Job Advice Every Young Person Needs (and Doesn’t Want)

Straight talk and no sugar coating for today's brand new employees — 'you are not owed' anything, says a U.S. military veteran

While scanning my Facebook feed recently, I came upon a post from a much younger friend of mine who was throwing a rant about a job search.

This friend of mine has gone from one low-wage job to another for years.

Every time he feels he has been unfairly treated, he tends to either leave the job or get fired from it.

Through all of this, he has been able to maintain the delusion that it is the manager picking on him, not something he is doing himself. In this particular case he was complaining about job experience.

Typical of most millennials, he does not understand that moving up the ladder takes time and hard work.

As he stated, “I’m 23 and only have been working for five years … I’m not going to have 10-plus years experience in anything. So this is where I’m confused [about] how to get the experience for the job I’m trying to get if I keep getting turned down for the lack of experience for the job I’m trying to get. Makes no [expletive] sense.”

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In response, I felt compelled to write him the following response. When I finished, I realized this is probably something that many younger people need to understand.

Dear Millennial Friend,
I am not sure if you actually want an answer or not, but luckily for you there are very few rhetorical questions that I will not jump into, with both feet.

When looking at a potential job candidate, the organization should not look at your age, but it isn’t as if that information is hard to figure out. Look at my résumé, and you will see I joined the Army in 1992 and served 20 years. That gives a pretty good indication of my age. Right or wrong, there is very little you can do about this.

Does age matter? Yes and no. With age often comes knowledge and wisdom. At a certain point you are expected to not only have the knowledge of the capabilities of the assets under your supervision, but the wisdom to know how to use them to their maximum capabilities.

A diverse background, in your case, is not a very good thing. In the time that I have known you, your job history has been sporadic. If I am a hiring manager, this is going to tell me several things. First, any training time (which is money) I spend on you will need to be reconstituted quickly (in other words, you’d better perform at a level where you make the company a lot of money) — because you will likely not be around long. While that sort of thing is fine for low-skill positions with high turnover, it will not get you into a position that will pay you any serious money.

Second, you have little accumulated time in any particular job — meaning your knowledge/wisdom gained is likely minimal as well. Finally, it shows there is a lack of follow-through on your part. A company wants to know that the person it is spending money on will be there for an extended period of time. That means someone who changes jobs every few months, or even years, is a liability.

It sounds like you have the wrong idea about the purpose of a job, anyway. A company is there to perform a function, and your job exists because it is necessary for the overall accomplishment of whatever that function is. In other words, the job is what is important, not you.

I am not going to hire someone without experience if I have someone available who has it. How does that benefit the company?

As an individual, no one cares about you or your problems. To be blunt, what makes you so valuable that a company should hire you over someone who actually has 10 years of experience? You are not owed a job.

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This is the problem with the fallacy of a living wage, which makes it sound as if a job exists to provide you with an income. That is simply not true. The income exists to provide a person for the job. If the company cannot find anyone willing to take that job at that pay, then they increase it. The entire process can be whittled down to simple supply and demand.

If you needed to have open heart surgery, would you want an 18-year-old dropout to do the surgery? According to your statement about experience, he should be able to do so. Having to toil away for decades in order to perform that procedure would be an elitist philosophy and should be abandoned.

A business lives and dies by the pull of its branding, and every employee adds to brand loyalty or disloyalty.

You can complain about not getting a job due to a lack of experience or even post trash about potential employers (or former employers) online, but none of this is helpful. In fact, it will actually work against you in the long run. The most important thing companies have is their branding. When a person looks at a company’s logo or hears its jingle, what are the emotions that are formed? A business lives and dies by the pull of its branding, and every employee adds to brand loyalty or disloyalty. That is why many employers look through the social media feeds of potential employees before they even consider hiring.

Whether you were right or wrong, no companies will ever offer you a serious position if they see you trashing previous employers or jobs. Every community, be it family, neighborhood, or work, has its fair share of discourse. Most of those involved in these disagreements want them brought out into the world. Unfortunately, most people view social media as some magical place where the drama they post doesn’t affect the real world. That sort of mindset shows a lack of discipline and maturity.

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Now, you will occasionally see people who violate these rules and still do very well for themselves — people who will tell their employers to go to hell and still either have a job or easily get another job. That is because they will already have a reputation backing them up within their career field. If your worth to the company is more than the pain you cause, then the company will tolerate your attitude with more latitude than others.

The more specialized people are, the more they will have this attitude. However, what needs to be understood is that they get away with it because of what they bring to the company.

They know what they are talking about, and therefore most employers listen to what they have to say.

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The employee/employer relationship is symbiotic, especially when both sides understand the full moral and ethical responsibilities that are inherent within their roles. While this does not always happen, I have found that it is often the employees who do not understand how this bond functions, usually because they want to make it all about them. You are simply one small cog in the huge machine.

What you are worth is dependent upon the function you serve and the difficulty a company faces in finding someone with the required skill set to fulfill your role.

Getting hired is a responsibility that is completely incumbent upon you.

In closing, if you want to get a better job, I would ask you: What have you done to make yourself a better candidate? Did you actually read the job posting? Does your résumé answer the questions asked? Does it reflect the experience the company is looking for (if not, don’t waste its time or yours by applying)? If you do not have the experience, are you looking inward at yourself to determine the best path ahead? Did you research the company and understand its needs and goals? Did you bother to find out who is actually going to receive your résumé and therefore address it directly to that person?

At the end of the day, getting hired is a responsibility that is completely incumbent upon you.

You simply need to put in the hard work to get there, or not.

Matthew Wadler is a U.S. Army veteran and a senior OpsLens contributor. He served in the Army for 20 years as both enlisted and officer before retiring; his service includes time as military police, field artillery, adjutant general, and recruiter. He holds a master’s degree in HR management and is a strong supporter of the Constitution and an advocate for military and veteran communities. This OpsLens article is used by permission; it has been updated. 

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