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Point of View: Resumes reflect experience, no drive

Jan. 26, 2010

A few years ago, I listened as a seasoned journalist regaled me with the story of how he landed his first job at a newspaper.

Like in the movies, he simply walked in, handed the editor his resume and said he was willing to do anything necessary to write for the paper -- anything. He was given a chance to prove himself, and prove himself, he did.

I was inspired enough to try this tactic two years ago. I wanted the same opportunity, to prove myself.

In keeping with our modern age, I called the local newspaper back home, which did not typically offer internships, and asked for a chance to work in the newsroom for free during the summer. Unfortunately, the conversation quickly deteriorated and I resorted to begging to get coffee and sweep the floor. My offer was declined for reasons related to the editor's problem with the ethics of unpaid internships, and foremost, his inability to promise anyone a full-time position due to a then-crumbling economy.

From this and subsequent experiences, I learned a valuable lesson.

Employers are not used to this type of initiative by young people anymore. In fact, they often do not know how to react. Most have become so accustomed to sitting at a desk, rifling through stacks of paper for a glimpse at an applicant's character in the form of ink, that such a gesture is unwanted.

While this sort of strategy was once a good way for inexperienced but eager young adults to stand out among career professionals, it is no longer so effective. Thanks to a widely accepted but rigid and impersonal application process, selecting candidates has become discriminatory toward inexperienced college graduates.

The typical resume and cover letter combination in format reduces applicants to a page or two, purposefully streamlining the process for the time-starved employers who would rather nix the under-qualified with a glance than a good, old-fashioned conversation.

It is we, the inexperienced young adults, who suffer the effects of this quick, experience-centric mode of assessing job candidates. Especially now, with qualified men and women competing with young prospects for the same job, the less-experienced often cannot expect to look good on paper. A resume is designed to highlight only experiences, while a cover letter does not allow for a fair chance at exhibiting potential -- the key to our success.

It may also be our generation's fault. Maybe we have become lazy and so accustomed to this process as well, believing that anything more seems absurd.

It is fresh minds like ours that employers need. While the wave of new technology and ideas threatens to overtake our parents' generation, it is one we've been surfing since birth. As Millennials, we are expected to rewrite the rules and test boundaries. These are traits that employers need, especially in this economy, and they know it.

However, the rigid format in which we are taught to adhere to in job applications directly contradicts the creativity and fresh ideals we have to offer. Often, with the exception of certain fields, an application packet that veers from the norm directly translates into an applicant not being taken seriously.

Either way, it is up to this generation of young professionals to change this process in the future. We must get out of our rut and expect more of ourselves in the application process.

We must present ourselves in a way that ensures face-time with a prospective employer. I'm not simply talking about spicing up a cover letter by printing it on high-quality paper (this should be a given).

In a time when a prestigious degree from Baylor will not ensure a post-graduate salaried endeavor, I believe it's OK to start pushing boundaries and surprising employers. While respecting business etiquette, I think our generation needs to start transforming the application process back to a more personal one.

The newspaper experience did not deter me from exercising the personal method in later applications, although my strategy differed a little.

It's up to us to go beyond the application packet to show employers that we are not only qualified, but willing to do anything it takes.

As applicants, we have the right to set the standard for what we expect of employers. We should expect attention to potential and character, not just experience. Unless we start doing this, the inexperienced young professional will continue to be stuck in a cycle that overlooks our greatest assets.

Liz Foreman is a Beaumont senior majoring in international studies and journalism. She is the editor-in-chief of the Baylor Lariat.