Career Counseling: what has changed (2)?

Young people are much better prepared to enter the workforce than they were thirty years ago. Whether from high school or college, they are showing up at interviews with more summer jobs, more work-study courses, more volunteer work, and more internships.

I think the mandatory community service in the state of Maryland is a wonderful opportunity for our students to gain exposure to all kinds of work settings. Whether they coach or tutor, visit in a senior center, help manage a Vacation Bible School, or help organize a street carnival, they learn about responsibility, problem-solving, and organization. In the past, fewer students had this exposure.

This extensive experience makes them more savvy. They have more accomplishments to list on their resumes, they have more stories to tell in interviews. They also have more confidence.

I sometimes wish that they knew the difference between being confident and being cocky. Because they have worked in the school office or a family member’s place of business does not exempt them from starting at the beginning in that first real job. Copying, fetching, scanning, lugging boxes are all part of beginning one’s career. Being 18 or 22 with a smattering of experience doesn’t free one from the time-tested role of go-fer, administrative assistant, production assistant, or clerk. The real challenge for a young person, as it always has been, is to perform whatever task one is asked to do, do it well and in good spirits. The fact that one can use this entry-level job as a springboard to position number two is a given.

Nevertheless, an older worker can look at today’s young people and marvel at their poise. If they can learn to combine their confidence with a genuine interest in learning from more experienced people, they will be on the way to success.

What was it like for you in your first job? What do you wish someone had told you?

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