By: Emily Bennington, Monster Contributing Writer
When The Wall Street Journal surveyed 479 college recruiters to find out which skills new grads needed to develop the most, what was the result?
More than half of respondents representing the emerging workforce cited problem-solving and the ability to think critically as weaknesses in today’s crop of entry-level hires.
This comes as no surprise to Brad Karsh, president of the career consulting firm JobBound. “The millennial generation, which includes new hires, has lived a very structured life. They have had teachers, coaches, tutors, nannies, instructors and more to guide them every second, telling them exactly what to do from day one.”
Karsh believes this background is the root cause for why younger workers sometimes have trouble thinking independently, which can contribute to workplace conflict.
But while it’s helpful to know how new grads developed what’s been identified as their primary flaw, the solution is multi-layered. Many universities are doing their part, for example, by embracing a problem-based curriculum that mirrors real workplace scenarios, requiring students to find solutions as a team.
But what is our part?
As employers, what are the “rules” we should carefully teach every new hire who walks through our door? To find out, I asked some of today’s most notable career experts. Here is their collective message to today’s emerging workforce:
1. Get ready! You’ve got a lot coming your way… “Employers should explain the importance of getting the little things,” says Tory Johnson, CEO of Women for Hire and workplace contributor to Good Morning America. “Warn new grads that a ton of info will be thrown at them all at once -- and to carry around a small pad to jot down key items.” Johnson also mentions the “all-too-common scenario where a manager is explaining tasks, responsibilities, and protocol to a new hire who sits nodding -- as if they’re bored -- saying, ‘yup, yeah, uh huh.’” She tells managers in that situation to stop and encourage the new hire to take notes, pay attention to the details and understand the importance of asking smart questions. “Since it’s annoying to have to explain the same basics over and over,” says Johnson, “new hires need to know that colleagues will lose patience and trust when they doubt they’re grasping the little things.”
2. …and it’s not always going to be rosy… Lilith Christiansen, author of Successful Onboarding: A Strategy to Unlock Hidden Value Within Your Organization, says when talking to new grads about your company culture, it’s good to be honest. “While all of us want to showcase the best of our companies and the way we like to operate, it is more important for new hires to understand the reality.” Christiansen recommends that employers distinguish between the aspirational culture of their organization and the current culture. “In doing so,” she says, “you may find that you have not only helped them succeed in being more effective today, but you’ve created a group of change agents that can help the company move closer to that aspiration.”
3. …so learn to deal like a mature professional… “In their first jobs, twenty-somethings meet a lot of people who are important to their future success,” says Alexandra Levit, author of MillennialTweet: 140 Bite Sized Ideas for Managing the Millennials. “In order to make the most of these interactions, they must develop a strong work persona -- of the mature and competent face they project to the organization.” Levit recommends that employers help new hires achieve a higher level of “executive presence” by providing employee training on appropriate dress and appearance, effective on-the-job communication, social behavior, and attitude management. She also stresses that new hires be taught to de-emphasize the importance of getting more responsibility as soon as possible. Rather, employers should teach grads to “focus on making the most of their first jobs by setting short and long-term career goals that will be useful no matter where they go or what they do.”
4. …and see the bigger picture... “I always coach managers to understand that when giving critical feedback to a new college hire, it's important to explain to them how their actions are negatively impacting three areas,” says J.T. O’Donnell, President of Careerealism.com, “the business, their co-workers, and most importantly, their own career.” O’Donnell says many seasoned managers only explain the first -- which can come across as insensitive. She also believes newbies should be given extra time to appreciate how their behaviors impact the organization as a whole because “they simply haven’t learned their way around the office yet.”
5. …because NOW is your time to stand out and move up! Sammi Rosin Lewis, Assistant Director for the Florida International University College of Business works with undergrads everyday to help them transition into the workforce successfully. She believes that employers should be very clear when explaining to new hires that their first few years in the workforce are a unique window to prove themselves. “They shouldn’t be afraid to initially invest in their career first and social life second,” she says. “If they do it right, the results in 5 to 10 years will be exponential.”
Emily Bennington is coauthor of Effective Immediately: How to Fit In, Stand Out, and Move Up at Your First Real Job (Ten Speed Press, 2010). She is a frequent speaker to students and organizations on the topic of career success and the host of Professional Studio 365, a popular blog for new grads transitioning from classroom to boardroom. Emily is a regular contributor to the college section of The Huffington Post and has been featured on CNN, ABC News, and in publications including The Wall Street Journal, New York Post, and US News and World Report. Emily can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter.