Are you ready for the graduating classes of 2019/2020?  Our future professionals and leaders will soon be entering the workforce, and these young adults are pretty amazing.

It’s been almost two decades since I received my Bachelor’s Degree, and in April, I finally went back to college!  This time around, it wasn’t to sit through a class (that I didn’t want to take but was part of my pre-requisites to graduate).  I was invited to be a guest speaker for a senior level Management Consulting class at the University of Illinois Chicago.

I’m a Gen-Xer, and I’m not sure what generation label these soon to be graduating students have been given, but I’d like to think that this generation is being raised by Gen-X parents.  I absolutely loved speaking with this group of students.  I didn’t have a long agenda or even a 20 page PowerPoint presentation (6 slides total), because my goal was to have a conversation with everyone in the class and allow them to ask me questions.  And they asked me a lot!  I was extremely impressed by some of the tough questions, the interactive conversation, and the students being engaged during the time that I did speak.

For this particular class, the students were broken up in teams, and their big project was to identify an actual company or UIC department that was running into challenges.  They were “hired” by each company to understand the pain points, challenges, and goals, resulting in recommendations or solutions based on the deliverables.

In Corporate America or “the real world,” as I referred to it, unless we have taken specialized classes or have had formal training, we run across situations all of the time that no one prepared us for in school or even through professional development.  I learned that their challenges with the project weren’t any different than the ones we face every day.

For example, one team was working with the recreation center on campus on how to encourage more people to participate in activities.  It wasn’t an easy task, and they were running into challenges:

  • Difficulty in getting employees to talk freely for fear of losing their job
    • I suggested meeting with staff outside of the recreation center, so they were more removed and could feel comfortable about conveying the problems
  • Realizing how “siloed” the company/department was, lack of communication, and one group not talking to the other
    • I explained how companies have been turning to open floor plans and co-working spaces to encourage collaboration and feeling more comfortable around people they may not work with on a daily basis

I was impressed at the fact that many of the obstacles they were encountering for a class project, were similar to what they’re going to experience after they graduate.  The students really listened to what I had to say, which resulted in even more questions!

I was also surprised that the students were rather familiar with professional search and staffing firms (I know I wasn’t at their age).  They wanted to know about my role and how I’m able to help people in their job search, what types of clients I work with and asked me some hard-hitting questions.  For instance:

  • When did I not meet a client deadline and how did I resolve it?
  • What was the most difficult situation that I had with one of my clients, and was I able to retain them?

I made sure to let them know that honesty and taking responsibility is the best thing anyone can do.  People appreciate the truth, not the run around!

Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough time to cover everything I had originally intended.  This generation grew up with technology, so I have one last message that I wasn’t able to deliver: please lock down ALL of your social media platforms and be careful what you post or say, because it will always be out there and could haunt you down the road!

Almost every company is on different social media channels, so they’re definitely watching.  Even the least tech savvy individual knows how to do a google search, so it’s important that you keep track of the information that’s going to come up in a simple search.

My final thought is a message to employers: these young adults are impressive and whatever label they fall under is probably not an accurate description of who they really are.


Written by:
Erin Teso, Director of Chicago

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