Guiding your students on the new career strategy

July 20, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Posted in Job market | Leave a comment
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Susan Sandberg

Thomas L. Friedman’s recent column in The New York Times, “The Start-Up of You,” notes the rise in the unemployment rate last month to 9.2 percent, but sees a different solution to the unemployment problem than the cure-alls proposed by Democrats or Republicans. Friedman says that “something new — something that will require our kids not so much to find their next job as to invent their next job — is also influencing today’s job market more than people realize.”  The following points may help your students to restructure their career strategy:

  • The dynamic companies that are hiring, Facebook, Twitter, Groupon, Zynga, and LinkedIn, don’t employ many people relative to their valuations and are largely looking for talented engineers, which leaves out many jobseekers. Also, these fast-growing Internet-social networking companies tend to steal the best employees from one another before going to the open market.
  • Employers today are more productive because they deploy more automation technologies, software, outsourcing, and robotics, resulting in reduced head count, health care, and pension liabilities. Friedman emphasizes that is not going to change. The companies that are hiring want people “who not only have the critical thinking skills to do the value-adding jobs that technology can’t, but also people who can invent, adapt and reinvent their jobs every day, in a market that changes faster than ever.”
  • He says today’s college grads need to be aware that the rising trend in Silicon Valley is to evaluate employees every quarter, not annually. Because the merger of globalization and the I.T. revolution means new products are being phased in and out so fast that companies cannot afford to wait until the end of the year to figure out whether a team leader is doing a good job.
  • Employers are applying new criteria:  Can this person add value every hour, every day — more than a worker in India, a robot or a computer? Can he or she help my company adapt by not only doing the job today but also reinventing the job for tomorrow? And can he or she adapt with all the change, so my company can adapt and export more into the fastest-growing global markets?
  • Friedman recommends a new book coming out around the end of the year called “The Start-Up of You” co-authored by Reid Garrett Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, and Ben Casnocha. Hoffman says, “No career is a sure thing anymore. The uncertain, rapidly changing conditions in which entrepreneurs start companies is what it’s now like for all of us fashioning a career. Therefore you should approach career strategy the same way an entrepreneur approaches starting a business.”
  • The new career strategy means using your network to pull in information and intelligence about where the growth opportunities are — and then investing in yourself to build skills that will allow you to take advantage of those opportunities. Hoffman adds: “You can’t just say, ‘I have a college degree, I have a right to a job, now someone else should figure out how to hire and train me.’ ” You have to know which industries are working and what is happening inside them and then “find a way to add value in a way no one else can. For entrepreneurs it’s differentiate or die — that now goes for all of us.”  He urges perseverance, too, citing the fact that the founder of Pandora pitched his idea more than 300 times to V.Cs with no luck.

Rejecting Wall Street, Graduates Turn Entrepreneurs Instead

June 16, 2011 at 8:00 am | Posted in Advising interns | 4 Comments
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Susan Sandberg

The above is a headline from a recent New York Times article on the growing number of business school students rejecting traditional postgraduate paths like investment banking, hedge funds and consulting. It’s a trend that is accelerating in the wake of the financial crisis as Wall Street loses its luster and Silicon Valley shines with a new crop of multibillion-dollar start-ups, according to the New York Times. As a career services professional, you might want to encourage your students to explore entrepreneurship as a career path. Here are some trends to share with your students:

  • Job growth:  Graduates from the class of 2010 at Harvard started 30 to 40 businesses last year, a 50 percent increase from the previous year, said William A. Sahlman, a professor of entrepreneurship at Harvard Business School. “The level of entrepreneurship activity here, and I presume at other schools, is up dramatically over the last two years,” said Dr. Sahlman. Since the job market is down, more and more graduates are starting their own businesses rather than settling for unemployment or part-time work in a field unrelated to their majors.
  • Campus programs:  Last year, budding entrepreneurs at Harvard formed the Startup Tribe, a student group. The organization, which has more than 150 members, persuaded Harvard to start the Minimum Viable Product Fund, a $50,000 fund for new start-ups. The program distributes awards of roughly $5,000 apiece to promising teams, including the nine winners announced in March. The school is also planning to open in the fall the Harvard Innovation Lab, a student center for start-ups, where founders can work with peers and Harvard’s entrepreneurs-in-residence.
  • Business plan contests:  Many colleges have business plan contests, which help launch entrepreneurs. Kimball Thomas got his start when he was named one of the top three winners for Harvard’s annual Business Plan Contest, which came with a $25,000 cash prize. He won the competition with an online diaper business in Brazil, which was his second start-up. He and another student had first started, with about $20,000 scraped together from friends and family. The venture — which taught them the basics, like how to coordinate with vendors in China and how to run an e-commerce site — was profitable in its first year, according to the New York Times report.
  • Entrepreneur internships:  Students can learn how start-ups work by taking internships with entrepreneurs. Start-ups are usually small operations, enabling a student intern to study all aspects from concept to launch. Students can have a hands-on opportunity to be part of a new venture without worrying about losing their own money if it doesn’t work. An internship at a start-up is also a great way to network and learn about venture capitalists and investors. Good places to search for internships at start-ups are the alumni office and the business school. Alumni who are starting new businesses would be excellent resources as well as business school professors who often act as consultants for start-ups.

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