Inspiring the next generation

I spent a good portion of today at a career day event for rising seniors and recent graduates, as a guest speaker (in conjunction with my father, an HR guy) and as a panelist, and I shocked myself with the realization that I was already comfortable giving concrete advice about careers, interviews, networking and more to a group of recent grads. I’ve come a long way in the several years since my graduation, and I’ve learned quite a bit in that time, but sometimes you don’t realize how far you’ve come until you look back at it, reflect upon it and pass on what you’ve learned.

I really enjoyed speaking about my experiences dealing with my decisions after college, my career choice, and even how I dealt with a set of parents that, at times, could be a little overbearing.

In the first session my father prevented his “do’s and don’ts” of interviewing. The main takeaway was that you should be looking to show what you can do for the company, and not what the company can do for you.The do’s focused on demonstrating how you can improve client service, increase productivity without stifling innovation and increase revenues or find other ways to improve the bottom line.

The don’ts examined several topics to avoid, especially during preliminary interviews. Compensation, whether it is salary, benefits, or a tuition reimbursement program, are generally things that shouldn’t be covered in a first round interview because it often demonstrates that you are more focused on getting something from the company than giving something valuable to them. Another area to avoid was talking about how much you will learn from the company.

One other tip covered was “do your homework” – It is important to know as much as possible about the company you are interviewing with, and possibly the person that is interviewing you. This knowledge lets you speak confidently about how you will fit into the company and what you can bring to the company. Plus, if you can throw in a sly reference to something that you know about your interviewer thinks is important it never hurts.

I joined my father for the tail end of his talk, when he got to the “How to deal with your parents section.” Like lots of grads, I moved back home for a while, but it isn’t easy and several of the recent grads made similar comments. The main takeaway from this section was that parents sometimes need to step away from their roles as parents in this time, and look at their children as if they were an employee that just got laid off. While many pages could be written on this topic, it is important for parents to realize that many of their kids have never had to deal with this type of situation, and that it’s not the right time to nag the child into a job. Instead, parents should help them come up with a reasonable plan of action, and help them execute this plan over time.

After this session there was a quick break for lunch, and then I joined a panel of three other people in their mid 20′s, each of whom had dealt with the uncertainty that unemployment post-graduation can bring. We fielded questions ranging from how to manage the transition between college life and a career, how to know whether a job was right for you, how to go through the interview process, and a bunch of networking tips, just to name a few. (For some other networking tips, see lifeoptimizer’s list here.

Overall I think that most of the recent grads got a lot out of these talks, and although I didn’t stay around till the end of the day (several more talks followed in the afternoon) I’m sure they will walk away from this experience better equipped to handle life ahead of them.

It was a great experience for me as well, as it is the first time in quite a while that I have gotten to mentor others going through the same trial and tribulations that I faced just a few short years ago. Hopefully I’ll continue to get a chance to do a little more of this as time goes on, and I certainly believe that my writing here can contribute a little too.

One Response to “Inspiring the next generation”

  1. nutsmutt says:

    Wow… list is quite extensive… but very good! and I completely agree with point number 17. I think most of the time when a person network, too much emphasis is placed into “what I can gain from this” attitude. With such an attitude in place, it does get across to people you meet, and usually, this will immediately create a very negative impact on any attempts to even make any sort of contacts.

    One good example I can cite and has witnessed, is the number of reliable contacts-friends that my partner has, and how these contacts usually come through for him when he needed help. He applied a simple rule of not treating a networking session as a “goldmine” for people he can make use of in future, but actually treating them as friends from the beginning, with his genuine offer of friendship. Also, he starts the ball rolling by offering help and coming through to the promised help. I think people remember such events better, and even if it’s an urgent favour 10 years down the road, people would remember that you have helped out. And I think this would also help to create significance in your life. :)

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