How to Find and Use a Mentor

I read a lot of business non-fiction, and pretty much all of them (that are aimed at women) advise us to get a mentor.

About 6 months ago, I started fretting that I didn’t have one, so got myself set up. I’m really honoured to have Faye Holland from Cambridge company Cofinitive as my mentor – but it has been a bit of a journey to get to this point.  [Read more…]

Young People’s Biggest Fear? Failure

One of the towns I work in recently surveyed the employers about skills and young people in the town. Reading through the findings, employers were keen to stress that they sought soft skills in their young staff. Things like resilience and communication skills…but also, there were a couple of comments regarding a fear of failure.

They said that they find it hard to get good people to work for them because fear of failure prevents young people from trying new things, from stretching themselves and from putting themselves out there. If everyone stays in their comfort zones, progressive work simply doesn’t get done. [Read more…]

Turn the Tables in an Interview

Interview Tips

This week I read a really funny post on LinkedIn while I was at work. It was a fictional advert from a candidate to a job offer, using all of those overly used phrases. “There has been a high level of interest”, “your details will be kept on record in case an opportunity arises in the future”.

It even asked the company to give references for the manager’s direct reports, and to check the director’s credit rating as part of the decision process. [Read more…]

Don’t Be A Dick When Recruiting Young People

The other day at work I was scrolling through LinkedIn when I came across this video. A young man was sat on a sofa, uncomfortable in his suit, looking down at the camera apparently sat on the coffee table. He was holding up signs, Love Actually style, with words to tell a story. He explained that he has applied for a job at a loan company and has been asked to make a viral video as part of the recruitment process.

The video had thousands upon thousands of views and likes, with hundreds of comments, one of which was an explanation of the company he’d applied for, saying that they are a payday loans company who target students, young people and the vulnerable who wouldn’t be able to pay the loans back. In a way it made sense that they would want to make all these applicants do viral content to promote to their friends – supposedly their target audience.

I’ve no doubt that if he’s not in the lead for the role then he’s as near as dammit to it, but I couldn’t help feeling really sad that he’s been made to jump through such hoops for he job – that didn’t seem to be marketing related at all.

There’s so much discourse right now about how to hire the younger generations. How to attract them, how to attract the right ones. How to deal with their youthful qualities once they’re there. There’s more to young people than throwing some beanbags on the office floor and waiting for them to arrive.

Young people are coming out of education ill equipped to get jobs. Schools are targeted on exam results and so that’s what they push for, leaving little time for anything else. Work experience is usually the first thing to go when schools want to be more economical with their time and finances, and very few have the opportunity to have mock interviews or CV writing sessions with external people. No offense to teachers, but having someone come in to do these things is crucial; it allows students to experience talking with an unknown adult, making a first impression from scratch and also get advice straight from the people who might hire them.

So students are coming out of education equipped with certificates proving that they can study, but without the skills needed to work. Then, the come face to face with hiring managers like the one I met a couple of weeks ago. During an event where businesses and careers initiative people discussed working together, a middle-aged man raised his hand to speak his mind; “we hired a load of apprentices, but they turned up late all the time! We did a study! They were the group out of our whole office who turned up late the most! Young people are SO LAZY!”

Seeing red, I politely put my hand up then laid into him pretty heavily, but it’s a sad fact that young people will be coming up against people who think the worst of them like this, before they’ve even opened their mouths. How many adults do you know who have negative misconceptions about teenagers?

Hundreds of people apply to entry level jobs; the internet has made it easier to apply but harder for hiring managers to find the person they want to hire. So, mass interviewing techniques have become common, with assessment centres, personality tests, presentations, games and role play exercises being used to whittle down 200 applicants to a manageable group. Long gone are the days when you can give a nice first impression and someone will take a chance on you; you have to jump through all these hoops just to get a look-in.

Then there are the viral videos they make them do. The chap at the top of the post isn’t the first time I’ve heard of people having to make a video as part of the application process. My brother, when applying for a part time job at a nationwide roast dinner chain restaurant, was asked to make a video as well, and this was a few years ago now. It’s the height of laziness; they don’t want to (or can’t?) see all these people in person so get them to make a video to see if they have charisma, but also by asking them to make the video viral it’s free advertising.

It’s just one more hoop young people have to jump through.

If you want to hire the next generation into your company, here are my tips:

Judge them on what they’ve done outside of school. This is a surefire way to find out what they’re interested in, whether they have ambition, whether they are driven. There are lots of things they could do – learn to code by themselves, do Duke of Edinburgh, join a club, start a club… By doing these things it shows that they don’t just sit in front of the tv when they get home, they’re striving for more.

Don’t expect for them to be the final product. Even at 31, I’m not my final product, and I’m sure you, at whatever age you are, are not either. Instead of coming down on them for their mistakes help them overcome them.

Leave your bias at the door. If you are one of the people who think that young people are young and entitled, please consider spending time with them. Your friend with the teenage son? Sit and chat with him for a bit. That school nearby? Ask if they need your help. Volunteer at a youth club.

Young people don’t want beanbags. They want to be treated with respect and to live fulfilling lives.

Have you heard of a stupid hiring practice for young people? Let me know in the comments!


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