What if students knew how to approach the job search like a CEO?

This is the question I asked myself 5 years ago when I was at a turning point in my corporate career and was considering striking out on my own.

I’d seen, first-hand as a consultant, how executives would pass over recent grads for a more experienced candidate. Claiming that young candidates “don’t get it” and execs did not want to invest the time to train them.

There was a big disconnect between employer expectations for hiring and the skill set recent grads thought they had for the workplace.

At the same time, friends and colleagues would share their frustration as their kids were graduating from good schools, had excellent grades, but could not get a job. 

The idea was hatched.

I’d teach college grads to have a strategy with their job search.

How to differentiate themselves

And execute…with a clear plan every time they met a prospective employer.

I tested these ideas with students and grads from community colleges to Ivy League schools… students with tremendous potential but lacking the skills we were teaching. 

The consensus was, “We need this. We need this type of help.” 

We learned that our concepts were new and fresh to these students, as they were not being taught this in college.  

From there, Next Great Step was born.

But the path was not easy.

I had never been an entrepreneur. And the process of starting from ZERO was daunting.

I did a lot of research.

Figured out my competition.

I did a lot of coaching for free.

I tested the process.

I made a lot of mistakes.

I had my friends and family members give me feedback on websites, branding, topics, marketing… everything.

I hustled.

I bootstrapped the company.

I called a lot of people.

I did many free presentations… at universities, libraries, synagogues and barber shops (yes… even a barbershop.)

I made more mistakes and screwed things up.

I networked.  When I introduced myself, most people thought I was a college counselor that helps get kids into college. Most people never heard of this service of helping kids “get out” of college.

Then I had this moment.

Nine months after I started this venture, I did not have ONE paying client. ZERO. I distinctly remember talking with a friend who said to me,

“What are you doing? Should you really keep going with this? This is a lot of effort and you have no clients or revenue.”

That hit me hard.

I knew this. But it was hard to hear.

I started to question everything I was doing. Maybe I should just go back to a corporate job and make “real” money.

A week later, I got my first paying client.

My point is that the process for getting what you want is HARD. It takes time, and persistence…just like a job search. 

And as we look for work during this crisis, it will continue to be hard.

However, here is what I learned over the last 5 years…

  • No matter where you went to college, there is no guarantee of a career or a certain job after college… especially now.
  • There is a big disconnect between employer expectations and what grads think they have to offer.
  • If you want something, you have to really work for it. No one will do it for you or hand it to you.
  • Figure out what you are good at and articulate your value to others… with confidence.. even if you feel like you are faking it.
  • You will fail… and make mistakes. And that is ok.
  • All the people that look like everything is going great for them without any effort, it is probably not what it seems.

Here is my prediction for the next 5 years:

  • There are opportunities in this market. You need to be strategic to find them.
  • The employment market will be more competitive.
  • Young job candidates will have to hustle… maybe put a few jobs together to make a living…freelancing, internships, job shadow, side gig, or tutor (or all of the above).
  • The college system will have a major upheaval. Where you go to school and GPAs will matter less to employers.
  • Your experience and how you acquire new skills will matter more.
  • Video interviews and remote work will play an important role in future positions.
  • Mental health will continue to be a major factor in the success of grads and young adults.

I had a celebration planned for hitting our 5-year mark on April 1. But I don’t feel much like celebrating right now – our world is in chaos, people are sick and mourning loved ones. We are trying to forge significant change with justice and equality. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. My goal is to continue to offer guidance to young people as they navigate uncharted waters in this job market.

I look forward to taking on these next 5 years with the same passion and determination as my first 5. Learn how we help grads pursue the job search like a CEO at Next Great Step.

P.S. A very special thanks to those people who have enabled my success. I could not have done it without my right-hand lady and college roomie Lauren Aaron, our top advisor Rachel Scherzer, my husband Jeff, and my kids Brandon and Jacob. Thank you…love you all.