Entitlement: Not Just for Millennials Anymore

You’ve heard the stereotypes about “those darn millennials these days.” They’re entitled and spoiled, with helicopter parents who arrange every last detail for their special snowflakes. But after years of speaking with job seekers of all ages, I can tell you it’s not only millennials who show signs of feeling entitled.

If you have been looking for a job unsuccessfully for awhile, you know that it can be a frustrating process. Candidates who become discouraged and pessimistic often inadvertently show this during interviews and thus perpetuate a cycle of rejection from employers that leads to more frustration. But some job seekers go the opposite route as they cope with their job search. These candidates become convinced that the world owes them a job. That if those recruiters/hiring managers/staffing companies would just take the time to understand how very very special these candidates are, they couldn’t help but offer them a fantastic job on the spot.

If any of the mindsets on the following list describe you, you may be on your way to the entitled category of job seekers. Take a look at this list and read on for some ways to reframe your mindset for a more successful job search.

Here’s What I Like

I like to…(apply in person, call the hiring manager directly, follow up every day, etc.) because then I get…(a response when I want it).”

If you’re looking for a job, you likely have a preference for how and when you’re contacted and how frequently you receive updates. That’s only natural; we all have these types of preferences. But unless you’re flooded with calls from companies clamoring to hire you, a more productive strategy would be to consider how the companies you’re contacting prefer to communicate.

If you show up at the door or phone unexpectedly, you’re asking your contact to drop everything they’re doing to talk with you. You’re essentially saying that no matter how the recruiter or hiring manager has planned out her day, you’re more important. A better strategy is to ask your contact his or her preference for communication. If your schedule doesn’t allow you to take calls at a moment’s notice, you can explain this, too. Here are some things you can say.

  • If I have any questions, could I follow up with you about this? How would you prefer that I contact you?
  • Due to my current job, I can’t take phone calls without some warning. However I’m regularly available on Tuesdays and Thursdays after 3 p.m., and I can make arrangements for other days and times with two days notice. I’m also very responsive on email.
  • Could you tell me when I should expect to hear back about this job? Do you follow up with all of your candidates or just the ones you’re moving forward in the interview process?

My Work Ethic is Better Than His

Many companies have created a situation where job seekers feel that an employment gap is going to derail their careers forever. And certainly a long gap of unemployment or underemployment isn’t ideal. But as job seekers look for activities to pad their resumes to disguise gaps, another avenue is created for the entitlement mindset to creep in. The work ethic fallacy follows this train of thought.

“I could be sitting on the couch watching TV and crying into my bonbons all day while I’m unemployed. But instead I took a job selling shoes, making coffee or walking dogs to make ends meet, even though my actual career path is in a completely different industry. Therefore I’m doing something while those other lazy people are doing nothing. That alone makes me stand out as a fantastic potential employee.”

There are two problems with this reasoning. The first is that employers probably aren’t comparing you to someone who is sitting on the couch eating bonbons. They’re comparing you to people who are currently working in their fields, learning new skills and racking up accomplishments that will help them excel in their potential new job. So if you are focused on being more employable than the person sitting on the couch, then you aren’t really focused on your competition.

The second problem occurs when job seekers equate “being busy” and “working hard” to “being valuable.” There is a certain value to being and appearing busy. But just because you are busy doesn’t mean you’re developing skills or adding any value to your company. Most employers in most industries are looking for employees who can deliver results, not merely employees who can keep busy and work hard.

Combat this fallacy by looking for ways to show the results of your efforts, both from past jobs as well as your current activities. If you’re currently unemployed, look for activities that will develop career-relevant skills, such as freelancing, volunteering (in a career-related role) or apprenticing.

If Only They Understood

“If employers would take the time to really understand all of my wonderful qualities, they would easily be able to find me a job that I would do well in.”

If you have fallen into the “problem is with the company” mindset, then you have hit the final entitlement trap in job search. Perhaps you feel that the company should take more time to really read your resume thoroughly. The recruiter should reflect on just how and where you would fit in at this company. You feel that it’s a shame that companies are in such a hurry that they pass you by all the time–especially when you would be such a good employee if given a chance.

If you’ve ever fast-forwarded through a commercial or ignored an online ad that wasn’t relevant or set up an email filter to slow the flood of spam threatening to overwhelm your inbox, then you’re guilty of the same behavior you dislike in company recruiters. Just as you expect advertisers to figure out how their products apply to your life and to tell you about it in language you understand during a time and with a method that is convenient to you, recruiters expect the same thing from candidates who apply to their jobs. And just as you don’t have the time or desire to thoughtfully examine every email from a Nigerian prince or hawke of body-enhancing products, recruiters don’t have the time or desire to carefully contemplate the hundreds of resumes crossing their desks every day.

To banish the entitlement mindset in your job search for good, borrow the strategy of advertisers and marketing teams everywhere. Tailor your resume, your cover letter and your approach so that you are communicating the right message to the right people, at the right time, using the right methods. Before you know it, your perseverance will bring you to the right job.