Job-hunting and being a perma-intern can both feel a lot like dating.
Sifting through listings, you look for the one that fits your idea of the perfect job. There are deal-clinchers and deal-breakers. Ahead of the interview, you get butterflies. You dress carefully, maybe even do your hair. And once you land the internship, the dance begins to see if this could be something serious.
It's tedious to get started, but the payoff is supposed to be worth it: you can only go on so many first dates and job interviews before you start wishing for 'the one.' You start to feel like a perfectionist, but how can you take a job that pays so little? That provides no healthcare? That simply isn't available for more than six months? Just like it doesn't make sense to sit around and wait for Prince Charming, underemployed and burdened with student debt, millennials can't afford to sit around and hold out for a permanent full-time job with an amazing pay and benefits.
A year ago, just 62% of us were employed and half of those were part-time jobs. Currently, 18.3% of college graduates are underemployed. That's compared to 9.9% who were underemployed in 2007. A number of us still live with our parents, and just one in 10 dares to describe our current job as a career. Considering all that, if an internship comes along, however temporary, who can say no?
Most employers are sympathetic to such circumstances and the plight of the twentysomethings looking to break into their desired field. They don't hold our history of casual short-term employments against us. Yet despite that, few of us want to come across as a serial intern or a job-hopper. This recent piece by the New York Times refers to millennial interns as an 'army of worker ants'. It depicts five twentysomethings as stuck in a “cycle of internships with little pay and no job offers.”
To figure out how to avoid that, I spoke to career coach Penelope Trunk and Andrea Kay, author of Life's a Bitch & Then You Change Careers. Here's what they had to say about functioning in the gig economy without looking scatter-brained.Internships: job interview or popularity contest?
Many of the complaints from millennials about their internships can be attributed to miscommunication about their expectations, says Kay. Many of them look at internships as a way to get exposure, meet the right people and to get hired. These expectations – especially the one that there is a job at the end of the internship – are often unrealistic. Think back to dating: just because there is a second or third date doesn't mean there's a relationship ahead. And the people who hired you don't owe you a job when you're done with your tour of duty.
If millennials' main reason for taking an internship is to rub shoulders with the right people or to network, they are likely have the wrong work ethic. For millennials who think they will jump right into a job, the experience will likely translate into “a world of disappointment”.
“When you do an internship for the wrong reasons, it leaves you feeling exploited,” says Kay.
Instead, millennials and their superiors should talk about what they want to accomplish, what they want to gain, and set realistic goals. “Think of internship as an extended job interview,” recommends Kay. An internship is a chance for the company to decide if you would add value and if they like having you around.
Whether your job is an internship or an entry-level job, “you have to pay your dues, prove your value,” says Kay. “I hear a lot of complaining about paying dues. And if that frustrates you, it makes you quit before the appropriate time.”
Trunk has a more controversial view. Forget the skills, she says: internships don't give you the chance to show off your skills. Learn to navigate the office politics and don't forget the social side of the equation. “Internships are purely a popularity contest,” says Trunk.You don't have to put every job on your resumé
A resumé is about emphasis. Just as in a relationship, you wouldn't tell someone you're trying to impress about your loser ex- on the first date. (Or if you do: please don't. It's really just the worst.) It's the same with resumés: there are some internships where you rocked, and some you'd like to just forget. Once an internship is over, you should figure out which of those categories it fits into, which will help you to determine whether to include it on your resumé or not.
Trunk's advice: select the jobs that make you look good and highlight them. You also don't have to loudly label each experience an internship on your resumé. The term internship defines how you get paid, not really the work you do, she says.
Just list the organization. You can clarify during the interview.Job-hoppers: just a bad rap?
Just like serial daters, serial interns and job-hoppers have become more common.
“Job-hopping has gone mainstream. It's a non-issue,” says Trunk. “If a company is frowning on job-hopping, you don't want to work with them anyway. They are behind.”
“It's more accepted than ever,” agrees Kay, adding that in the past, someone with four jobs within five years would have been 'interrogated'. “Today, it's more understandable, but it still brings up a red flag.”
Just as you'd be wary of committing to someone with a history of short-term relationships, hiring takes a lot of time from managers and companies, and they do not want to hire new employees only to have them leave few months later.
On average, it costs anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000 to replace a millennial who leaves his or her job, according to beyond.com survey.No haters?
The sensitive part of an internship is this: try not to talk smack about your previous employers: it'll make people think you'll do the same about them. They'll wonder if their habit of shoe-shopping online will become water-cooler talk at another company, or worse: a very public tweet.
This kind of diplomacy is not easy to learn for a generation that grew up without too many conversational boundaries. Applicants should be prepared to answer questions about why they left each job without ranting. “Think about what you were after, not what you are running away from,” says Kay. For example, you could say you were in search of more responsibility, better skills or more opportunities to grow. Detailing your personal conflicts with former co-workers tends to evoke less understanding.
According to Kay, 80% of hiring is about how people feel about you, and complaining about your past-employer is likely to leave a bitter taste in your interviewer's mouth.
Instead, talk about what you accomplished at your previous jobs. “Be specific about what you learned and can bring to the company,” advises Kay. “ When I was at XYZ, I learned XYZ.”
Will doing all this lead to a permanent union? Maybe not. But at least, unlike many relationships, both sides will know what they were getting into – which goes a long way to curing commitmentphobia.
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk