Will Bernstein ’92 – Career Conference

Thursday, February 4, 2010

When Will Bernstein graduated from Menlo College in 1992, the unemployment rate among young college graduates (age 25 and under) was 10.9%. Compare that to the current rate of 10.6% for 2009-2010 young college graduates and one thing is clear—students can learn a thing or two from Will about how to find a job in a difficult economy. On February 4 in Florence Moore Auditorium, Will provided over a hundred Menlo students with a road map to finding a job in a challenging employment market during the 2nd Annual Career Conference. He offered his audience three things in his keynote address “Preparing Yourself for a Recessionary Job Market”: (1) Mental preparation for the challenges ahead, (2) Tools to be successful in their career acquisition campaign, and (3) A six month agenda to help graduates succeed in their jobs.

Assess, Accept, and Create

Will had a dream job in tech sales lined up at Apple upon graduation. Thirty days before he was set to start work, Apple issued a hiring freeze and all new hires were released. He worked part time at a health club before landing a job in advertising sales at The Peninsula Times Tribune. Will shared his approach to finding a job during a recession, “You need to assess, accept, and create a plan of action.”

Tools for Getting Hired

First and foremost, Will advised students to decide what industry they want to enter and pick the top five companies they'd like to work for and put them in priority order. Next, he suggested they research positions at that company which are realistic for a new graduate to hold and visualize themselves in that position. Finally, Will advised the students to “stand out.”

Hiring managers have databases filled with resumes. Many of these databases use OCR technology which scans for frequency of target words in a resume. If a resume has a high enough frequency of these key words, it gets pulled. If a resume is below the threshold, it remains unseen in the database. Will believes the key to getting an interview and landing a job is to have personal contact with the company and hiring manager. To this end, he recommended that graduates use automated phone attendants or social networking sites like LinkedIn to identify hiring managers. Once you have a name, you can call managers directly and hand deliver resumes to the target company. He stresses the importance of dressing appropriately in addition to researching the company and the manager thoroughly.

Create an Agenda

Will spoke at great length about how graduates should create an agenda to help them move up in the company very quickly. He recommended that employees learn their job exceptionally well. They can do this by studying the corporate culture of their employer. They can also observe the power structure in place at the company. The CEO could be the power player in the company, but it could also be a Vice President or other executive.

Employees also need to be on the lookout for a mentor, or mentors, within the company. A mentor should be someone who loves teaching and is willing to teach. This mentor holds power within the company and isn't a “risky star.” Take six months to observe the corporate culture. Keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth shut. Most importantly, stay out of office politics. For good measure, arrive before and leave after your boss and dress like your boss (don't outdress your boss, keep your attire on the conservative side).

Finally, Will advised the students that every good plan has a “Plan B.” He recommended low-level jobs that pay off in experience, working in a small business or warehouse to gain exposure to management viewpoints, working in tech support to build customer relations skills, taking a volunteer position with an organization, or getting involved in politics.

Even though it's an employer's market out there, Will Bernstein infused the student body with enthusiasm for their future career prospects and provided them with an organized roadmap they can follow to achieve their career goals.

Take a look at photos from the event.