Make us your home page

There's hope for young, jobless grads

The economy has been tough for most people. But according to some employment figures, young adults are having an especially hard time. Census data from September shows that employment for people ages 16 to 29 is now at 55.3 percent, down from 67.3 percent in 2000. This is the lowest level since World War II. But the numbers get worse: Nearly one out of five people in this age group is at risk of living in poverty, and the number of people ages 25 to 34 living with their parents is 5.9 million — a 25 percent increase since before the recession. We talked to Rebecca Rapple, a 20-something resume consultant and career coach specializing in members of Generation Y. Every day, she helps young adults overcome the challenges of obtaining their dream careers.

Q: What challenges do today's young adults face that previous generations of recent grads did not?

A: Young job seekers are entering the market in a time of major economic downturn while facing a sea of fellow applicants of unparalleled size. Much of this stems from the fact that applying to companies has gotten so much easier. With a few clicks of a button you can send in your resume through email or an online form. When you add to these trends the fact that young people today are willing to relocate across the country or world for a job, employers literally receive hundreds of applications for each opening. This means that more than ever before, young applicants have to stand out — both to computer-sorting systems and their human counterparts.

Q: What are common mistakes young adults make when job hunting?

A: I see two common mistakes from young job seekers:

One, they don't know what they want. Even if you don't know what you want to do for your life (very few people do!), employers want to be confident that you want their job. This means that you need to be specific and targeted about your desires, and frame the story of your experience and resume around pursuing the thing you are applying for. For example, if you are applying for a marketing position, you could position the art history classes you took in college as supporting your desire to understand the history of visual communication, even if you really just happen to like art history.

The other mistake younger people make is opting for quantity over quality. Sending out 100 resumes rarely works, especially when you are young and have few quantifiable skills. Blasting out mass quantities of resumes is not a path to success. It is much more effective to target a handful of high-value opportunities and invest your time and resources in customizing your application process. This means taking time to research the company to find out how you can help them achieve their goals. Target and personalize your resume for that particular position and organization and build relationships there. Targeting a few places with a lot of effort is more likely to pay off.

Q: What advice do you offer to this group regarding resume writing and other aspects of job searching and career development?

A: I have so many pieces of advice for this group! Here are four quick ones to start:

1. It's not about you; it's about them. This means thinking about your resume from the perspective of "What would be most valuable for them?" rather than, "What is most impressive about me?" It also means that you need to be very clear about what success looks like for your employer and make sure to emphasize how you will help them achieve that success.

2. Stand out effectively. When competing with hundreds of other applicants, you need to identify how you are — or could be — unique. This might include highlighting your ability to build relationships at the company or showcasing a unique experience that will help you be more effective at work. One of my clients got hired as a sales guy because on his resume he wrote, "Ask me how I double a bill," under his experience as a waiter. The hiring manager was curious, and he sealed the deal in the interview.

3. What's your story? Just like the art history class example, it's important to craft a compelling anecdote for each item on your resume, and state how each item contributes to an overarching story about why you are the best candidate for the job.

4. Showcase your knowledge and ability to adapt to technology. Gen Y has a major leg up on older generations in that we are digital natives. Embrace this aspect of your youth and use it to your advantage.

There's hope for young, jobless grads 04/21/12 [Last modified: Saturday, April 21, 2012 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Tribune News Service.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Carrollwood fitness center employs scientific protocol to help clients


    In 2005, Al Roach and Virginia Phillips, husband and wife, opened 20 Minutes to Fitness in Lakewood Ranch, and last month they opened the doors to their new location in Carrollwood.

    Preston Fisher, a personal fitness coach at 20 Minutes To Fitness, stands with an iPad while general manager/owner Angela Begin conducts an equipment demonstration. The iPad is used to track each client's information and progress. I also included one shot of just the equipment. The center recently opened in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser.
  2. Olive Tree branches out to Wesley Chapel


    WESLEY CHAPEL — When it came time to open a second location of The Olive Tree, owners John and Donna Woelfel, decided that Wesley Chapel was the perfect place.

    The Olive Tree expands its offerings of "ultra premium?€ extra virgin olive oils (EVOO) to a second location in Wesley Chapel. Photo by Danielle Hauser.
  3. Massachusetts firm buys Tampa's Element apartment tower

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Downtown Tampa's Element apartment tower sold this week to a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company that plans to upgrade the skyscraper's amenities and operate it long-term as a rental community.

    The Element apartment high-rise at 808 N Franklin St. in downtown Tampa has been sold to a Northland Investment Corp., a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company. JIM DAMASKE  |  Times
  4. New York town approves Legoland proposal


    GOSHEN, N.Y. — New York is one step closer to a Lego dreamland. Goshen, a small town about fifty miles northwest of the Big Apple, has approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park.

    A small New York town, Goshen approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park. Legoland Florida is in Winter Haven. [Times file  photo]
  5. Jordan Park to get $20 million makeover and new senior housing

    Real Estate


    Times Staff Writer

    ST. PETERSBURG —The St. Petersburg Housing Authority, which bought back the troubled Jordan Park public housing complex this year, plans to spend about $20 million to improve the 237-unit property and construct a new three-story building for …

    Jordan Park, the historic public housing complex, is back in the hands of the St. Petersburg Housing Authority. The agency is working to improve the 237-unit complex. But the latest plan to build a new three-story building for seniors will mean 31 families have to find new homes. [LARA CERRI   |   Tampa Bay Times]