A reader writes:
I have a question regarding helping a recent grad find their first job in their field. Without getting into convoluted details, a young person’s resume was passed along to me because she is looking to work in my field. I don’t personally know her, and frankly, I’m not wowed by her resume at all. She lists her last handful of retail jobs, but they aren’t in any logical order whatsoever. She does have relevant internship and volunteer experience, but it’s totally buried, and I missed it the first time I glanced at it. There is also a huge typo in there that doing a simple spellcheck in Word would catch. In short, her resume is pretty bad.
We’ve emailed back and forth a few times. I’ve suggested she attend various industry association meetings. She hasn’t really asked me any questions about the work I do. How I got here. About my industry. She’s really just asked if I know about any “opportunities.” I am very open to getting to know her a little better and helping her out, but I’m not particularly interested in spoon-feeding her. I realize that a recent graduate isn’t necessarily going to be well-versed in how to network, but I’d like to see a bit of initiative on her part.
As an experienced professional trying to help a young person, how much of a lead should I take in helping someone? Especially when it’s someone I don’t know and have never met. Should I suggest we have coffee to talk? Should I make specific or even general suggestions regarding her resume? It just so happens that I know of an entry-level opening, but I really hesitate to pass along her resume even with the caveat that I don’t know the person and therefore can’t recommend them.
If she were more experienced, it would be easy to dismiss her as a taker, but so many recent grads really have no idea how to go about this stuff. And they’ve often been told to ask people about “opportunities” and don’t realize that their networking should be so much more than that. So I wouldn’t dismiss the idea of helping her simply because of her lack of initiative; she probably doesn’t even realize that there’s more initiative she could be taking here, and it could be a huge service to explain that to her.
Depending on how interested you are in helping her, you have a couple of different options:
1. If you’re willing to spend some time helping her, you could say something like, “Can I be blunt with you? I think you might have better luck in your job search if you changed some core things about your resume and also about how you’re networking with people like me. I’d be glad to talk to you over coffee sometime if you want some feedback that might help.” (And one key suggestion you could make if you do meet is helping her understand how to change her approach so that people don’t feel like she’s asking to be spoon-fed. She probably has no idea that she’s coming across that way or what to do differently.)
2. If you don’t want to spend that much time but still want to help her, you could simply call her attention to the need to work on her materials and suggest some resources. For instance, you could say, “Can I be blunt with you? Right now, I don’t think your resume is helping you as much as it could, and you might get a much better response if you make some changes like highlighting your relevant experience more. There are a lot of great resources online for putting together a resume, and that might really help.”
You’re certainly not obligated to do either of these, but if you have the time and inclination, it would be a kind thing to do, and could potentially make a real difference for her.