As employees age out of some local industries, employers are increasingly anxious to fill their positions with qualified new employees.
Workforce development efforts play an important role in increasing the pool of potential applicants and in ensuring applicants will best serve local businesses.
But generational differences sometimes lead to misunderstandings between employers and younger employees or job applicants.
Different communication habits, dress styles and life experiences lead to cultural gaps.
During a Career Planning Day event at the Golden Isles College & Career Academy, a local business owner offered some frank advice to high school students.
“The world that you live in right now is not the world that people who are employing you, who are employers out there, are used to and they don’t understand it,” said Cherise Cartwright, a commercial realtor and developer for Cartwright International Real Estate Services. “… I would like to let y’all know what employers are looking for. Good communication skills — that’s not texting shorthand; good dress code, something that doesn’t show your tattoos if you have any, something that is very conservative, doesn’t have offensive things written on it; and also being able to write and speak in complete full sentences.”
Valerie Williams, a career specialist at GICCA, works with the students on soft skills education and employability. She said students sometimes forget that being prepared for a job requires more than the hard skills needed in the field. Teamwork, positive attitudes, organization and more also matter a great deal in the working world, she said.
“Having speakers like (Cartwright) and local employers who can actually tell them what they’re looking for, we think that will benefit them a lot,” Williams said.
Cartwright, vice chair of the Career Academy Board, encouraged the students to think of job opportunities outside of the norm and to consider their options beyond a four-year college degree.
“There are a lot of trades right now and a lot of people here locally that are hiring, that need a good workforce,” she said. “And y’all can get jobs right out of high school if you just know what the market needs.”
She strongly urged each student to seek out a mentor who can guide them during these crucial years of their education and career planning.
“There are a lot of students out there in your age group that don’t really have mentors,” Cartwright said. “… If there’s something that you can do for yourself when you get home, it is find a mentor.”
She said mentors can also open doors that lead to jobs in fields students wish to work. They can also guide a student down a different path if initial plans fail to fit their career passion.
“You don’t want to think that you want to do something, not get a mentor in that field or not intern in that field, and all of a sudden, you’ve just wasted four years in college thinking you want to be an architect, but you really don’t want to be an architect,” Cartwright said. “You want to get into welding — that’s what you figured out at the end of it all.”
She suggested maintaining a social media presence that an employer will not find fault with, as most will check a job applicant’s social media accounts during the hiring process.
She also encouraged the students to communicate in a professional way on all platforms, including text messages.
Communication skills are vital to being an employable person, Cartwright told the students, and local employers have been dismayed by the different communication styles they see young people use.
Jeff Holland, a construction pathway teacher at GICCA, reminded the students that first impressions matter.
“Employers and adults judge you by the way you speak,” he said. “They judge you by the way you write. They judge you by the way you dress. They judge you by the way that you carry yourself, even your physical body language.”
Meeting employers’ expectations will increase a student’s chances of finding success in their chosen field, Cartwright added.
“Get to know what employers want,” she said. “And I think that’s what you’re going to learn here this semester at GICCA. You’re going to learn how to do those things. I’m just here to kind of reiterate that this is what employers locally are expecting from you.”
Career Planning Day was held last week.