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Posted: March 29, 2011

Entitled kid + doting parents = no job

Seven reasons for youth unemployment

John Heckers

American youth unemployment is approaching 25 percent, which is the same percentage as in the Middle Eastern countries where youth are protesting. While some of the youth unemployment is due to a very tight job market, some of it is also the fault of the young people themselves, and their doting parents.

Here are some of the ways that young people (and their parents) are destroying opportunity for the young:

1). Entitlement. Many Millennial Generation job seekers feel that they are entitled to a position. This means that they have an attitude that, regardless of behavior, attire or demeanor, that we should employ them. Sorry folks. We will employ you if we want to, and won't if we don't. Learn to live with it.

2). Refusal to follow directions. We ran an ad on Craigslist for a paid intern as an office assistant. We offer salary and great benefits. We were very specific about the things that applicants needed to do to be considered for the position. Out of 16 applications, four people even came close to doing as we requested. We weren't requesting the holy grail. We asked for a short essay telling us why the candidate would be a good fit, and a résumé. Simple, right?

No. Not simple. When we wrote to some of the people who applied to a). the wrong email address, b). without even bothering to read the ad c). without a writing sample, and asked them to re-apply following directions, we got nasty emails telling us that were fascists for requiring the applicant to do anything other than attach a link to their homepage. Look, if you aren't going to even follow application directions, what would make me think that you'd follow my direction at work?

3). Slovenly appearance. Learn to dress for an interview. This means dressing up. Go buy a suit, a good shirt, a tie and a pair of shoes that aren't athletic in nature. Put a shine on those shoes. Press the shirt. Make me think that you actually want a job. And shave off that three-day-old stubble that is so popular among youth. It makes you look like a slob. Don't have visible piercings (other than women...one piercing in the ears). Don't let your tattoos show. You're not in school anymore. You're applying for a job. Try to look the part.

4). Be reasonable on salary. Sorry, Charlie, but you aren't going to get $50K right out of college, and certainly not right out of high school. This is a recession, remember? You're going to need to start at something slightly above minimum wage and work your way up. This is called "paying your dues," and we all had to do it.

5). Understand that you'll start at the bottom. Your first job out of college or high school probably isn't going to be a "fun" job. You're going to get stuck with the grunt work. You're low person on the totem pole. You don't necessarily get "fun" until you've earned your stripes. Get real about how much responsibility you should be given. At first, not much.

6). Understand that people won't accept you "just for being you." You got fed pabulum in school that you are valued "just for being you." Isn't that special. You'll get positive feedback when you do something positive for the company...like making the company actual revenues, or saving the company money, etc.

7). Parents - you aren't helping your kids. I see too many parents who are footing the bills for their kids, and footing them in style. Your best bet is to demand that your kids be self-sufficient to the greatest degree possible. There is a reason why mama birds push baby birds out of the nest. It is so they can fly. Your job when your kids were young was to give them a nest. Now it is time to give them wings. Don't let them mooch off of you for the rest of their lives. You're doing them a great disservice if you do.

Things are not easy out there. But they rarely are. If today's youth want to become employed and have successful careers, they'll have to begin to attain some of the habits of successful people.

I might add that I see numerous young people who "get it" and are doing all of what I suggested above. I respect and admire those of the younger generation who are working hard, being reasonable and moving ahead. If the rest of the Millennial Generation doesn't want to be left behind, they'd be well advised to emulate them.

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John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC was an Executive, Relationships, Life and Spiritual Coach in Denver with 30 years of experience  helping people with their lives, relationships and careers.

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Readers Respond

Ummmm, Sarah....I've employed plenty of Gen Xers and plenty of Millennials....and mostly women in my career and currently in my company. And I've given them lots of responsibility..which they've handled admirably. Did you even read the article? Or are you just angry at someone you perceive slighted you? If you want a job in this current economic environment, anger management classes might be helpful. And your ageist comments against older workers are really out of line and highly offensive to me and, I'm sure, many others. There is a real challenge with some Millennials out there that needs to be addressed. If you take it personally...don't look at me....look in the mirror. By John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC on 2011 04 06
Great article and should be a mandatory read for all persons, regarless of age, pursuing jobs in this market. All parents should read it as well as there is most definitely a sense of entitlement among those age 30 and under when it comes to the job market. By Diane Boeser on 2011 04 05
Sarah, This isn't about seniority. I certainly don't practice it in my business. But *experience* is valuable. Don't you think so? Lots of kids graduate college with all sorts of "new ideas", many of which don't last 2 minutes against reality. If your ideas don't mesh with reality. And people with experience know a little more than fresh kids about the real world, how people act and what people want - these things are valuable. I like new ideas, I like youthful energy. But I don't like cockiness, and I don't like entitlement. And I employ more women than men, thank you. Put your canned liberal talking points aside. (If you said something like that to me in a job interview you would never get a call back). If you want a job with me, and you intend to keep it, you have to provide me value, and, give me more value for my money than with another employee. I don't care if you think it's "your turn", or if you think you're the smartest person in the history of the world. By Jawaid Bazyar on 2011 04 05
Typical paint-it-with-the-same-brush bashing of any bright, up-and-coming generation that has dominated the conservative, male-dominated workforce for decades. May you be reminded that there are plenty of "older" company employees, mid-level managers and top managers in companies all over the U.S. that fit the same bid you just described. The bigger problem with this group? The fact that they'll be continued to be shoed into positions because they've "earned their stripes" yet their knowledge and skills are so out of date that they'll never be able to to truly push a business forward in a changing work environment. Seniority is a dead business method. By Sarah on 2011 04 05
How true, Jawaid. I think that the question about whether this was part of the job description is just one more sign of the desire of some folks to try to control the job application process. Some folks want to justify why they shouldn't have to "jump through hoops." I think the concept of "it's my company" is lost on some people. Business is NOT a democracy. You DON'T get a vote on everything in life. This is one of them. By John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC on 2011 04 01
Good written communication skills are a necessity in the Internet age. Correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation make a huge difference in how customers perceive a business. Every email to a vendor or customer is an "essay". Poor writing skills reflect poorly on your employer. By Jawaid Bazyar on 2011 04 01
Tanya --- I'm a writer. Our new office assistant, who has a degree in Communications, will, in fact, be editing and writing as part of her duties. Therefore, the need for a test of written and oral communications skills. And our new office assistant is a very accomplished Millennial....as was our VP of Technology (who just returned to KC to be with her family). One thing I notice about some in the Millennial generation is their overarching need to be in control, without paying their dues or having any reason for wanting to be so, except for the fact that, somehow, they think they deserve it....just for being them. Isn't that special? If the younger workers of today don't want to take direction from "old people" (as I've had some in emails refer to me and my generation), fair enough. Don't work for us. Do what I did at 25 and start your own company. Take the risks, work your butt off, and hire whomever you wish. But...so long as someone is working for someone, that employee plays by the rules of the person who owns the playground. Don't like the rules of the playground? Fair enough. Go buy your own playground or find some like-minded people and play in THEIR playground. But too many Millennials don't get the concept of "the person who owns the company makes the rules, and you have to play by them or not work there." Too many of them want to force us to play by THEIR rules. Another thing I hear over and over again is how technically proficient and smart Millennials are. First, technical proficiency and being smarter than us old fogies are not necessarily linked. Secondly, technical proficiency is not the only thing that matters in business or in life. Granted, some Millennials ARE very technically proficient. That is why our new tech guy is a Millennial. BUT...there is more to business (and life) than skill at texting or skill on a computer. Pay your dues, kiddos. Learn what you can't get from a computer screen or the "cloud." Then, after you've gotten seasoned, you can begin to change the rules. Until then, you're just technically proficient neophytes to the real world of business. Valuable...yes. Great ideas...yes. Experience, however, is essential for most businesses (Facebook notwithstanding) to succeed. As people should have learned from the last "tech bubble," there are NO "new rules" of business. There are new tools, but not new rules. By John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC on 2011 04 01
Will your office assistant's tasks include writing essays? By Tanya on 2011 04 01
You nailed it John! Don't forget - it is not just mommy and daddy proping up these folks - our own government is as well. We've offered jobs at $10 per hour - and have gotten the response: Why would I give up unemployment benefits that pay MORE than $10 per hour to go back to work. No wonder the unemployment rate is so high - and no wonder there are so many people whining out there. I know several other employers that can NOT find new employees. Something is definitely wrong. The only thing I disagree with is giving a new employee real responsibility. We tend to load up new employees. It helps us test their mettle. Now, we have had some actually complain that they are not being paid enough for this level of responsibility. By Andrew on 2011 03 30
I sympathize greatly with this article. We've seen the attitude of entitlement a lot lately. I graduated in 1991 from the University of Illinois with an Engineering degree - into the middle of the '91 recession. I didn't whine, I didn't complain. I moved to Colorado, worked to start a software business, and worked at 7-11 to pay the rent. The manager who interviewed me there of course asked why someone with an engineering degree wanted to work at 7-11. Well, I need a job and I'm willing to do it. I didn't stay there long (7-8 months?). But if I had to do it again I would. No one is "above" working to make a living, in any way that you have to. This is a lesson that seems to have been lost on the current generation. By Jawaid on 2011 03 29
BRAVO!!! I am SICK to death watching parents coddle, spoil and enable their children in every little thing! I contacted the parents of a 13 year old boy the other day because he was an acquaintance of my son's and had been invited over for lunch. The young man was disrespectful of my home, house rules and my son's personal property. I have never seen anything like it. When I called the parents a few days later to make sure I didn't have instant enemies for sending the boy home, his fatther said, "I talked to my son about the situation and he said he didn't do anything wrong" and the rest of the conversation went down hill from there. People who are this permissive with their children will be supporting them for years to come. I hope they enjoy it- mine are being brought up to understand it's a tough world to survive in so get a job, support yourself and don't come home looking for financial assisatnce, Mom and Dad are trying to make it in the world too! By CSmith on 2011 03 29
Glad I have not had to deal with the nut jobs.... But by asking for the email, I get a good sense of their work attitude, their writing skills, and their communication skills. It also tells me that thy pay attention and actually read. Some of the resumes I have received are clearly from job seekers using the shotgun approach - I just assumed they were hoping that if you send your resume out enough times that someone will read it. If they don't answer the questions, I just delete. No point wasting my time on someone who is not committed to their job search. If they don't really pay attention to the posting, they really don't have an interest in my company. Never thought about the unemployment angle. Again, great job on the article. By Rich Schur on 2011 03 29
Yes, Rich, I had the same experience with people just clicking the email address and including the link to their resume page. I USED to think this was because they didn't know better, until I would write back and tell them how to apply correctly and get nasty notes back. A while back, I had one young woman who I did this for actually call my cell phone numerous times during the day to tell me what a jerk I was for telling her how to correctly apply. We had to threaten a restraining order against this nutcase before she'd stop! So, now, I don't even bother. I just hit "delete." I suspect that some of them are doing this either to tell unemployment they applied. The unemployment office doesn't have the resources to audit these folks anymore, so they can get away with it. They might also just be doing it to tell their parents they applied. And some are doing it just to give themselves an excuse for not working. It's the economy. It's the discrimination against youth. It's the unreasonable employers....anything but it being themselves. By John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC on 2011 03 29
John: You hit the nail on the head. I recently posted on Craig's list for a part time position, one day a week, every other week. I posted the $10 starting pay. In the very first line of the ad, I state that the applicant MUST SEND AN EMAIL telling my why they want to work a position that is only twice a month. Most of the applicant didn't bother. They just clicked the link to send me their resume. Some didn't even do that. If you don't bother to read the posting, why should I think you'd follow directions if hired? I think it's prudent to screen people BEFORE I hire them. By Rich Schur on 2011 03 29

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