Learning to play the game

Life isn’t always fair, and in the job market, it’s a competition, say Career Center officials. They help Sycamores work toward achieving their dreams by living in reality.




While new generations continue to change from the ones before, some things remain the same, and employers’ expectations are one of those constants.

Darby Scism, director of Indiana State University’s Career Center

Darby Scism, director of Indiana State University’s Career Center

That’s what Darby Scism, director of Indiana State University’s Career Center, and Teresa Dwyer, assistant director of employer relations at the center, try to remind students as they prepare for the work field.

“Baby Boomers are our oldest workers right now,” Scism said. “They’re the ones in charge at the top levels. They grew up expecting that everyone is called mister or missus or doctor, and I just don’t think students know that.”

Factors that contribute to generational gaps could include today’s prevalence in text and social media lingo. Millennial generations are more familiar with informal interactions than generations were in the past.

“There were rules written a long, long time ago, and those rules don’t get rewritten quickly,” Scism said. “You have to play by the rules if you want to get ahead.”

That means starting out more formal in conversation, email and workplace attire. Most of the time, supervisors will guide new employees to appropriate behavior or appearance through example. And while many workplaces have adapted to a newer generational scene, it is still important Millennials play it safe.

“Employers are looking for students that are professionals,” Dwyer said. “That they know how to communicate effectively in a professional manner. (Employers want to) trust you carry out their image to their clients and their customers.”

Making that initial impression is usually what leads students to having a foot in the door. Events like the Career Fair are a huge success for Dwyer in making that connection for students.

Other impressive qualities for future employees include background knowledge of the company they’re applying for and an independent work streak.

Teresa Dwyer, assistant director of employer relations at Indiana State University's Career Center

Teresa Dwyer, assistant director of employer relations at Indiana State University’s Career Center

“From what I have learned is Millennials have a fear of failure,” Dwyer said. “When given a project, there’s this hesitancy to just run with it.”

Sometimes just running with it is exactly what employers look for. Too much dependency can alter their perception of an employee. But too often, Millennials expect more guidance than what they are given. According to Dwyer, this expectation causes a gap in constructive feedback, something Millennials will have to learn to overcome.

Scism said she believes part of this dependency relates back to Millennials’ relationship with their parents. Relying too heavily on them can sometimes thwart their professional growth.

“I get the sense now that it’s perfectly acceptable amongst yourselves and amongst your peers to go home and live (after graduation) with no stigma attached,” Scism said. “I have to go home and live (used to mean) I failed, I didn’t find a job … but it also postpones that urgency and drive to really look for a job. ”

Dwyer agrees.

“(There is) this perceived mindset that life is fair and everybody’s fair; it’s not. It’s very competitive,” she said. “I think sometimes that stifles Millennials in moving forward and being aggressive with their job search. You’re all competing for the same jobs and so it’s competitive…. (You have to be) able to identify what sets you apart from the others and be able to articulate that and sell that to employers that see the value of what you can do.”

Sarah Helman, ’14, attributes her coursework and being involved with the insurance fraternity Gamma Iota Sigma and Sycamore Ambassadors for her success after graduation. (Indiana State University Photography Services)

Sarah Helman, ’14, attributes her coursework and being involved with the insurance fraternity Gamma Iota Sigma and Sycamore Ambassadors for her success after graduation. (Indiana State University Photography Services)

One major incentive that can set Millennials apart from competitors is a well-rounded involvement with campus organizations and opportunities. That’s what Indiana State alumna Sarah Helman, ’14, found in her success at finding a career.

As an insurance risk management major, Helman’s coursework required her to network with companies in the community. It also prepared her in working alongside others.

“Every business class I had, there was always a group project,” she said. “I think that’s where you learn how to deal with other personalities and how to be patient with those personalities and (also) how others interact with you, because maybe you don’t realize how you come off working with a team.”

Aside from curricula, Helman got involved with the insurance fraternity Gamma Iota Sigma and Sycamore Ambassadors. She also attended events put on by the Meis Student Development Center and Career Center to help with networking skills.

“(Networking) prepares you on how to be confident in a room full of strangers who have been (in the business) for years,” she said.

Her preparation also landed her internships with two insurance companies during undergrad. Helman found through adequate planning, preparation and experience, she was marketable to employers.

“(Being marketable is) not just about your GPA, it’s about your personality,” she said.

After taking a job offer with insurance firm, the Hartford, an opportunity she learned about through her business fraternity, Helman now works as a claims representative.

She applies the skills she learned throughout college on a daily basis and works hard to be an impressive employee.

“If a supervisor assigns me a project, I want to find the tools (to complete it) and maybe turn it in before they expect it,” she said. “I want to try to exhaust all my avenues (before asking for help), because I don’t want it to look like I didn’t know what I was doing. I want to know I tried everything I can and used my resources (first).”

As far as looking back on her accomplishments in her career path so far, Helman says, “I feel very comfortable with where I’m at right now. I have a stable income, and I’m paying all my bills on my own. I’ve never had to do that before in my life, and as soon as I graduated college, that’s what (I’m doing).”

Comparing herself to fellow graduates, Helman recognizes her triumphs.

“(A lot of graduates) still rely on their parents. I think I’m in a different state of mind, because I feel more ready for the next couple of years of my life,” she said. “(For those who) haven’t began their career, (they) haven’t felt the level of accomplishment that I felt starting my career.”




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