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Gen Y'ers try 'speed dating' -- for jobs

By Elise R. Zeiger, CNN
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Job searching the Generation Y way
  • Millennials' entry into the job market has been delayed by the Great Recession
  • Gen Y'ers, those between 18 and 30, have a 13.4% unemployment rate
  • The networking event Network Roulette pairs Gen Y'ers with recruiters, mentors and peers

Editor's note: This week, CNN is taking a closer look at people between 18 and 30 or the so-called millennial generation -- who they are, how they work and what they want from life.

(CNN) -- In a hip Washington cafe, Kathleen Majorsky is clutching her laptop and latte hoping to meet Mr. Right. But she's not here for a romantic connection; Majorsky's looking for a job.

"I find myself being very aggressive, and it's a very different job search compared to when I was a high school English teacher looking for a teaching job," Majorsky says.

The 29-year-old left teaching and recently graduated with a master's degree in journalism from the University of Missouri. She's at the coffee shop searching for a full-time job as an online community manager.

Millennials need fun, flexibility at work

"It's very challenging because they look at me and say, 'Why haven't you had that long career? Why are you all of a sudden switching careers?' " she says.

Millennials -- those between 18 and 30 -- are on course to become the most educated generation in U.S. history, according to a 2010 Pew Research Center study. But the survey also found their entry into the job market or climb up the ladder have been delayed by the Great Recession. Also known as Gen Y'ers, millennials have a 13.4% unemployment rate.

Majorsky is one of nine young professionals, many recent college graduates, who are taking part in an online event called Network Roulette at the cafe that pairs Gen Y'ers with job recruiters, mentors and peers.

"It's like a career fair that we bring online," says Ryan Healy, 27, a former financial consultant with IBM and the brains behind these networking events.

Network Roulette is marketed to millennials. In a decade or so, this generation will account for nearly half the employees in the world.

Healy says he thought his generation was getting a bad rap.

"I started hearing a lot about Generation Y. And how kids these days are so different and they're lazy and they're entitled and they want to bring their parents to an interview. And I thought this isn't my generation. So I said why don't I start a blog and talk about it from the Gen Y point of view," he says.

Out of blogging hatched the idea for a website. In 2009, Healy launched Brazen Careerist, designed he says, to help millennials navigate and advance in their careers.

"It's really a career management site for high achieving Gen Y'ers. We provide content that is going to help you get ahead in your career. We provide a community where people can ask questions, answer questions of each other, peer-to-peer questions and answers, and we have these online networking and online recruiting events," Healy says.

Healy and his team have sponsored 75 such events, which are sort of like speed dating except online.

Here is how he describes them: "You sign into the site, and you'll be matched with somebody for a five-minute conversation. It might be a recruiter from a major company on the other end. It might be another peer that's in your field on the other end, depending on what event you're in. You'll have five minutes to chat with them, and after the chat, you can follow up with five or 10 of them, adding them to your network. If it's a recruiter, you can say I'm interested in this job opportunity."

Companies fund the events, paying Brazen Careerist sometimes thousands of dollars to be part of the roulette. Healy says so far 50 businesses, some of them Fortune 500 companies, have participated.

"We went to those companies and said, 'Hey we have this great new tool that can connect you directly to people; it can eliminate the problem of someone applying to your job and not hearing back and getting upset with your process,' " he says.

Amy Ng, a recruiter with the financial services company Citi, convinced her company to take part.

"When I was putting together our social-recruiting strategy for our North America recruiting team, I decided we were going to focus on four different social networks. One was, Brazen Careerist, because it was particularly focusing on Gen Y, but then we're also on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook," Ng says. "So we were kind of dividing and conquering and trying to figure out where was the best place for us to make our social presence as a recruiting team, and Brazen made our list."

Ng has participated in two networking events, and although Citi hasn't hired anyone yet, it likes the format.

"Because the events are online, and they're more cost-effective to attend than say a traditional job fair, it becomes a really efficient way for us to connect with a wide range of candidates that we might not otherwise meet," she says.

The recent event is sold out with 237 millennials signed on at home, in their cubicles at work and at the cafe.

Sandi Fox, 27, a marketing manager, says she would like to get into another field.

"We kind of dabble in everything. We might be good at online coms, but we try the private sector and then we try nonprofit, then maybe we'll move to Morocco to work with refugee agencies. We really want to put our mark on the world in multiple ways," she says.

This dabbling can mean holding a job up to 18 months at a time. But changing jobs is not a problem, says project manager Tariq West, 23, who sees chances for more opportunities.

"It means a lot of the jobs that our parents' generation worked don't exist anymore, but it's also exciting because it means we get to invent new careers," West says.

Healy says job switching is common among millennials.

"People in Generation Y have been told that they can be whatever they want to be and they can do whatever they want to do since they were kids. I think the goal is to be happy, to find meaning and they're figuring that out as they go," he says.

"You don't always get it right. You've got to try new things. And that's OK because you're searching for that thing that you really want to do and you'll know when you find it."

They're hoping they'll find it -- before the responsibilities of family and a mortgage kick in.