7 Life Hacks to Land your Dream Job and Achieve "Success"​ (from someone who did it)

This article is the second installment in the sh*t I wish I knew series reflecting on my time in college and later career journey. These are all lessons I learned and I hope to pass on some wisdom to others. Please like/share/leave feedback. Thanks!

#1. “I’m not good enough for Google, Apple, or the whatever I really want”

  • Not with that attitude. 
  • Think about every (most) decision(s) you will make for the rest of your life in the framework below and you will always win (or be no worse off than you currently are). 
The worst possible outcome to asking for help, applying for a specific job, or most anything else is “no”, and the best outcome is a “yes”
  • You are no worse off than your current situation if you get a “no.” Those that never try, never win. Apply early and often. What’s the worst that can happen?
  • If you want to work at one of the best companies in the world, you need to stand out (see my first article). 

#2. Our greatest strengths are learned from our mistakes and failures 

  • Whether it's asking your crush out to a movie, applying to your dream job, school, or credit card, rejection sucks, but if you don’t pick your sh*t up, no one else will. 
  • It’s healthy to be upset, but it’s even healthier to reflect on the rejection and realize what changes you need to make so you can do a better job next time. 
  • Think of someone in your life that is really good at something. The best soccer player, ladies man, sales person, or professional alligator wrestler has failed at that activity in more embarrassing ways than 99.999% percent of the world’s population, but they didn’t give up, learning and improving from their mistakes.
  • I got rejected from most of my top choice universities and many of my early job applications. Only when I sat down and decided to internalize, reflect, and iterate on my mistakes did I improve. 

#3. Your internships/previous jobs matter (more specifically what you do/did in them)

  1. Take pride in your previous experiences and speak to your strengths in your resume. It is important to specifically mention what activities you took part in that improved the company you worked at beyond the way it was when you initially got there. If you did not improve a process then speak to how you excelled at your role. 
  2. Companies want to hire people that exhibit leadership traits and avoid those that do not. Most people can do a job, but top companies want to see that you can create and improve with the potential of becoming a superstar in your role.
  3. Include industry verbiage and specific statistics wherever possible. Examples from my resume: 
  • "Generated B2B partnership pipeline via inbound marketing and research yielding 3:1 conversion rate”
  • "Implemented large (2,500+ unit) partnerships with UMass CS, Honors College, Marching Band and Athletics”
  • "Promoted and sold snacks and confections to more than 350 convenience stores and gas marts in territory”

#4. Where do I find the best jobs?

  1. Company Job Site: Top companies have their own job boards. I believe this is the single best way to apply to any role. Some sites even allow you to set up email alerts when roles with specific criteria become available. 
  2. Glassdoor: This site is one of the best resources. In addition to being a great place for finding available jobs, people post reviews for specific roles and companies. These reviews are typically very accurate. Glassdoor also has anonymous reviews of companies interview processes and often you can develop a pretty good picture of the questions you should be able to answer during an interview. 
  3. Indeed: It has easy to set up job notifications that get emailed directly to you on a basis you choose. 
  4. The Muse: My favorite career site visually. Has a bunch of great jobs from top companies (some awesome ones I hadn’t heard of). I like how they include pictures and well-written descriptions for all companies and roles. 
  5. LinkedIn: Has a vast array of job postings. I did not have a ton of luck with hearing back from jobs I applied to on LinkedIn. 
  6. Monster.com: Wow! I can post my resume online and companies will reach out to me? Wrong! (well not entirely). Monster will flood your inbox with automated emails and you will instantly regret your decision to post your resume. Monster is like the Somali Pirate in Captain Phillips and you are Tom Hanks.
  7. Dice: Has a bunch of tech specific careers with easy to setup alerts.
  8. Underdog.io: I’ve never personally used this site, but have heard great things. They partner with top companies to put your resume/application in front of top companies. Definitely a cool idea. 
  9. College Job Board: Where I found my current role. This was one of my favorite places to look for jobs because the companies that post here are specifically looking for interns, or recent grads. 
  10. AngelList: No better place to look for a job with a startup. 
  11. CareerBuilder: Haven’t personally used it, but have heard good things from friends 
  12. People you know: “Hey Mom, Professor Glorbatroff, Grandma Betsy, Farmer Dan, I’m interested in working in XYZ field do you know anyone who I could speak with?” 

#5. The importance of your online presence

  1. Besides having a well organized and concise resume, it is important to have a fully completed LinkedIn profile. There is an obvious difference between someone that takes pride and cares about setting up a good looking profile versus someone who rushes it. LinkedIn is one of the first places recruiters will go after they see your resume. 
  2. While there are differing opinions when it comes to Facebook profiles, my opinion is to always have your profile public, or partially visible. If you can’t be found on Facebook, or if your profile is completely blocked, it makes some recruiters I have talked to feel like you have something to hide. If you have pictures of you getting a little groovy then do your best to keep them off the internet, or make view-able by close friends only. 

#6. It’s all about who you know

  1. Personal relationships are key (insert DJ Khaled major key emoji)
  2. Over 65% of the interviews I had at top companies came through personal referrals. Top companies recognize that smart people know smart people. They leverage the networks of their employees to make efficient and successful hires through referrals. Moral of the story: Go meet some smart people. 
  3. “How do I meet smart people, all my friends are dumb???” Dumb people are great and often the most fun, but don’t predominantly surround yourself with them. Put yourself out there and meet some new people who do what you want to do, the way you want to do it. This is easily accomplished in college, but if you’ve already graduated attend local industry events, go to Meetups, join Facebook groups, and utilize LinkedIn. 
  4. People want to help other people with potential. If they don’t, they’re either extremely busy inventing the cure for something, lazy, or a dick (don’t waste your time with dicks). If someone mentions they have a friend that works, or does XYZ thing that you want to do, or have, ask for an intro. If all else fails put on your stalker boots and message them on Facebook, or LinkedIn. I’ve done my fair share of this and can tell you that 60% of the time, it works every time (it actually works really well). If someone doesn’t email, or message you back the first time, wait approximately 2 weeks, and follow up in a polite manner. 
  5. My initial resume and cover letter had a lot of room for improvement. I reached out to a an alumni who is now a friend and mentor (Matt Dornfeld). He went out of his way to help me bring each to the next level. I now try to do the same for anyone in my network.
  6. LinkedIn is great because you can type a company into the search bar and see who you know that works there. If you don’t know 1st connections its likely that you’ll have a 2nd connection that you can get an intro to. If all else fails you can send a short message when you opt to connect with someone. When they accept your request you can then send them a message. People are more likely to accept requests that have a personal message. 

#7. (most) Recruiters are people too

  1. Recruiters make money when they source and bring good talent into their/or another company. Larger companies have their own recruiters and some companies hire outside recruiters. For the most part recruiters will never respond if you reach out to them. 
  2. The recruiter is your #1 advocate within the company. Don’t just talk about the job with them, ask about their lives and understand what motivates them. Having a recruiter that likes you is sometimes the difference between you, or another candidate, getting another interview/the job. 
  3. If you do not hear from a recruiter for two weeks, or in the time-frame they specify that they will get back to you, don’t be afraid to reach out. They have a lot on their plate and your initiative will be noted. 

How at 21, I saved $125,000, graduated in 3 years and got a job at a top tech. company

I wanted to pass along some information that I wish I had going into and graduating from college. This can be a difficult point for many families and students and I hope it helps. Please reach out or comment if you have any questions. 

  1. I graduated in 3 years from the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst at the age of 21 with a management degree concentrated in entrepreneurship.
  2. I scored below 1800 (out of 2400) on my SAT 
  3. I paid $24,688 a year to attend college including on-campus meal plan and housing (excluding books and class fees)
  4. I had final round interviews with the corporate divisions of Google, Apple, Amazon, HubSpot, IBM, EMC, Oracle, Wayfair, and SalesForce
  5. I accepted a full-time offer from Amazon Corporate to work in digital media  

Standardized test scores and fancy names mean little

  1. Work to do the best job on the SAT that you can, but it matters little in the long run.  
  2. Growing up and living in Boston, I’ve met some Harvard students who are so lazy I wouldn’t trust to deliver an important package to the post office. I’ve also met community college transfer students whose knowledge of back-end mobile application development far outweigh the norm. I don’t mean to generalize groups of people, but attending what many consider to be “great” schools does not make you a great individual.

Plan what you want from college before you apply (and again once you get in)

  1. I learned early on that its not about working hard, its about working smart. A goal without a plan is just a dream. See setting SMART goals.
  1. Do not apply to any college without a reason. You don’t need to know what you want to do for the rest of your life, but know if they have a good program or specific school on campus that lines up with your general interests. 
  2. Find out how many credits you need to graduate from the colleges you get into. How many classes do you need to take per semester to graduate in three years, travel abroad, or have a part-time job?
  3. Plan to take a semester to travel abroad. I had the opportunity to travel to Russia, Germany, Sweden and a Native American reservation in South Dakota before college. Traveling, doing service, and learning in another country will broaden your world view and give you experiences like nothing else. 

College life should be a balance

  1. Don't waste your time and money. Having fun, being social, and trying new things is a crucial part of college, but it's important to have a balance. If you want to party, take a year off and go to Spain. It will cost a whole lot less than a wasted semester and the parties are way better (from what I hear).

If you screw around in school and don’t commit to learning and growing, the only person that loses in the long run is you.

My balance per day in order was:

  • Mon: academics, work, clubs
  • Tue: academics, work, clubs 
  • Wed: academics, work, clubs 
  • Thur: academics, clubs, leisure
  • Fri: leisure 
  • Sat: work, leisure 
  • Sun: academics, leisure 

Invest in high impact activities. Follow the Pareto Principle (or 80-20 rule) that 80% of your value will come from 20% of your total activities. New students are eager to join as many clubs, pledge as many fraternities, and go to as many social events as possible.

Its important to test the water at first, but commit your time to making a big impact in a few places as opposed to no impact in many.

Be your own best advocate

  1. You will not get anywhere by waiting for good things to come to you. If you’re doing poorly in a class, want to start a club, want to work/intern at a certain company, or have the next best app idea; pick up your computer and f*cking do something about it. 
Sitting back and hoping for the best doesn’t achieve anything.
  1. Surround yourself with people smarter than yourself. Don’t waste your time with people who bring you down. One of the biggest values of college is the diverse backgrounds of peers. Use this to your advantage, ask them questions, and learn what they know. 
  2. Take calculated risks and put yourself in uncomfortable situations. I was terrified of public speaking until I had to do it for weekly club meetings. 
  3. Find a mentor. Preferably someone with relevant life experience who shows an interest in your growth. This can be a professor, alumnus, community member, or upperclassman. I was lucky to have a local alumni (Scott Nielsen) act as my mentor early on in school. He helped me grow my network, found the UMass Entrepreneurship Club, and put on large speaking events.

If you don’t stand out; then don’t apply

  1. Attending college isn’t enough. You need to go out of your way to take on leadership roles, have a industry specific job, or volunteer. 
Every student applying is smart; what makes you stand out?
  1. Think of every job, internship, or leadership position you hold as a potential stepping stone to something greater. (ex. My experiences went from: Merchandiser in convenience stores > Selling protein gummies in-person to convenience stores > Founding UMass Entrepreneurship Club > Working for Apple selling iPads and Macs to professors and departments > Working for MassChallenge developing partnerships with A&B level executives > Working for Amazon in digital media consulting with vendors to grow their businesses). 
  2. Don’t work for the glory, work for the experience. After my freshman year I only got one internship offer. Selling protein gummies to convenience stores was the last thing I wanted to spend my summer doing, but I learned a ton about sales, marketing, time management and built confidence speaking to customers. I was able to leverage that experience and learnings to advance my career path. 

Top companies don’t read resumes (at first)

  1. Computers read resumes (not always, but imagine they are)
  2. Great companies receive so many thousands of job applications per hiring cycle that it would be vastly time inefficient for recruiters to review every single resume that comes in through their online portal. They use resume scanner tools that develop correlations between keywords (statistics like GPA, leadership roles, industry specific terminology), resume organization (is this resume clean and organized, or an unformatted piece of sh*t?), and previous work experience. 
  3. Your resume is like pizza: most people just like cheese, but some people prefer toppings, or even calzones. Tailor your resume for the industry your applying to. 
  4. Take advantage of your school's career center. They’re literally there to get you a job. Have them help you with your resume, or connect you with internship opportunities. 

Multidisciplinary Innovation: UMass Amherst

Multidisciplinary Innovation: UMass Amherst

 
 

As a sophomore in the Isenberg School of Management and the Founder and President of the UMass Amherst Entrepreneurship Club, I witnessed the enormous potential of a collaborative working environment. Where students are intellectually divided, an environment that fosters multi-disciplinary innovation will enable students to become leaders of change, out of the box thinkers, and teach them the necessary entrepreneurial skills to succeed in today’s modern world, which cannot effectively be taught in the classroom. To reach this goal I worked to create the UMass Entrepreneurship Club (EC).

What an accelerator is:

Accelerators, or incubators, essentially act as a supporting environment where young ventures can be mentored and guided towards success. Without an accelerator, or a supportive entrepreneurial community, it is extremely difficult for ventures to succeed.

There are many accelerators around the world, with startups competing their way into the best. Where privatized accelerators such as MassChallenge and Y Combinator cater to well-established individuals who understand the global entrepreneurial ecosystem, have a lot of free time, and have developed ideas, accelerators at the university level typically look to inspire and promote budding entrepreneurs.

Tiered like professional athletics, some universities (Harvard, Babson, Northeastern, MIT, University of Michigan) have “A” level world-renowned accelerator programs that come close or even exceed the success of the best private accelerator programs. These university-level accelerators are considered to be the best because they see the most student ventures succeed, have the strongest alumni/ mentor/ community networks, and have the strongest technical facilities to offer to their student-run ventures. To establish a successful university accelerator program takes time, but the first step is easy: someone needs the drive, passion and time commitment to start it.

Complications:

Much to the administration’s dismay, the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass) is famously labeled The Zoo. This name most often refers to the fact that a portion of the student body acts wild, while being contained by the University, but recently a new definition has become clear. With 90 majors, approximately 29,000 students, and 12 independent colleges, UMass Amherst is like a zoo because it is so divided. Each college, like its own animal enclosure, holds interesting students with extremely varied ways of thinking and studies, but students from these various colleges/ enclosures rarely meet or engage.

For example: students from Isenberg typically stay in Isenberg, take part in Isenberg classes and clubs, and rarely engage with students from other majors on an intellectual level. UMass Amherst has created institutional bubbles that do not mirror the diversity of how the modern company operates. The modern world is being built on collaboration, not exclusion. Only through the development of a multidisciplinary, entrepreneurial community, will the walls of “The Zoo” be broken down, and creative passion and spirit be allowed to run free. With the creation of a cross-campus student run accelerator, the resources of the campus will be magnified, and UMass Amherst students will realize they can be catalysts to their future success.

UMass Amherst students participating in the 2015 Innovation Challenge Minute Pitch Competition 

Requirements of a Successful Accelerator Program:

1. The support of the academic administration

2. A group of entrepreneurially minded students and innovative thought leaders who will lead in the formation of the accelerator

3. Students interested in being part of the accelerator

4. A community to draw upon for support.

Research:

Prior to my introduction of the idea to the Entrepreneurship club, I had multiple conversations with faculty and members of the academic administration including Professor Birton Cowden, the Associate Director of the Berthiaume Center for Entrepreneurship, the Entrepreneur in Residence at UMass, Steve Willis, the Dean of the Isenberg School of Management. Every member of the administration fully supported the idea, expressed that it would be difficult, and wanted to know how he could be involved.

Because of the sheer size of the UMass Amherst campus, the Colleges of Computer Science, Engineering, and Business, have long been divided. Besides occasionally attending the same meetings, there were few topics faculty from the various colleges could associate on, and thus there has been little cross-campus collaboration. A significant change occurred with the creation of the UMass Innovation Challenge, the largest startup pitch competition on campus. Where this competition was rooted in student entrepreneurship, it was the first real event where students from all of UMass’ colleges gathered and associated on an intellectual level to form teams, construct business ideas, pitch, and network. The success of the Innovation Challenge, and students that participate, revealed the power a multi-disciplinary community.

EC members talk about founding their own companies

In Conclusion:

The world needs help on multiple fronts, the number of available jobs is falling, and people need to start thinking differently. Students are capable of creating great value with the purpose of benefiting numerous lives. Rooted in its origins, the UMass Amherst ecosystem must look to detangle itself, and create a system that encourages innovation rather than inadvertently causing prostration.

Students need to realize they have the power to change the world for the better, rather that being encouraged that success is thinking like and being part of the status quo. Only when students think outside the status quo, and realize that they are capable of creating the change, will they actually look to. A crucial first step in inspiring students that they have the capability to change is the establishment of a progressive student run venture accelerator program than can successfully lead students on an entrepreneurial path.