Checking in with Tucker Stein, undergraduate career search author and adviser

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Tucker Stein is an MBA student at Stanford and a specialist in undergraduate internship job search strategies. Outside of school he advises students from a wide array of backgrounds on job search strategies and lectures at Stanford University on public speaking and interviewing techniques. AfterCollege caught up with Tucker since the publishing of his co-authored book “Get to Work” in late 2015.

 Can you give us a brief update on what you’ve been working on since we last talked and the progress of the book?

It’s been a very exciting time for Get to Work since our publishing last year. In the last year we’ve been working with students, recruiters and career centers to promote and refine the book. We’ve recently launched on Kindle incorporating a simplified step-by-step job search approach for our users.

 

The book highlights the importance of differentiation. What opportunities should students look for to differentiate themselves in their resume and application from other candidates?

Differentiation is key – particularly for students from non-target universities. Students must think: what am I better at, or more qualified for than my classmates? These don’t have to be strictly professional pursuits – maybe you have a history of excelling in debate, or you author a widely subscribed blog – these are all points of differentiation when we look at a stack of resumes. Look outside your university too. If there is a local Chamber of Commerce or non-profit opportunity, take it – recruiters are looking for candidates that put in the effort to differentiate themselves from the traditional university-based opportunities.

 

What are the most common traits recruiters are looking for in a college-hire?

Well, it technically depends on the company but there are a few common characteristics each recruiter will be looking for in a recent graduate. First, all work environments are moving towards team-centric work environments. Any representation that you’ve been successful working on heterogeneous teams is very valuable. When I say “heterogeneous,” I specifically mean working with teammates from different divisions, age groups and educational backgrounds. Secondly, recruiters look for candidates that can learn quickly. Onboarding candidates is very expensive and the faster a new hire moves up the learning curve and starts contributing, the faster you begin paying for yourself. Find and highlight instances that you demonstrated your ability to learn quickly and efficiently. Lastly, recruiters don’t expect you to be a seasoned executive, but they do expect you to be able to talk and interact with them. Any experiences working with senior people on “higher” level decisions will demonstrate your maturity and comfort with senior teammates. This can be anything from presenting a project to a faculty committee to serving in your school’s ambassadorship program.

 

Your book highlights rotational programs for students entering industries outside of consulting or banking – these are becoming more widely offered, can you explain the value for students?

Most graduating seniors don’t know what they want to do – I know I didn’t. Rotational programs allow recent grads to see an organization from a number of different lenses. It allows you to find out what you want to do, but also, equally important, what you don’t like to do. Aside from personal preference, rotational programs allow you to see several different management styles and force you into a role that requires you to learn quickly. After rotational programs, we’ve found these students to be more well-rounded, better understand how the different functions fit within an organization, and have a wider network within the company to call on for questions.

 

These are very competitive positions – how do students from non-target get their resumes reviewed?

Getting your resume in front of the right people can be a lot more difficult and will require increased effort from a non-target school. Getting your resume to a point of consideration is all about finding the right point of contact to pass forward your resume. Outside of friends and family, joining organizations such as LinkedIn groups or local MeetUps is a great way to meet industry-specific points of contact and prove your interest in a specific subject. Many times you’ll need to start with an informational phone call with a company employee in the office you wish to work. After this, you can ask to have your information passed along, or you can follow-up with human resources point-of-contact yourself with the introduction explaining your previous conversation with their teammate. Start with getting an initial phone conversation with an employee, and then working from there.

 

How should students effectively reach out cold?

While ideally you want no introduction to be purely “cold,” at some point it is inevitable. The rules of cold introductions are simple: 1) avoid an unreasonable ask, 2) be short but direct, and 3) don’t attach your resume – it is too transactional. Ideally, you want to ask for a short conversation to introduce yourself and ask a bit about their company. Make sure they see that you are a student passionate about their industry and impressed by the company. Identify something in their background, often found via company info or LinkedIn that draws a connection between you and the point of contact. In your note identify what you want in the first two sentences and then add one or two sentences highlighting the sincerity of your interest.

 

We’re starting the second half of the school year now, what should be the first step for those starting their search?

While ideally you’ve already set the groundwork for future interviews, in January you must start kicking your search into full gear. If you’re not applying to a traditional program analyst class or rotational program your first moves should be broken into three steps. First, you should focus on building your target company list. This is best done working with a partner and consulting professors and administrators to find where your school might have established contacts. Next, you should pull out specific requisitions listed on the careers site, or if there is no applicable job listed, find your specific target point of contact by cross referencing their company leadership with LinkedIn. After you’ve aggregated these job openings or target contacts, the third step is to submit your application or send your introduction email as we’ve discussed earlier. Keeping the process organized in steps will allow you to both be more effective in total number of submissions and also track timelines for follow-up emails.

 

Do you have any job search platforms you like?

While we don’t like the exclusive reliance on job search platforms for finding openings, LinkedIn does a great job filtering positions and sourcing requisitions from a wide range of companies. For those looking for more growth-stage companies, we like to recommend following Crunchbase to check the start-ups raising funding and expanding.

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