Internships will expose University of Delaware sophomore Courtney Wing to a range of work environments. During those internships, she’ll learn what to look for in her first job as a dietitian. She’ll succeed if her employers recognize her specific contributions and put her passions to work. It’s a two-way street—she learned that at age 15, when she was hired to straighten racks at the Bridal & Tuxedo Shoppe in Newark. Wing loved helping clients. The owners soon took note, then trained and promoted her to bridal consultant. “They put a lot of trust in me and took a chance,” Wing says, “and that felt great.”
Wing is typical of her peers in putting a premium on environments that nurture growth and development, according to the 2013 ConnectEDU’s Best Places to Work for Recent Grads. Lucky for Wing and her cohort, 96 percent of companies on the list include growth and development opportunities in their recruitment and retention strategy.
The growth opportunities at a software leader like SAP America attracts all kinds of people, and makes it a great place for young employees at the beginning of their careers, says Patricia Pettinati, its human resources director. Being at the forefront means working at a fast pace, she says, so SAP looks for people who can figure things out on the fly and adapt to change easily. The younger generation especially likes that environment. The company does a lot to attract them, from targeted branding to attractive electronic employee networking. Its workplace processes like “coffee corners” allows senior leadership to hear ideas from employees in casual settings. Leaders wisely capture fresh ideas and ignite young staffers’ ambitions and energy.
The biggest thing SAP can do, Pettinati says, is listen, understand and facilitate success: “They have no fear. They want to roll up their sleeves and jump in. They want to learn. They want a voice. They want recognition.”
John Gardener agrees. And the 25-year old has a great story to illustrate that at W.L. Gore & Associates. When he was new to the company, he was involved in testing a product application. He was successful and liked it well enough. But he wanted to get into the creative side of the business and told his sponsor. Within months, she came back with an invitation to join an early prototyping project. “It was exactly what I asked for and they made it happen,” says Gardener.
Great places to work, like Gore, which perennially makes it onto CNN Money’s Top 100 Places to Work, spend a lot of time perfecting their hiring process to recruit the best candidates. Managers know what they’re looking for, says Mary Tilley, global leader of human resources. “We look for people who are flexible—not concerned with titles—are self-motivated, and get the job done.”
There are several great companies for recent grads to consider in Delaware, according to ConnectEDU’s top 25 list. Allstate values diversity and wellness, and offers development and well-being programs. It also boasts a culture that encourages all employees to bring their “whole selves” to work. Accenture provides a dynamic, supportive environment for young employees to develop professionally and in their personal lives, and is committed to creating a more sustainable world both socially and environmentally. AT&T focuses on equipping employees to be successful, with instructor-led classes, self-paced e-learning, and web conferences. Capital One Financial Corp. has competitive compensation and benefits packages, paid time off, and career development and training. Verizon Communications Inc. offers flexible work arrangements and a “portfolio of total rewards,” including a “best-in-class” 401(k), tuition assistance, maternity leave and an employee discount program.
So what can millennials do to improve their chances of scoring a position in a great workplace? Start with the obvious: Embrace networking and get relevant experience through internships. Become a volunteer. Join campus clubs, says Robin Marks, associate director at the University of Delaware’s Career Services Office.
But the first step is to know yourself. Finding a great place to work is ultimately about the right fit. That’s why UD’s career counseling starts with taking an honest look at a student’s interests, skills, personality and values, then comparing them to the jobs he or she is interested in.
“If you target a career with a rigorous schedule but you really value work-life balance, you have to choose which is more important,” says Marks.
Don’t miss any opportunity to learn, says Milbrey Hendrix, a grad student in Boston who grew up in Greenville. “A lot of college students view their part-time jobs as little more than a way to earn a few bucks,” she says—at least that’s how she saw it when she first became a bartender. But Hendrix soon concluded that she was learning skills that would help her in her future career as a nurse practitioner—and in life.
May agrees. “Looking back,” he says, “there were managers I thought were talking down to me. Now I see they were trying to teach me something.”