They have been called Millennials, Echo Boomers, and the Trophy Generation—people born after 1980 who entered the workforce with a profound sense of confidence and, some say, entitlement. Caroline Ceniza-Levine, a veteran recruiter who has worked for Citigroup ( (C)
) and consulted with companies such as Walt Disney ( (DIS)
), co-founded a coaching firm for Gen Y workers in 2007. She spoke with staff editor Aili McConnon about the challenges faced by the latest of this generation's graduates—and their parents—in this recession.
What's your advice for Gen Ys looking for work in this environment?
It is very hard for students now, but there are still pockets within industries that are hiring. Most students aren't aggressive enough. They rely on career services or troll Monster.com ( (MNW)
), where one posting draws hundreds of applicants. If you can't get a paid internship, start a tutoring or baby-sitting business, or consider auditing classes or shadowing someone in an industry that interests you.
Now is the time to expand your network. Go through your résumé line by line. Think not of just family and professional contacts, but connect with high school and college friends, people at community organizations, churches, sports clubs, ethnic-affinity groups.
What types of companies are still hiring?
Even in banking and consulting, companies are hiring. But now is not the time for a traditional search. Look for small and midsize companies that don't historically go on campus because they don't have the bandwidth to recruit. Approach them and come up with roles and projects you could help with.
It no longer works to say: "Hey, I'm young, a quick learner, and a self-starter." You're competing with a much bigger pool of applicants. Even for entry-level retail or administrative jobs, retirees are coming back into the market. You have to prove that you're low risk. Show how course work, a club project, or volunteer experience is a proxy for the work you can do. If you want to work in retail, you need to show you have the ability to deal with difficult consumers. Find something in your experience where you have had to manage difficult personalities.
What can parents do to help?
First, parents should Google ( (GOOG)
) their kids and look at their children's Facebook and LinkedIn pages. If your kid doesn't want to show you, that's a problem, because recruiters will Google them, too. It's really hard to have an airtight Facebook page, even with all the privacy settings on, because pictures of your child could get tagged on other people's sites.
The biggest thing parents can do to help their kids is deal with the money issue. When it's not clear who's paying for what, it's very difficult to plan a job search. Parents and their children need to sit down and talk. Are the kids allowed to move back home? Will the parents contribute to living expenses? For how long? That conversation helps students make an intelligent decision about where they work and whether they will take temporary jobs while they chase their dream job.
What mistakes do parents make when they try to help their kids?
Parents should open up Rolodexes and help make introductions. That said, it's up to the kid to do follow-up and write thank you letters. I've seen parents go to job fairs on behalf of their kids, accompany them to interviews, even call companies to advocate on their kid's behalf. That's never any good. I know one company that extended an offer but rescinded it because they couldn't deal with the helicopter parent. There has to be a certain amount of let-go.