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When Will Corporate America Get It?

“Our generation is very resourceful,” Stuart Watkins, one of four recent college grads on “This Week” with Christiane Amanpour, proudly declared Sunday. He was responding to questions regarding the fact that fewer jobs than ever before are available for the latest graduating class.

The four students were called together  Sunday on “This Week” to confront two corporate titans allegedly in a position to hire. Yet both corporate leaders spent most of the time talking about the futility of the students’ job search.

Niiiiiice…Way to encourage the “resourceful” workforce that your companies so desperately need to not only succeed, but to survive.

The two gentlemen on the hot seat: Mort Zuckerman, editor and chief of U.S. News and World Report (among other things), and Doug Imbruce, co-founder and CEO of the tech startup, Qwiki.

Mort said he looked for “determination” in addition to technical skills when hiring. After one student said she wanted to be a journalist, Christiane said the two should talk. Mort replied that his business was dying and recommended that she talk to the Qwiki founder.

So, apparently even media titans have given up on their own industry, and are incapable of being “resourceful” or “determined” themselves. As a former newspaper reporter, I was disheartened. Come on, Mort – you’re not even going to try?

Why not snap up a bunch of young, energetic writers and ask them how they want to get their news?  Sponsor their startup and tell them they have to make money – it’s a business!  Maybe they will have The Next Great Thing and you can use it to keep your flailing media company afloat.

Imbruce gave the uber-cool response (which is sooo 20th Century) that he thinks students should go after “a passion, a calling.” He went on to say that Silicon Valley had tons of openings – they can’t hire engineers fast enough and encouraged the recent grads to get engineering degrees…in fact, it seems anyone who wants a job should be an engineer…I guess you can create this passion, this calling that he referenced by sheer force of will to follow the money.

The glimmer of light that came from Mr. Imbruce: “Situations are temporary; skills are forever.”

Yeah, finally some hope.

The whole interview drew the same bile from my stomach as my previous rant on corporations and their job search process (see “Following Your Passion Can Feel Like You Are Just Another Slaughtered Cow“).

I complained that even in my industry of marketing, communications and public relations – where relationships and personality are key to success – it was virtually impossible to talk to a real human in big corporations and discuss ways to work together.  I am constantly being told by people I actually do get to meet from these corporations to go to the corporate website – a place where senior positions and consulting projects are not posted.

On advice of friends and colleagues, I also was certified a woman-owned business. I was told that I would then be in a corporate database – also online – but a smaller database where projects were again not posted, but where at least the names were scanned when projects came up.

Nada. Nyet. Nunca. Rien.

So how have I gotten corporate gigs? Friends who work at the various corporations hand deliver my information to decision makers.  Yep, that’s right: Companies have hired me as the best alternative by circumventing their own precious systems.

Which brings me back to “This Week.” Even as four talented, recent grads discussed their resourcefulness, willingness and aptitudes to two corporate titans, all they received in return were platitudes and excuses. Not even Imbruce with the new up-and-coming, uber-cool company (you know the type…they refer to their office manager as “den mother,” biking to work is encouraged and benefits include “free food”) took a chance with any of these students…at least not on air.

Don’t get me wrong – I see nothing wrong with the uber-cool titles and benefits. What concerns me is that the same old business processes are hiding behind the hip facade. It is especially disturbing because these hip tech companies often start with two friends in a garage…but then they “go corporate” and learn nothing from other corporations except to copy their antiquated structures.

So what’s my point?

OK, here’s where I can hear my reporter friends complaining that I buried the lead:

Let me encourage recent college grads to come to the bright side – become or work for entrepreneurs and small business.  Yeah, that “growth engine” you keep hearing about on the news.

Send me your resume at [email protected] if you are a resourceful, energetic, creative person who wants to help me grow my business. I’ll teach you what it means to create value in a world that appears not to value your talents.

It’s great if you have a passion or a calling for telling a good story, particularly in the context of marketing/corporate communications/public relations…it’s even better if you have hutzpah, drive, tenacity and the ability to treat people with respect.

Working for a small business, or creating your own, is a messy process…but I promise you will leave a better person…you’ll either have a great company or you will be an awesome employee, because you will get corporate America, long before it gets you.

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