All too often, new college graduates are perceived as being lazy, disrespectful and entitled.
Career expert David McKnight concurred that there is definitely the perception that some millennials are unprepared when they enter the workforce — from a presentation perspective, at least.
“I think that there’s definitely a difference between the current generation versus the generation of maybe 10 years ago,” McKnight, author of The Zen of Executive Presence: Build Your Business Success Through Strategic Image Management, told StreetID. “I think in terms of some of the things they can do to really make sure that they are putting their best foot forward and presenting the right image, it’s really all about being aware.”
McKnight has found that there aren’t many opportunities for this generation to build an awareness of, “What are the expectations of me in the workforce and how should I be dressing and how should I behave when I go into a corporate environment?”
“Unfortunately, business schools and colleges don’t really teach that information,” he said.
To rise above the stereotypes, McKnight said that job seekers need to analyze their “presentation layer” — that is, everything an employer will see during the first interview.
“Your interview is the first impression that the employer is going to get from you or see of you,” said McKnight. “It’s kind of like your wedding day.”
And on your wedding day, McKnight said that you will want to look your best.
“I see a lot of young guys who just don’t know very small, simple things,” he added. “For example, you’re not supposed to button the bottom button of your suit.”
When they button both, it can show a “lack of awareness” to employers.
Next up, McKnight said that job seekers need to be mindful of their attitude and how it may be perceived by employers.
“[You should display] an attitude of humbleness and create a sense that you really want to be at that company,” McKnight advised. “I’ve interviewed students at various schools in the past and they almost seem as if they’re doing you a favor by interviewing with you.”
McKnight believes that if job seekers were more aware of these perceptions, they could better monitor and manage their tone and adjust accordingly.
McKnight also stressed the importance of communication skills — especially in the financial sector.
“Communication skills, including eye contact, your non-verbal [cues], these are all very, very important,” said McKnight. “It may seem like it’s 101 information, but I think it’s very important for people to really focus on this and spend time practicing it. Not a lot of people really spend time practicing it and perfecting it.
“When it comes to communication, it’s really important for you to be able to communicate concisely and really communicate your value and why you differ from the other candidates who are going to be equally smart or smarter and have gone to better schools. Sometime it’s not the person who has gone to the best schools with the highest GPA. It’s the person who is qualified, who does have a good resume, but from a communication perspective, from a presentation perspective, they may be head and shoulders above their peers.
“So I think it’s really important not to forget about these things that you can’t really see on paper.”
Last but not least, McKnight said that job seekers should take a good look at their digital presence online.
“I’ve heard tons of stories and have dealt with situations personally where you may find someone that you think is a really well-qualified candidate or when you go online and Google their name — do a little bit of research, not even deep digging — you’ll find things that may be disparaging,” he said. “Sometimes it completely dismantles the image that this person has created on paper.”
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