Are millennials’ confused expectations contributing to their job hunting woes?

The most recent jobs report broke the hearts of those hoping for employment. With expectations that the economy would add 158,000 jobs for hopeful workers, the report indicated that only 38,000 positions were created.

For far too many, an economy growing at less than two percent has proved disappointing. In fact, current projections are that the economy will falter at an anemic one percent a year for the next five years. Such disappointing news makes it all the more important  – for millennials in particular – to consider whether their own attitudes are impacting their job search.

Despite reported low unemployment rates, millennials (born 1980 to 2000) are suffering more than most. Forbes notes, “(t)he  data is actually pretty scary: 44 percent of college grads in their 20s are stuck in low-wage, dead-end jobs, the highest rate in decades, and the number of young people making less than $25,000 has also spiked to the highest level since the 1990s.”

But as the president of a non-profit where I counsel, consult with and write for those seeking to advance their careers, I’ve learned that two extremely different attitudes towards work are hurting young job seekers in particular. For both extremes, managing expectation is essential to successfully navigating the job market.

First there are those who get discouraged and settle for whatever they can get, selling themselves far too short.

One of the impacts of the sluggish job market has been millennials and other job seekers giving up and staying in jobs they despise. In fact, a recent Fusion 2016 Issues/Washington Post poll found that the share of young Americans who say that the American Dream “is not really alive” increased dramatically over three decades, from 12 percent to 29 percent.

They are troubled by headlines such as the recent report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York that revealed that about 1 in 3 college graduates are in a job that does not require a degree, but for millennials that figure is at 44 percent. In fact, about one-in-five (23 percent) underemployed recent grads have part-time jobs. The report noted “both unemployment and underemployment have followed a clear upward trend for recent college graduates over the past two decades, and particularly since the 2001 recession.”

Such facts burden a generation looking work, but settling into a hated career for fear of not finding a better option is no way to spend a life.

But second, at the other extreme, there are those who hop from job to job seeking the perfect, executive starting position, ignoring the need to pay some dues. Too many millennials believe in a “Microwave Career,” expecting the instant gratification of work that never leaves them neither bored nor requires them to do more than they wish.

Accustomed to debating and negotiating every point in school and getting a trophy for any task accomplished, it can be a shock to learn that employers are much different than parents and teachers. Excellence is expected; negotiation is not. And in an office, he or she who pays the bills make the rule — an employer has no problem saying “next” as the HR department has a line of applicants waiting for that job.

Forget the frantic job hopping: millennials need to jump into a work place and get their proverbial hands dirty, learning the ins and outs of a business from the ground floor working their way up. From inside, they can make contacts, build relationships, and provide incredible value to an employer by working harder than all their peers. It won’t take long before a great work ethics makes such an employee irreplaceable.  

Proverbs 22:29 observes: “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand in the presence of kings. He will not stand in the presence of unknown men.”

For those who don’t know where to start, taking time to assess passions, interests, values, skills and goals is a must. Assessment tools that help people identify their career strengths along with some career counseling can help those wandering in the proverbial wilderness to focus a job search.

You have to know yourself to lead yourself, especially in an economy that is not creating as many jobs as for previous generations. Managing expectations and refining employable skills will give young workers the tools they need to survive and thrive, whatever the job market. Every company, no matter the size, needs excellent people, and in the diligent pursuit of excellence a career is made.

Robert Dickie III is president of Crown, a non-profit dedicated to helping people create long term plans for personal financial, career, and business success. He is the author of the newly release book, “THE LEAP – Launching your Full-Time Career in Our Part-Time Economy.” (Moody Publishers January 6, 2015). Follow him on Twitter@RobertDickie.

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