Secrets of the Job Hunt


Saturday, May 06, 2006

Job-seekers, ask not what your employer can do for you . . .

I came across this article by Andrea Kay, a career advice author who sets it straight for today's graduates.

In Starbucks and restaurants everywhere -- and any other place they can perch with cell phone welded to ear -- future college graduates are chattering about their job interviews. You can't escape it.

Wherever I've been for breakfast, lunch, dinner or coffee lately, one of these hopefuls is seated nearby reporting back to Mom, Dad or peers with comments such as these: "And I'm like, oh no, did I mess up that interview question about what I do in my spare time?" Or, "They're like asking about my weaknesses, and I'm like, oh my gosh, what do I say?"

Although I've heard the "I'm like" rhetoric enough -- and still cringe every time -- I am more aghast when I hear them blabbering away about the thorough grilling they gave the interviewer regarding the company's retirement programs, compensation and health care.
Hasn't anyone told them this isn't what you're supposed to focus on if you want to get hired? I want to lean over and say, "Never, ever talk about compensation until you've been offered the position."

But I am reminded of how embarrassed I was as a child when my father, a now-retired children's dentist, would walk up to mothers in public and tell them it was bad for the teeth of their 3-year-olds to still be using a pacifier. So I keep my mouth shut.

From the standpoint of these graduating seniors, I suppose this approach makes sense. They witnessed the dot-com crash. And some have paid attention to what's been happening at companies such as Enron or may know something about Social Security's potential demise.
Campus recruiters and researchers say that more than any recruits in memory, this year's crop is asking employers for assurances of security so they don't wind up at the next Enron, according to a report on

When asked what they expect in compensation packages, students at 123 universities gave a detailed list of long-term benefits from retirement plans to insurance for dependents -- even though most don't have any.

They also prefer "stable, diversified companies that will live up to benefits promises," says the report. And like other graduates of recent years, they rate work-life balance as the No. 1 employer attribute they seek.

Although some large companies are tailoring their recruiting pitches and programs to suit them, most employers tell me they are turned off by this entitlement attitude that is not grounded in reality. It makes you wonder how realistic the campus brochure from PricewaterhouseCoopers is that shows a young man cartwheeling on a beach with the headline: "Your life. You can bring it with you."

This generation of workers may want assurance that they'll have more security then ever before. But it remains to be seen whether they will get more of what they want in the world of work.

One thing is certain. It's not about cartwheeling on a beach. It's about being valuable. Employers are still looking for workers who can assure them they can create and deliver their products and services to more customers around the globe better and faster than ever before.
Andrea Kay is the author of "Life's a Bitch and Then You Change Careers: 9 Steps to Get Out of Your Funk and On To Your Future." Send questions to her at 2692 Madison Road, No. 133, Cincinnati, Ohio 45208; E-mail:

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