It’s not news that Generation Y is raked over the coals from time to time. They have been labeled as self-centered, lazy and attention-deficit-disordered. In some cases, they have been bashed for having parents who dote on them so much that they have an inflated sense of self and entitlement.

The truth is, most of us are acquainted in our family and friendship circles with Gen Yers who defy this reputation by being ambitious, courteous, patient, kind and focused on their goals.

In the careers industry, we advise our new-grad clients to exhibit all of the traits of a caring, company-focused and hard-working employee. We suggest they be prepared to work their way up versus walking immediately into their dream job with the perfect work duties and salary. They must earn their stripes, if you will. At the same time, dreaming and aspiring to land a fulfilling entry-level job that will help bolster esteem, skills and career growth is encouraged.

Following are three actionable behaviors that Gen Yers should consider when applying for that first full-time job after graduation:

1. Take your time in building a focused resume message. Quality versus speed-to-market really does apply to this critical transition into the real world.

While you may want to keep your options open, you still should aim your message at certain types of opportunities; e.g., opportunities that require your specific skills in a) crunching numbers; b) analyzing finances; c) marketing a brand; d) handling difficult customers; d) influencing other people to make decisions; e) working on team projects; and so forth.

As well, research the types of companies you are both interested in and where you also feel your talent (and culture ideals) will fit. Glassdoor is a good place to start investigating companies and culture. Broaden that search by Googling and through word of mouth. Then, get an understanding of the problems you can solve for them. Write stories from your classroom projects, internships, extra-curricular activities, part-time jobs, fraternity/sorority activities, sports contributions and such that show you exhibit patience, diligence and even occasionally will walk through fire to achieve goals and results.

If you don’t know how to do this, don’t just expect your everything-but-the-kitchen sink resume to resonate with an employer looking to invest in you. Make it easy for them to know you will solve their problems. If your career services offers resume help, take it, but if that doesn’t work, seek out or hire outside professional ‘story-writing’ help. Don’t assume your resume is great, if after six months of looking you’re still not getting interviews. Your resume is a marketing vehicle, plain and simple, and your words matter. It is not time to be humble, boring or dry. It is okay to reinvent and restart your job-search process if what you are doing isn’t working.

2. Netweave.

While networking can be an uncomfortable word in some circles, ‘netweaving,’ which is about giving first and getting later, is an admirable way to build reputation and ultimately, organically land interviews.

It’s best not to wait until months after graduation to start that process. Start considering whom you should be reaching out to, engaging in job-related conversations with and marketing your value to early, before you graduate, to set yourself up for a possible invitation into a company later. Join a professional organization, start attending meetings and volunteer as a committee member. Industry associations often offer student-member rates. Get to know people in the industry where you wish to be professionally employed, and start proving yourself by rolling up your sleeves as an active volunteer.

Join LinkedIn and post a meaty, meaningful profile, join a few groups, post informational, value-add updates and selectively connect to others in your target industry or those who may have connections or insights that would add value. Also connect to likeable, positive people who may not seem to offer anything but who may simply like and respect you and want to help. You never know whom someone knows; and/or you may be able to help them in some way. Reputations for providing value do get noticed.

3. Protect your positivity.

While human nature is often to kvetch, cajole and console those in desperate need of inspiration and hope, protect your own attitude and psyche first. If your sails are lagging, then go find the wind! This may mean respectfully separating from people who are pulling you down, constantly complaining and are backward looking. Fuel your energy with positive, supportive and hopeful people who peer ahead with a certain pragmatic optimism. Giving of yourself is good, but only give what and when you can. Only by doing this can you keep moving forward, being productive and contribute to your career momentum.


Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter is a Glassdoor career and workplace expert, chief career writer and partner with CareerTrend, and is one of only 28 Master Resume Writers (MRW) globally. An intuitive researcher, she helps professionals unearth compelling career story details to help best present their unique experience, skillset and interests in resumes and other career positioning documents as well as through social media profiles. In addition to being interviewed for television and radio stories, Jacqui has written for the Career Management Alliance Connection monthly newsletter and blog, ExecuNet’s Career Smart Advisor, The Kansas City Star, The Business Journal and The Wall Street Journal. In addition, she and her husband, “Sailor Rob,” host a lively careers-focused blog over at Jacqui also is a power Twitter user listed on several “Best People to Follow” lists for job seekers.