Changing the Narrative on Millennials

By November 23, 2015 lindsay's world, social commentary
Changing the Narrative on Millennials | Millennials are treated like employment pariahs by the very people who are charged with helping them find meaningful work. A new attitude is necessary. Read more at

Working in career services means that every time we have a conference, I have to hear about how awful millennials are. Whether it’s a talk on ‘why millennials want to come out of college and be in positions of leadership’ (because you told them to be in leadership positions all their lives, so that’s how they measure success) or a panel on ‘how to manage millennials in the workplace ‘ (treat them like individual humans with individual needs… kinda how you should treat everyone), this group is treated by members of mine like workplace pariahs. To my ears, these conversations are akin to an old person saying ‘kids today’… without even trying to understand where the ‘kids today’ are coming from.

‘Kids today’ saw the economy tank and not entirely recover. ‘Kids today’ have seen their parents, caregivers, and/or older relatives laid off from companies after working there for decades, only to face long-term unemployment or degrading under-employment. ‘Kids today’ have known war, terrorism, and social inequality for almost their entire lives. This is their reality, which is pretty friggin sad.

But millennial – these ‘kids today’ – are also some of the most hopeful, optimistic, and driven people. Because of this lifetime of general instability on one hand and being told that they’re different and special and awesome on the other, they have this ‘I’ll make it happen’ mentality. Life is a “make it work” moment. This ‘hustle hard for my own shit because companies and institutions aren’t really here for me’ mentality that is most tied to rap lyrics, not college classrooms. That “entrepreneurial spirit” that 95% of job descriptions ask for is present in so many “kids today”, so why is so much effort spent knocking it?

From an employer’s perspective, I get it… kinda. Employers want a predictable and controllable workforce. An influx of people who are collectively unlike your previous generations of employees is scary. But a good company will adapt. A good company (and by good I mean smart) will figure out how to keep their employees happy without compromising their bottom line. Self-interested employees are only a threat if your business model is built on screwing over your employees. (And if that’s the case, perhaps you should be driven out of business. ijs.)

I think I’m most frustrated when career services people – my people – express frustration with millennials because, of all people, we should be most aware of what the world of work looks like. It our job! The fact that our students see through the bullshit should make what we do easier, not harder. A student who knows that employment is fleeting is more able to make strategic decisions regarding the skills that will be most useful in their long-term career than one who expects to be at the same company forever. (I’ll write more about this skills-based approach to career development in another post. It’s an exceedingly useful way to conceptualize a career path.)

In talking to my colleagues, I see that this attitude is generational. Unfortunately (in this scenario, at least) higher education is one of those fields where job security is still a common occurrence, with some folks staying in the same place for decades, thus getting stuck in their ways. Those of use who are younger (and often millennials ourselves) have had similar experiences as the students we work with. We see where they’re coming from and can help them get to where they want to be. We know that they’re reacting to social circumstances because we’re reacting to the same ones. And often, we have the same ‘work is fleeting’ approach to our careers that they do. (Hello, blog.)

So maybe that’s it. Maybe more of us – career counselors of my generation – should be more active in countering this ‘kids today’ narrative that has taken over our field. It would be very millennial of us to do this, and would make conferences suck so much less.

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Crafting Your Cover Letter

By November 16, 2015 career advice
Crafting Your Cover Letter | Writing cover letters is easy if you know what you're doing. Don't know? Read this post! Also, it comes with a worksheet so you can practice. Bonus! []

Nobody likes to write cover letters, but writing them effectively is crucial to making your job search as short as possible. This post will cover the ins and outs of this critical document… and give you a handy-dandy worksheet to brainstorm your own!

But first… 

A cover letter is a one-page application document that details your interest in and qualifications for a particular position. It almost always accompanies a resume, and serves as a bridge between it and the job description. Cover letters give you the opportunity to provide more information about the most relevant parts of your resume, while at the same time demonstrating your desire to work at a particular company. You should take plenty of care in crafting a cover letter because recruiters definitely read them, and I have seen them be used in the final determinations of who gets an offer. In other words – take this seriously!

Cover Letter Construction

Cover letters are written in business format and should not exceed one page. “Business format” means you include your name and address, the name and address of the company, the date, and to whom the letter is intended before you go into the content of the letter. (If you don’t know, address it to the recruiter or “Hiring Manager.”) Yes, you have to do this format when you’re emailing the letter. (It a convention that has yet to be updated with technology.) Yes, it takes up a ton of space on your one paged document. This is why your paragraphs need to be concise. Remember – You’re not the only person working under these constraints, so instead of taking them personally, roll with them!

Speaking of paragraphs… Here is what should they look like!


The first is the introduction, where you (shocker of the year) introduce yourself to the reader. The formula for this paragraph is pretty standard. First, say who you are, what position you’re applying for, and where you found it. Next, give a bit of information on your education (especially if you’re a recent grad) and background details (current employer, reason for applying, etc). Finally, say something about your qualifications – why are you a good fit for this this position with that particular company. This last part should foreshadow your body paragraphs in both topic and organization. For example, if you say “My personal and professional experiences make me an excellent candidate” then you’ll use the next part to discuss these experiences in that order.

Body Paragraphs

The second and third are the body paragraphs. These are the meat of your cover letter and provide the reader with more information on the relevant experiences and skills that you list on your resume. Instead of stating the tasks and responsibilities of your previous experiences, focus on the results of your work. It’s one thing to say what you were supposed to do, but saying your accomplishments gives the reader more insight into what you actually did. One thing that I see quite frequently is a desire to list off every single thing that an applicant feels makes them qualified, without providing contextual details. Since the cover letter must be kept to one page, it is more effective to choose a handful of skills to discuss in-depth rather than providing such a survey. The resume is where you give that general overview, not here.

Be sure to highlight skills (and related experiences) that are related to the job. I can feel you rolling your eyes here, but I can’t count on all of my fingers and toes how many times applicants give deep descriptions about things that won’t matter to what they’ve applied to. Employers won’t care how great you are at Photoshop if they want someone to be their portfolio manager! Such a skill could be a value-add, but it’s not worth taking up precious cover letter real estate to do so. (That’s what the “Skills” section of your resume is for.) To ensure that you’re doing this, go back to the job description and see what skillset the company has indicated they are looking for. If you’re lucky and have an informative job posting to reference, these skills can be found in the “Responsibilities” and/or “Qualifications” sections. If your posting is a little thin, do some research on the position itself to see what skillset is considered standard.


The last paragraph of your cover letter is the closing. Here, you reiterate your interest in the position, say what you are most impressed with about the company, and tell the reader how you could contribute via the position you are applying to. Getting this part right is critical for getting hired, as a seasoned recruiter will be able to tell if you’ve personalized it or not. Vague statements like “I like your company because it is a leader in the field” will get you nowhere. Providing the reader with concrete reasons they are leader (to continue the example) and what sets them apart from their competitors is a much more effective move. Finally, it is typical to end a cover letter by thanking the reader for their consideration and inviting them to contact you to further discuss your qualifications.


Everything in your cover letter should be professionally appropriate, relevant to the position you are applying to, and tailored to the company it will be sent to. Even if you are familiar with the person to whom the letter is addressed, do not be too casual. If they pass it along to someone else, your tone could prove to be a problem. Erring to the side of professional is the right tactic for your entire job search. In addition, keep in mind that a cover letter is not a narrative version of your resume, so it is okay to only discuss experiences that highlight your qualifications. You should definitely include networking events, informational interviews, and other places where you have interacted with the company, as these activities show that you have a demonstrated interest in working there. (FYI – LinkedIn is a great way to facilitate these relationships!)

Final big huge important tip

Don’t use the same cover letter for each company! It is very obvious when applicants use template letters, and it makes you look lazy… and nobody wants to hire a lazy person! All companies are different (thus making the same job at a different company an entirely different job) and it is up to you to show that you understand what makes the one you are applying unique. Same goes for positions. Do your research. Ask questions at social events. Use your resources.

Speaking of resources… Download the Cover Letter Worksheet from the Worksheet Library, and use it as a brainstorming tool for your letters. It’s an interactive PDF, so you can fill it in without printing it! Super dope, right?

Need the password? Sign up here!

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