Is job advice from Baby Boomers outdated?

Jamie BallardData Journalist
June 29, 2021, 2:00 PM UTC

Many young job-seekers have complained that the career advice they get from their elders is outdated in today’s workforce. But do their complaints represent the views of their peers? And do most older people endorse the advice being ascribed to their generation? We took a selection of the supposed advice young people have been given and put it to the public. 

The largest generational gap is around the idea of walking into a business and seeing if they have any jobs available. While three in five (62%) Baby Boomers – Americans born 1946-64 – think this idea has a decent chance of paying off, fewer than half (40%) of Millennials (those born 1982-1999) agree.  

There is a smaller, but still noticeable gap of 11 points between Millennials and Boomers around the idea of calling a business to see if they have any jobs available (45% to 56%) or showing up in person to fill out a job application instead of applying online (33% to 44%).  

Millennials and Baby Boomers are about equally likely to say it’s a good idea for job seekers to make a social media post sharing the type of job they’re looking for (38% of Millennials and 36% of Baby Boomers).  

Baby Boomers think it shows initiative to call about your application, but Millennials are less certain  

Many job seekers have had the frustrating experience of applying for a job and then waiting to hear back from the company (and in some cases, never hearing back at all). Is it a good idea to follow up on your application if you haven’t heard back? Baby Boomers certainly think so.  

A majority of Baby Boomers think it’s a good idea to email (62%) or call (59%) the human resources department to follow up and demonstrate your interest. Fewer Millennials agree that it’s a good idea to contact HR by email (45%) or by phone (41%) about the status of your application.  

Similarly, Baby Boomers are more likely than Millennials to say it shows initiative for a job seeker to email the manager or boss (55% Baby Boomers vs 43% of Millennials) or to call the manager directly (46% to 39%) to follow up on an application.  

Two in five (40%) Baby Boomers, along with 31% of Millennials, believe it’s a good idea to go to the business in person to follow up on your application. But relatively few members of either generation say it’s good advice to follow up on a daily basis (25% of Millennials and 26% of Baby Boomers).  

One piece of advice that Millennials are more likely to take to heart is the idea of sending something along with your application, like chocolates or a gift basket. Nearly one in five Millennials (17%) think this is good advice, 13 points more than the percentage of Baby Boomers (4%) who think so. 

After the interview, most Baby Boomers (and half of Millennials) say you should send a thank-you note  

After you’ve made it through an interview, another oft-dispensed piece of advice is to send a thank-you note or email to the interviewer. Three in five (61%) Baby Boomers think this is good advice, as do 46% of Millennials.  

Far fewer members of either generation think you should offer to do work for the business for free (26% of Baby Boomers and 22% of Millennials).  

You probably shouldn’t get too cocky, either. Only 21% of Baby Boomers and 23% of Millennials believe it’s a good idea to respond to the question “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” by replying “In your seat.” 

Even though we live in an increasingly digital world, it may still be a good idea to bring a paper copy of your resume to interviews. Only 17% of Millennials and 9% of Baby Boomers agree with the advice “There is no need to bring a copy of your resume to a job interview.”  
 

On some job advice, older and younger Millennials differ in their opinions  

Even within one generation, norms around job-hunting and interviewing may have changed. Older Millennials (those who are 31 to 39) are 12 percentage points more likely than younger Millennials (defined as those between 22 and 30) to say it’s a good idea to email the human resources staff to follow up on a job application if you haven’t heard back (40% of younger Millennials vs 52% of older Millennials). Older Millennials are also more likely to say that if an applicant knows someone at the company, it’ll make a better impression to have that person pass the applicant’s resume along (45% vs 37%).   

See full results here.  

Related: One in three female workers suspect men in their workplace are paid more

Methodology: 3,820 US adults were surveyed between June 8 - 14, 2021. The responding sample is weighted to be representative of the US population.   

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