Do Not Read This!!! Unless You Want a Great Job

Do not read this unless you want a great job

I was reading this article and was surprised by the odd and disconnected perspectives.

The Surprising Reason Why New College Grads Cannot Find Work

The article is focusing on millennials – I am not… I am just going to focus on people but the term millennials is being used in the article. That you/they are millennials or post-millennials is largely irrelevant. We are going to discuss basic principals.

These principles apply to college grads in general and anyone in the workforce. They especially apply to the I.T. worker who often believes they leave college with the skills necessary to get a job in I.T.

WARNING: in most cases, you don’t!
exceptions noted below

Companies say candidates are lacking in motivation, interpersonal skills, appearance, punctuality and flexibility.

Not surprisingly, more than half the millennials surveyed disagreed with this assessment and insist they have the proper work ethic — even if they describe it differently. For instance, 9 percent of college students define preparedness as “work ethic,” compared to 23 percent of business leaders and 18 percent of recruiters who measure work ethic by preparedness.
======= END (emphasis mine)

Describing it “differently” – take note, here it comes

In the above section, this sticks out. Companies are saying their candidates are not prepared. One key assessment is what companies and recruiters call “work ethic”  – that’s sort of fuzzy but I think most of us get an idea of what that means generally.

Then the disconnect. Millennials (college grads) INSIST they have the proper work ethic – even if they describe it differently.

CLUE/LESSON: You’d better speak and think like an employer if you want that employer to hire you. If they define preparedness by “work ethic” – and the terms above (motivation, interpersonal skills, appearance, punctuality and flexibility) – you’d better define them the same way.

I can see that someone will raise the hue and cry that I am simply being a curmudgeonly old fellow in my slacks and bow tie, decrying the wasted and lazy youth of today. Oh contraire.. I think there is amazing talent in the youth of today. I’ve been blessed with 4 talented and lazy youth.. wait.. sorry.. not lazy.. well, not all of the time.

You must be what the employer is looking for or do not complain when the employer overlooks you

This seems pretty simple. But apparently gets lost in translation.

Interestingly, prior to reading this article, the past two days I’ve had conversations with 3 of my children about what employers want/expect. These are all paraphrases.. but the gist is there.

Conversation 1:
You need to see what you are doing from his (the employer in question’s perspective). This is his livelihood and your job is to add value and help him advance his business. Treat it like it is your own.

Conversation 2:
Well.. you don’t want to toe the line or “put up with shit” – then you cannot really complain when you are let go. The reality is that in the role you are in, taking attitude from people is par for the course. You are paid for that. Your job is to, in all cases, create as positive an experience for the consumer as you can.

Conversation 3:
You need to show them that you are interested in what they do. You need them to see you as someone who wants to come in and help their business succeed and that you will enjoy doing that. And that is simpler if you actually do want their business to succeed and enjoy doing that.

But what about the individual or “I don’t want to be corporate”

Yeah.. that is something I hear a LOT.

I worked for a major insurance company early in my career. Talk about stodgy. Talk about corporate.

Anyone who knows my general attitude and approach to life and business should understand that I WAS NOT VERY CORPORATE. But I did wear slacks and a tie. And I did care about what they did and my value to them.

I don’t believe there is such as thing as “being corporate.” It’s just a place filled with people.. individuals.. all of them!  Although, admittedly, there are people who are driven by traditional trappings of corporate life.. ie: corner office, title, etc.

If you view wearing a suit or tie and caring about the value you bring to the organization as corporate – then, yeah, you’d better be corporate. As an employer, I DO NOT want someone who DOES NOT think in terms of the value they bring me versus just “doing a job”. Call me selfish or something!

For me, I wanted pay, fun/exciting projects, to have fun during the day, and to like the people I worked with. The title and my office was a bi-product of producing in that environment but was largely unimportant to me. I knew if I wanted to get what I wanted, adding value to the organization and caring was the best way to do that.

Whether you work in a large corporation or a small business, you are and can be an individual. But, if being an individual means you dress sloppy, show up late, and generally care less about the value you bring your employer, you will be fired!

It isn’t because you weren’t “corporate,” it is because you were foolish, stubborn, and lazy. Actually, it was simply because you didn’t add enough value.

Side note: I tend to view small businesses and better opportunities for new worker to learn a LOT of new skills. Business owners don’t have a silo of responsibility. They don’t really have job descriptions. They have “things that have to get done” and only 4 people to do them. That means you get everything thrown at you if you want.. I love that!!

3 Critical Perspectives to Getting/Creating a GREAT job

Oh.. I gave it away with the above heading. First, you probably won’t get a great job out of school. You’ll get a job. Making it great is up to you. As I told one of my children yesterday, “you should just work for any small business you can right now and develop some mad skills for the next year or two.”

Many times, that is all a job is.. a place to learn and develop skills. Especially first jobs. Pay is incidental. Opportunity is all that matters.

Okay. onto some perspectives you MUST have.

It’s always about the value you bring them first

You bring and show your employer that you value their business and it’s growth, they’ll want you around and want to take care of you. I’m all for getting compensated for what you do – but if your first endeavor in the professional world is to ensure you are making the “average” pay for someone with your degree and background versus being a little bundle of energetic value, you’re screwed for the rest of your career.

Never utter or think the poisonous, “that’s not in my job description.”

What!!!  I am certain that I had a job description when I worked at the insurance company. I think it was required. I never read it and could care less about what it said specifically. I viewed my job as “make stuff that makes people’s work go faster and with fewer errors.” Take on whatever project seemed interesting and that would add value to the department and organization.

You’ve never PAID your dues, you are always paying them

College earns you almost nothing – maybe student debt. I’ve only known 2 programmers who graduated and had the skills necessary to land a decent job right away. But that was NOT because they got those skills in college. Sorry!

Nope, both these individuals interned for me and then worked in small and then larger projects for me as they want through school. Yep.. I’ll admit it, I made them valuable to future employers. They learned to work for clients, assess needs, implement solutions. Most important, they learned “Concept Over Process” – yeah, there is a plug right there. Because COP is all about the value you bring your client or company.


The disconnect with the above article is not new. For whatever reason, people believed that our parents graduated and then got a high-paying job in the industry of their choice. That’s largely a mythological idea.

And earlier than that, people interned.. no, wait.. they were often “indentured servants” that spent 7 years being abused slaves while learning a trade.

I’m not suggesting you need to go to that extreme. But just understand that, whether you are millennial or not – and especially those of you in Information Technology, college did not prepare you to add value.

Go find a place.. any place at almost any pay – that you can add value to and learn those MAD SKILLS!

Oh.. and cut your hair, wear a tie, and remove the piercings for God’s sake! You can put those back after you’ve learned to add value (although i bet dollars to donuts you don’t!) 

Matt, you are so corporate! Pfffhhhh

Posted in career development, Coaching, job search.


  1. Hey Matt, love your work. Your perspective on this is interesting but I think misses the point. I honestly think what we’re seeing is a millennial misinterpretation on a mass scale. Millenials saw what their parents did for money and saw that money doesn’t buy happiness. But they are misinterpreting the “corporate” mentality as a greedy mentality. They are adding a meaning that wasn’t meant to be there. They see never ending work hours that their parents worked, they see the desire for the corporations’s success that their parents had- but their families still broke apart. Their lives still didnt get better. I think what we’re seeing is a rejection of the consumerism that benefited the company and we’re seeing a demand from the new generation for a true benefit of their parent’s loyalty and consumerism. But the Millenials have forgotten that in order to be gratified… Someone needs to do the work.

  2. Not trying to make a value judgement on this one – but look at it this way- all of your needs are being met for far less work and sacrifice than someone else endured. Now that’s all you know. If you fail – your needs will be met because you can move back in with the parents. What others may interpret as “lazy”, the millenials say “what’s the point of working harder than the guy who came before me? If a economic downturn hits – he’s got comparable pay, comparable job duties as the guy who was there for 10 years. We’re seeing the age of the “what’s the point?” mentality.

    • I find many ambitious millenials.. which is why I suggested that this is less about millenials. Personally, I feel that this is common generationally.. ie: every generation feels the next is lazy.

      Also, I don’t feel millenials reject consumerism.. lattes and clothing tell me that. My advice is very directed at the individual – regardless of generation, who holds a “I want” but “I am unwilling to”.

      Those perspectives don’t work well together. By the way, there may be millenials who “feel” as you have indicated.. I suppose there is no answer to that.

      My post is about those who need to recognize the difference and are willing to do so.

      • “lattes and clothing tell me that” – you’ve got a good point there.
        I did see you expanded beyond just “millenials”, but I think my point is relevant because generational analysis mandates generalizations. I completely agree with your article on the assessment of work ethic, so please don’t think I’m trying to debate on that regard. I think you’re spot on with correcting the perception that previous generations “had it easy” – but still, the generations ARE different in drastic ways.

        I think it’s interesting that you touched on “immediate gratification consumables” – note, millenials (generalizing) aren’t buying houses, but they’re buying lattes. They aren’t buying cars like their parents were (they’re leasing). They ARE buying clothes – but from consignment, not by label.
        They’re renting everything from cell phones to airbnb rooms to clothing.

        It seems if we can only point to lattes (lazy latte?), I’d say consumerism is declining along with work ethic – but the “immediate gratification” (ie- the “lazy” consumables costing < $10 a shot or that come with a low monthly fee) are increasing.

        Do you think it will be businesses who will change to meet these personality trends? Or will we come full circle?

        • I think, for many, the trend to home buying and other “grown up” activities is occurring later – as with having children.

          I wouldn’t say that lattes are the only thing we can point to.. just a somewhat easy one.

          I do think that, for many, millinials, they are experience driven… brewery, travel, etc. trump the “financial stability” of home buying… although, I find that is probably more a lack of knowledge of that area as a rejection of anything their parents did.

          I’ll need to consider it more – as I was only addressing those who want a particular type of job and have a misguided notion of how prepared they are for the market. Addressing the socio-economic patterns and beliefs of a generation is beyond the pay scale of this blog entry. 😉

What do you think?