Why You and Your College-Age Kids Speak Different Job Languages

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Do you ever think that you and your college-age kids or recent grads are speaking different languages when it comes to looking for jobs and work? You talk about resumes, contacts and careers, while they simply seem to be fiddling around on the Internet and chatting on Facebook.

But rather than thinking about your kids as goof-offs, consider the possibility that there are sound economic reasons why you and they go about looking for jobs in different ways. In fact, your kids are likely searching for jobs in emerging occupations, with oddball titles likes social media coordinator and customer evangelist.   And, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics, there are 1.6 million college grads this year alone.

In emerging occupations, there are multiple and confusing job titles and job descriptions with a relative absence of career paths and solid credentials. So, part of the grad’s job search job is to identify the different names and descriptions that attach to different functions. A recent grad landed a job as an Assistant Product Manager, when in fact, what he does is social media.

Often the best opportunities for college grads are in emerging occupations, where internships and personal volunteer experience are prized. Early in their career, college grads don’t have many years invested in a particular career and can afford to enter the higher risk/higher reward job market of emerging occupations. Many of these jobs are in newer less traditional employers.

By contrast, parents may be thinking more about mature occupations. These are the sort of jobs with standardized titles and descriptions, with stable career paths, required credentials and educational background.   Many of the mature occupations are in heavily regulated industries that require licenses and certifications.

The language of job search is very different for emerging and mature occupations. In the emerging job search, candidates need different kinds of research and analysis skills which can seem like they’re playing endless games on the internet. They have to be open to strange job titles and links that appear to lead them away from real jobs. And the actual jobs they identify may be located in start-up companies or may never have existed either in that company or elsewhere. .   If you ask the college grad what they’re going after, you may be hard-pressed to discern the connection between their major and the position. The very title may strike you as something more appropriate for one of the online or mobile games they play.

Since many of the new occupations are young, professional associations and affiliations may be absent. Instead, the way to meet others in the field entails joining groups on LinkedIn or meet ups. They may spend time “chatting” or informational interviewing on Linked In just to find out more about a job title. Finding work in some of these occupations often requires hours spent “playing” around on social media sites.

In contrast, finding work in a mature occupation often entails a more chronological resume that highlights professional experience, established networking groups and associations. While your grad may appear blithely ignorant of solid credentials, in mature occupations, gaining additional certifications and licenses can increase your odds of being called in for an interview.

Even norms for interviewing can vary. While parents bemoan the fact that their offspring are going to interviews dressed too casually, the fact is that in many of the more emerging occupations, business casual is the formal attire. In some start-ups, a suit might even be frowned upon. HOWEVER, a hoodie is still unacceptable for most interviews.

However, even if your kids are going for emerging occupations, there are still things you can teach them. The keys to effective career and job search are about people and stories. They need to be in touch with people, both online and in-person, whether in networking or meet-up groups. And they need a vivid, memorable and compelling career story that answers the employer’s question, “Why should I hire you?”

Whether or not the goal is an emerging or mature occupation, it’s important to think of the job search as a marketing campaign. Everything in the resume and Linked-In profile, in the elevator pitch, informational interviewing, networking, interviewing, and negotiating is designed to lead the employer to the inescapable conclusion that your college graduate (and you, for that matter) is the answer to the employer’s problems.