempted before. As my writing grew stronger my desire to keep writing grew. I was writing roughly one to two 800+ word posts per week and loving it. But eventually that started to take a toll in terms of interfering with my academic work, which is why I basically took a leave of absence knowing that the small following this blog has garnered may be lost in the process. But creating something that I could call my own, and executing on a plan, was extremely satisfying. It also opened up access to a world of mini-bloggers that I didn’t even know existed previously. In fact, it was fellow blogger Rachel Gall that opened up her built-up network of young bloggers. When this happened I think I finally began to “get it.”

Granted, I started to understand this at a much much later date than most of my peers, but better late than never, as they say. This thing that I was beginning to understand is that consistently creating stuff, anything, is how to gain access to networks. Now, as I’ll discuss in an upcoming post, this is clearly not the only factor in networking, not at all, but it is important. Content grants access to networks and networks provide collaboration, and career, opportunities.

Seems pretty simple but this is not something that was ever described to me. Standard advice is just “to network;” well that doesn’t mean anything if it’s not placed in context. My conception of networking was as an event that took place in a tacky hotel conference room with thousands of complete strangers exchanging business cards. These formal networking events do take place, and I don’t want to knock people that attend these as I’m sure they work for them. But what I never understood was the informal networking process that goes on in everyday life, and this informal process is what mainly drives networking:

A co-worker introduces you to a family member in a specific industry. A college buddy’s girlfriend works for a company looking for someone with the skill-set you have, someone at your gym is the founder of a start-up, and the scenarios can continue. This is how most networking occurs and is probably the most successful type of networking. And this is something I’ve largely ignored up until now, but realize I need to change if I’m to begin my career.

Part of the problem is that I’ve always treated my personal life as personal, and academia and professional lives as something entirely different. So when I met someone new I instantly put them in a box of either potential friend, or potential colleague – I guess I never heeded the advice to not put people in boxes either. Well naturally doing this people-in-boxes thing hampered my ability to network because my colleagues were placed at arms lengths, while I never viewed my personal contacts as potential resources. There has always been something icky to me about thinking of personal friends as potential resources. What I realize now is that people in the white-collar world almost entirely network via personal connections and these “personal resources.” Again, I’ll get into the problematic nature of this in an upcoming post; but what makes this relevant in this post is that I’m learning how to approach the world as it is, not how it ought to be. And this gets into the issue of entitlement…

Those that are entitled don’t approach the world as it is, but how they think it ought to be, for them. Example of my own entitlement – and why I named this blog Entitled Millennial – is that I worked hard and completed graduate school, so I approached the world thinking that’s all I should have to do to land a decent job. Academically, I accomplished even more than what was expected of me so I internalized the idea that because of this I was entitled to a job in my profession. Check out my early posts and this is precisely what I discussed – feel free to cringe if you want.

Maybe, in an ideal world, that’s all it would take. But that’s not the world we live in, and coming to terms with that reality has been the hardest thing to figure out. I’m still in the process of coming to terms with this. That shiny new master’s degree I’m so proud of is really not all that valuable. And no one beyond me, and my immediate family, really cares about my academic achievements, employers certainly don’t. If I’m going to get to where I want to go I’m going to have to learn/utilize skills I’m not great at, networking being one of them.

Fortunately for me, by deciding to branch out and create content, as cliche as blogging has become, it’s given me a mini-portfolio. And more importantly, creating content has granted me access to a network of like-minded, twenty-something bloggers just trying to figure out how to get by. This mini-network may, or may not, lead to great opportunities, but the enjoyment I get from interacting with this group makes creating content worthwhile. And beyond that, I think interacting with this group is providing an effective antidote for my entitlement.

By the way, even if I do get over my entitlement issues, the name of this blog will never change. It’s too catchy, and click-bait worthy. And with that, I’d like to announce that Entitled Millennial is back in business, hiatus officially over. I’ve got some really interesting content lined up for all of you, and I hope you’ll stayed tuned and engage in the comment section.

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The Specific Reason Networks are More Important than Job Boards

We’ve all heard the tips and career advice for job candidates out there. There is no shortage of information for how to conduct a successful job search and application process; it’s an entire industry. I’ve read my fair share of them and taken some of the information to heart, but so much of it is contradictory or common sense, and it all can be fatiguing. What’s consistent in all these advice columns, and Top-10 lists, and Today show segments is that networking is the most important factor in finding a job. I mean this as a positive, but not normative statement.Image

Treating all of that as a given, I’m more interested in examining why this is the case and if this is actually a healthy way of job hunting for both employers and job candidates alike. What is the factor that makes networking more important than job board applications? Skepticism.

Employers who meet people through their networks are less skeptical and thus more open to hiring those they have some familiarity with. Employers who find job candidates through job boards are inherently skeptical of candidates. We can all empathize with this pretty natural skepticism because many positions receive hundreds, or thousands, or even tens of thousands of applications. Job boards are intrinsically impersonal, and even if an application makes it through the automated software and to a hiring managers’ desk, there is a degree of scrutiny each application receives that doesn’t exist when meeting potential candidates personally. The impersonal application process reverses the steps in the process. Instead of apply – personal meeting/interview – offer. The networking process is personal meeting/interview – apply – offer. An inherent disadvantage to the non-networker.

The bar is higher for the non-networker than the networker, and everyone knows this. Thus the interview environment is going to be much more intimidating to non-networkers. There is more to prove, more uncertainty, and everyone’s guard is up. So, there are two things we must contend with, we need to recognize that this is a problem, and we must figure out a solution.

The piece Networking Hurts Our Workforce echoes the problem of continuing to use networking as the primary driver of finding talent.

“To the detriment of productivity, networking has become the focal point of the hiring process. Millennials are continually encouraged to earn a college education, pursue an advanced degree, and even work unpaid internships in hopes to secure future employment. After acing exams and volunteering to gain experience, Generation Y struggles with the new, vague career advice of “just network.”

It’s incredibly unbalanced and unproductive to employers, and the country as a whole, that one group of jobseekers faces more skepticism than another. So what’s the solution to this problem? Social networking of course. Now this is not a magic bullet to solve everything, and many organizations completely miss the point of social networking altogether.

Social networking is not used my most HR departments and organizations to recruit individuals and this needs to change as there are a lot of opportunities in this space that don’t exist in the real world. Creating topics for potential candidates to discuss with HR staff about the organization on Facebook or Twitter can help identify those that are truly interested in the organization and their knowledge. Seeking creative applications through Pinterest or Instagram could be a way of recruiting. Any tool is only as good as the people behind it. Not using the resources of free social networks damages the potential of organizations and keeps young people, who are not part of vast networks, from jobs they are qualified for.

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