Tag Archives: resume

Back to GTN’s roots – talking about the job search

You might remember that this blog originally started as a way to document my failure of a job search as I was graduating from UC Santa Cruz. I’ve learned a lot since then – some of those old post are, well, maybe better left to the annals of time.

Anyway, MBASchooled asked to interview me about my business school job search process. You can read the full interview  here. Specifically, they wanted to know about recruiting for McKinsey & Co, which is where I interned last year and where I’ll be working full time, starting in a month or two.

In this interview, I really enjoyed talking about job search failure, which was something I learned a lot about back in 2009. Here’s what I told MBASchooled:

Getting dinged is not the end of the world. I got turned down at tons of companies – both consulting and non-consulting – during this recruiting process. Seriously, maybe 15 or 20 places said no. I even got a ding from another company I’d applied to … during my first week at McKinsey. That one actually felt pretty good, because those other guys were late to the party!

Does rejection sting? Of course. But life goes on, and it’s important to have that longer-term perspective. Remember that this couple of months of recruiting is not the most important thing you’ll ever do with your life.

Again, the full interview can be found  here.

Gamifying the Job Exit

One of my friends is leaving Google for a startup – not uncommon. However, it got me thinking about the dynamic between people who have previously worked at a company together, and how awkward that conversation can be. There’s always an underlying implication something that didn’t quite work out between the company and the ex-employee.

For the youngest generation of employees, that assumption isn’t always true. My generation stays in a role for about 18 months, then looks for the next challenge – not necessarily because something didn’t work with their previous employer, but because they’re ready to take on something new.

As such, sharing a work history is something that should be celebrated, not hidden. When it comes up in conversation, that shared work history should generate positive feelings of camaraderie – like having gone to school together – rather than a slightly awkward smile or a shift of feet and glance to the left.

How to get around this awkwardness? Maybe the answer is finding ways to generate that feeling of camaraderie – using gamification techniques. Here are a few ideas I came up with on the way to work (which I’m not planning to leave any time soon!) this morning:

  • “Alumni Groups.” Some bigger companies already have this. Google has the informally named “Xooglers” or “ex-Googlers.” Saying your a Xoogler can be a badge of pride, and finding a fellow Xoogler in a social setting can draw two people to remember some of the best parts of Google.
  • “Attaining Degrees.” Celebrate tenure at the company by granting “degrees,” like at a University. Basically, this gamifies rewarding tenure, by letting employees feel like they’ve “leveled up” in the company. After you’ve left, you can say you achieved your First Level Diploma or your Veteran Diploma when talking about your time there, steering the conversation from awkwardness.  These degrees can include additional development opportunities, like classes on the side or required reading. The higher your degree, the more the company will invest in an employee with opportunities like development classes. (There’s probably more to explore here – like, would it make sense for Google to offer their own MBA in technology?)
  • Employment “paths” or “tracks.” Especially for the younger generation, having a set multi-year program allows employees to track progress towards a goal. Once they reach that goal, they can either leave the company or find a new role within the company. As with the degrees, this gives employees an obvious time to exit – right after they’ve attained that degree – and there are fewer awkward questions.

For my generation, switching jobs raises fewer eyebrows than for my parents’ generation. That being said, sharing a history – whether work, school, or social – should be something that’s celebrated, not a cause for an awkward pause in a conversation. It should be something that draw people together and generate good will. Since employee turnover is so high amongst my generation anyway, there’s a compelling case for gamifying the job environment, and decreasing the stigma of switching jobs.

I’m a Bachelor (of Arts)

I’ve known Derek Strykowski for quite a while.  Not only is he a fellow Phillips Academy alum, but we also studied at Oxford University around the same time.  Derek recently graduated from Brandeis University, and I roped him into writing a guest post.

A bit about Derek: he is the Composer in Residence of the Irving Fine Society, and a member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.  His music has been performed by many groups in the Boston area, including the Andover Chamber Orchestra, the Boston Microtonal Society’s NotaRiotous, the Coreli String Ensemble, Quintessential Brass, the Brandeis University Chamber Choir, and the Phillips Academy Concert Band.  Here’s his take on graduating with the class of 2010.


“Education is different from training,” Professor John Burt said on Saturday, to the newly-inducted members of the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Brandeis University.

For me, Dr. Burt’s observation resolves a very basic question: why do we go to college? In my final months as a Brandeis undergraduate, I noticed that this question can prompt some very different responses.  Some students go for training, while others go for that more elusive activity, education.  Here’s how I distinguish between the two:

The student who seeks training will lean towards a very specific outcome—to qualify for a high-paying job.  He soon realizes that very little of his undergraduate coursework will have a direct, practical impact on his presupposed career.  With this mentality, studying for an undergraduate degree feels like one big speed bump, which is why I suspect that otherwise-intelligent students sometimes put in a minimal amount of academic effort when they get to college.  A few even lie and cheat to get their degree.  For those focused completely on outcome, a haphazard college experience is just fine because a BA or BS magically appears on their résumé and they get their wish: a nice job.  If training as an accountant is all you need, what’s the point of taking courses in art history or religious studies?

The point is your education—that thing which prepares you to be a valuable citizen of the world (and a desirable employee!).  This second type of student engages the university on its own terms, seeking to learn anything and everything, and observing her own progress while doing it.   A college education is not some sort of certification that can expire; it is a process during which the student learns about how she responds to the outside world, and how the outside world responds to her.  In my own time as an undergraduate, I completed most of the course requirements for my major (the “training”) by the end of my second year, but it was during the following two years of study that I learned some invaluable lessons about myself—a true education that was unsought but invaluable once found.  Those life skills will never be lost, and apply to all careers and pursuits.  My parchment diploma is not the bachelor of arts—I am, and always will be.

Having a BA prepares you to land a job, but being a BA prepares you to keep it.

Learning, Teaching, and Learning to Teach

I was hired to HP as part of the Graduate Investment Program [GIP], along with 32 other fresh college graduates from the class of 2009.  We’re all effectively the same age and at the same stage in our lives, and we’re all starting off on our respective career paths.

When we started at HP, we looked to the 2008 graduates, hired less than a year before us, for guidance and mentoring.  To us, these 2008 graduates were masters of HP sales.  They had training, experience, and expertise.  They always knew the answers to our multitudes of questions.  Even though their 10 months of experience paled in comparison to the experience of the real HP veterans of 10, 20, 30 years, we venerated the 2008 graduates as role models alongside the HP career veterans.

This week, over 50 prospective new hires visit the HP campus.  These candidates are the best of the best. Culled from hundreds of references, career fairs, and online applications, they’ve all made it through the resume screen and the manager interview already.  This site visit was effectively the third round of the process for these potential new hires.  Many of us on the team, including me, volunteered to interview a few candidates and show them around campus.

As we went through the process of talking to these candidates, reading their resumes, and weighing their work experience, it occurred to me that, starting June 1st, we 2009 graduates will no longer be the newbies.  Instead, 20 new, 2010 graduates will consider us, the class of 2009, experts in sales, successful veterans of GIP.  We’ll be mentors and leaders, providing insight and guiding these new hires in the same way the 2008 graduates mentored us.

The prospect of mentoring and teaching is exciting.  But we, the class of 2009, are still learning.   We’re still taking training courses.  For as long as we’re at HP, we probably always will be taking training courses.  We still have questions every day for our veterans, class of 2008 and before.

As the class of 2009 rounds out their our year in the real world, many of us are thinking back to last summer.  The class of 2008 hires took us under their wing and guided us, helping us effectively transition from the world of grades to the world of quotas.

We are still learning, still new to the job.  But I know that the class of 2009 will do our best to provide the same mentoring, guidance, and inspiration to the class of 2010 that we were fortunate to receive from the class of 2008.

How is an M.B.A. different than a Ph.D.?

I completed my undergraduate degree in three years and went straight to the workforce.  Like many of my peers, I plan to go back to school.  I plan to apply to business school and study for an M.B.A.

When will this happen?   Maybe next year.  Maybe in a couple of years.  Right now, I’m not sure.  It will happen eventually.

But it will happen.

A lot of my peers, now completing their fourth year in college and heading towards graduation, are considering attending graduate school.  They keep asking me why I didn’t do the same.  The reason is simple: my peers are mostly engineers.

Most students in Math, Engineering, Physics, and related science fields who are looking to pursue a masters or a Ph. D will do so directly out of college.  Even those who are not in a science field are encouraged to enter directly into a graduate school.  The rational for this is that, with time away from school, these students will lose some of the necessary skills in their field.  For example, math is very difficult to retain over a period of time without practice, and most science programs — if not all — require some degree of proficiency in math.

Possibly these students will take a year off, but even still, that would put the average entering age of these students around 22, 23, or 24.

The average age of a student entering business school? 28. Continue reading

Grammar is [sadly] Relative

I am a grammar snob.  At least, I used to be, before I took a class in linguistics from the chair of one of the top-ranked linguistics departments in the country.  He taught me that all language is relative, so having set in stone rules doesn’t always make sense.

Yes, I’ll say that again.  My professor of linguistics said that, because language is relative and constantly evolving, from words to grammatical structures, sometimes the rules are over-emphasized.

This, for me, was an earth-shaking revelation.  I had spent time as an editor and as a copy editor — my job was to fix grammatical errors and make people follow the rules!  Adding in a semicolon between two complete sentences not seperated by a conjunction was my drug.  Heck, even the New York Times employs a writer whose job is to write columns on word usage, so it had to be important.

As a result, I was one of those people who was convinced that the youth America, and really, all countries around the world, was going down the drain because of bad grammar.

However, based on this class, I started thinking about writing and the writing ability of our generation.   We can read, which is a big step ahead of most of our ancestors.  And we write; we write e-mails, text messages, facebook notes, and blog posts on a daily basis.  And if language is relative, then it doesn’t matter if we spell “love” or “<3.”

It quickly became clear to me that, in fact, we are one of the most literate generations in history. Continue reading

Rejection Letters: a thing of the past

But not necessarily in a good way.

The New York Times has an article, titled “Where, oh Where, Has my Job Application Gone?” on what happens to internet job applications, once sent off into the void.  Many applicants never hear back from the company, even in the form of a rejection letter.  Of the hundreds of applications and resumes I sent out, only the British companies consistently sent rejection letters; 90% of everyone else didn’t reply.

The NYTimes article discusses rising unemployment, ease of applying to jobs online, and how to make your application stand out, using techniques such as finding personal contacts, doing research, making actual telephone calls, and taking advantage of social networking sites like LinkedIn.

Here’s the article.